7 tips for motivating health behavior change via mobile

By Brian Dolan
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Intel Senior Researcher Margaret Morris PhDClinical psychologist and senior researcher at Intel, Margaret Morris published a helpful paper this week that includes seven guidelines for motivating healthy behavior change with help from mobile devices and apps. Below is a quick redux of the seven tips, be sure to read the full report to better understand the suggestions:

1. Remind people of who they want to be. "To drive lifestyle change, health messaging should remind people of previously expressed self-ideals," Morris writes. An examples: Forge health contracts that can be renewed daily.

2. Foster an alliance. "The very close relationships that people have with their devices set the stage for meaningful health coaching," Morris writes. It's more effective to approach problem solving as a collaborative effort in health messages than to tell people what their problems are.

3. Apply social influence. "Social comparison has been used to influence behavior in many contexts, from clinical inter- ventions for substance abuse to social psychology experiments on environmentalism," Morris writes. She suggests that by pointing out how a person is acting in comparison to others like them, change can be inspired. For example: “You drink a six-pack every Friday and Saturday; most men your age have only two drinks a week.”

4. Show people what they could lose. "Discounting of long-term goals is particularly strong for health and economic choices," Morris writes. She suggests one way to counter this is to offer up concrete losses that would result from certain health decisions and not rely on future promises for potential rewards.

5. Put the message where the action is. This is the classic argument that information therapy often doesn't work because billboards or PSAs on TV are not delivering information at the right place or time. With mobiles in our pockets, that opportunity may be born anew.

6. Raise emotional awareness. "By 'checking in' with their current mood and emotional patterns, individuals can understand their vulnerabilities to such lapses and develop alternative coping strategies," Morris writes.

7. Reframe challenges. "Examining one’s immediate interpretations of daily events and considering alternatives helps people respond to challenging situations in more constructive ways," Morris writes.

Read the full paper on Motivating Change with Mobile over at Scribd here.
Morris also appeared in our first video report from the mHealth Summit in 2010.