Nudge theory is usually applied to economics, where it is most often used to encourage people to buy into a particular idea. For example, putting the products you want people to buy at eye level is a pretty good way to nudge them towards choosing to buy those things. But nudge theory can be used to influence people in all kinds of different ways from fly stickers on urinals to opt-out organ donation.
You are constantly being nudged. All day long advertisers, marketers and even your local government are using nudges to encourage you to make particular choices that feel natural and instinctive to you. So why don’t you start setting up a few nudges of your own to create a healthier lifestyle?
Small Nudges to Get Started
Out of sight, out of mind – right? Absolutely. We humans are pains for picking the things that are right in front of us, even if we are making terrible or irrational choices. It might sound obvious, but people who buy biscuits, cakes and chips tend to be the people who eat biscuits, cakes and chips. If you don’t buy them or have them in the house, you can’t eat them. If you put out a fruit bowl packed with different colors, flavors and textures instead and that’s the choice you’ll make when you’re hungry.
This is a small nudge.
Other small nudges you might like to try are leaving your credit card at home when you go shopping so you can only spend the cash in your purse, buying expensive running shoes so that you will want to wear them and go running or putting time limits on the apps on your phone. Once you start looking, there are lots of nudges you can utilize.
Little Tricks to Play on Yourself
Nudging is a good way to encourage good behavior but you still have the choice. You might not have biscuits in the house but you could still go to the store and buy some. So now let’s look at a couple of little tricks you can play on yourself to make good decision making even easier.
Trying to quit smoking is a good example here. As you are so used to the action of smoking and the relaxing effect it has, quitting outright is unlikely to work long term. However, you can trick yourself into thinking that you are continuing to smoke by switching to an e-cigarette and then slowly reducing the nicotine concentration in the e liquid. This method means that you aren’t tackling the habit aggressively, you are just gradually working towards the day when your e liquid contains 0% nicotine, at which point, you can finally ditch the habit altogether.
Good Habit Forming Behaviors
We all have some bad habits and we don’t bother tackling them because it is too difficult. Changing a habit or forming a new habit is hard because we like consistency. If you don’t have to think about a decision, it’s much easier to make!
However, you can consciously form new good habits. Nudging your way to better behaviors is a good start. Now, you should work on making those behaviors consistent. Any habit is essentially something you do on autopilot. To get into a good habit, you need to repeat it often enough for you to stop consciously making the decision. By repeating each day over at least a month, a good habit will start to form (though how long exactly depends on a wide variety of factors).
Giving yourself some motivation to continue forming your habit is a good idea but beware: don’t reward yourself by going back to your old ways! A classic example is someone trying to reduce their alcohol intake, succeeding for a month and then celebrating by getting outrageously drunk. This is not going to help!
Finding different ways to reward yourself is a lot of fun and a lovely way to explore different sides of your personality. You could try going to a class to learn something new or treating yourself to a fancy bath with salts, scrubs and cucumber slices. Maybe you could buy a book of healthy recipes to help you continue your healthy lifestyle or do a healthy activity with a friend. The options are limitless!
Nudge theory might have started out as a way to influence other people but it is possible to use the same techniques to influence yourself. Start with small nudges in the right direction and build up. You’ll be healthier in no time!
What are some ways you nudge a healthier lifestyle? Let me know in the comments below!