For a large majority of the population getting healthy is often a battle that’s easily lost. Yet chronic health conditions such as diabetes type 2, obesity and heart disease have far reaching consequences for both individual health and national health systems. As a result, there have been many health initiatives and programs to change health behaviours with varying success rates.
One such method that has recently gained traction is nudge theory. Introduced by Nobel prize winner Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein in their 2008 book: Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness it is now supported by the World Health Organisation as a way to improve health.
So, what is nudge theory?
The concept is a relatively subtle one. Nudge theory is based on the idea that about 80% of human behaviour is automatic, with people responding to cues from their environment.
How does it help?
It encourages people to make decisions that are in their broad self-interest. It’s not about penalising them or restricting choice but providing them with the right environment to choose the best option for them and make a certain decision easier.
So how can use nudge theory to support our health?
Scientific studies have found that providing information about calories and nutrition without a context does not impact on consumption, but changing the shopping environment, the way information is displayed does. The placement of healthy choices at the beginning or supermarket line or the size of plates in a cafeteria can make a big difference.
Design an at home health nudge
Designing a nudge for the home health begins with thinking about the decision process to do or not to do a particular behaviour. Ask yourself what you would like to change. For example: I’d like to reduce my caffeine intake. Next ask yourself what processes you go through when you choose to drink a cup of coffee. Do you always need to have one in the morning or are you tempted just by seeing the coffee machine when you walk into the kitchen? A simple nudge could be to move the coffee container into a cupboard so you can’t see it or replace it with a healthier drink that is in your line of sight.
Some examples of home nudges:
- Use smaller plate sizes to encourage smaller portions.
- Put unhealthier treats out of reach.
- Place healthier drink choices next to your coffee pods.
- Display active gear more prominently in your wardrobe if you want to exercise.
- Set Amazon echo to set alarms to trigger you to stand up more.
- Reduce screen time by placing your phone out of reach.
- Eat slowly by reducing my fork size.