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The Value of Building Tiny Habits in Online Patient Communities

Are you looking for a method to motivate members of your online patient communities to make changes in their lives?

Consider the power of tiny habits.

Professor BJ Fogg, Ph.D., has spent a lifetime studying how human behavior works. He directs the Persuasive Technology Lab at Stanford University and works to create systems that change human behavior.

Fogg calls his work Behavior Design.

The key to change, Fogg has found, is the right combination of motivation, ability and triggers. He’s taken the system and reduced it to three simple steps.

Start small

 Think of something you want to do. Make it as simple as possible. For instance, if you want to start flossing, your goal is to floss one tooth. A tiny goal like this makes it more likely you’ll actually accomplish it. “The easier the behavior, the less it depends on motivation,” Fogg explains, since constant motivation is unreliable.

Find an anchor

An anchor is an activity you are already doing that you can tie to the new habit. It follows this pattern: After I (routine), I will (tiny behavior). For example, after I (brush my teeth) I will (floss one tooth).

Celebrate immediately

To reinforce your success, add a little celebration when you’ve done your tiny habit. Say “Yes!” Raise your arms. Thumbs up. Big smile. Whatever makes you feel good.

Repeat each day for a week.

That’s it. 

Fogg says “the results are the best I’ve ever seen in any program.” Why? Because these tiny habits are so simple they don’t rely on unpredictable motivation. And that dramatically increases the success rate. Over time, tiny habits lead to bigger ones.

Search #tinyhabits on Twitter for tiny testimonials. And if you want, give it a try by signing up (it’s free) for Tiny Habits.

How can you incorporate Tiny Habits into your online patient community?

  • Introduce the concept in your community news section or in a blogpost.
  • Start a conversation: What tiny habit would you like to start?
  • Share some examples of tiny habits:
    • After I answer the phone I will stand and walk while I talk.
    • After I (routine) I will take my meds.
    • After I use the bathroom I will think of one thing I’m grateful for.
    • After I take a drink of water I will take a deep cleansing breath.
    • After I eat my dinner I will put on my exercise shoes.
    • After I feed the dog I will open my health journal.

Sometimes you choose a “before” action.

  • Before I go to bed, I’ll put my blood glucose meter on my nightstand.

 And although it’s a bit more than a tiny step:

  • After I eat my breakfast I will log on to my community.
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