By Sarah Watters, Wellth's Behavioral Scientist
It’s hard to do something every single day.
Beyond eating, sleeping, and breathing, most of us probably can name a few things we do without fail: we get dressed, we brush our teeth, we pour ourselves a cup of coffee. These are behaviors that we’ve been doing seemingly forever; without us even noticing, these behaviors have become deeply ingrained habits that we just do.
But when we want to incorporate new behaviors into our daily routines — maybe we want to eat healthier lunches, walk an extra mile, or read before bed — it can be a struggle.
Our current selves outplay our future selves. Often when we want to do something now — I really want to eat this cookie! — we convince ourselves that it’s OK not to eat the apple we told ourselves we’d eat instead.
In behavioral science terms, this is called present bias. Present bias helps us understand why it’s sometimes hard to get ourselves to do things that we know are good for us or in our best interest — like eating healthy, getting more exercise, taking the time to reach out to people we care about, or learning something new — in favor of things that we want to do in the here and now.
In many ways, present biases hold us back from making real changes in our lives, changes which rely on making bite-sized, consistent decisions and choices — in a sense, votes for the person that we’re trying to be.
Addressing present bias is critical when it comes to healthy behavior change. In order for us to make healthy decisions, like making smart food choices and adding movement to our day, we need to prioritize our future selves (think: what would future me wish I had done today?). Here at Wellth, this is our bread and butter.
We do this by wrangling present bias, and leveraging other behavioral science principles along the way, namely loss aversion and the endowment effect. Let’s look at what this means in reality for our members.
To motivate a healthy decision in the here and now, members are provided with a set amount of rewards that they will incrementally lose when they don’t check-in their health task on a daily basis (think taking medication, measuring blood glucose or blood pressure, or eating a healthy meal).
The stories that we often hear about change involve dramatic ‘0 to 100’ improvements really quickly, but robust, lasting change comes from showing up for yourself every day over longer and longer stretches of time. By showing up for themselves every single day, members keep their rewards, and this daily engagement creates a broad range of important benefits.
Daily engagement doesn’t require a substantial time commitment; however, by prioritizing health every single day — even just for a few minutes — the member builds belief in themselves which increases their self confidence and competence (think: hey! I can do this! I can be a healthier person and have more control over my health).
As the days go by, actions that the member maybe wasn’t previously doing — for example, consistently measuring their blood glucose — are becoming easier and increasingly automatic. The member is less and less having to think about performing the behavior — they just do it without much thinking — like the “brushing our teeth” example above.
When we do something every day over time, it starts to become part of who we are. At Wellth, while our members all start in different spots of their health journey, as they progress through their program, they step into a healthier identity and way of living by prioritizing their health, day in and day out.
To be sure, daily engagement also drives important improvements to a member’s health. Members who are starting to take their meds on a consistent basis will see the benefits of doing so. Wellth helps our members successfully engage every day by guiding them on how to measure their blood glucose and blood pressure, encouraging them to take note of changes in their values and potential causes and effects (think: what foods make my blood glucose spike?).
Here at Wellth, in addition to tackling present bias and driving healthy behaviors, we leverage this consistent daily engagement to accomplish a variety of different jobs, not only for our members, but also for their care teams and Wellth customers by:
Great things come from small incremental behaviors that are done day-in and day-out. Throughout their journey, members gain a readily usable toolbelt to build even more healthy behaviors and empower them to take care far into the future.
While living in the moment has its benefits, there’s space for both living in the present and living for the future for our future selves and for those we love. Who we’ll be at this time next month or next year will thank us for the healthy decisions we make today.
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