Start by highlighting what people are already doing

Often when we we start to focus on improving something we immediately jump to looking at all the behaviours that need to change to achieve that.

What if we tried a different approach? A smaller, cheaper, less intensive intervention.

What if we just started by doing something as simple as highlighting to people what they are already doing? Could that have any impact?

Dr Alia Crum, a psychologist from Stanford University, set up a fascinating study to test whether a very small intervention could create change. You can access the full article “Mind-Set Matters: Exercise and the Placebo Effecthere.

She tracked a group of female hotel housekeepers, all of whom were highly active and spent most of their day at work on their feet.

They were asked: ‘Do you exercise regularly?‘ Two thirds said ‘no‘.

Dr Crum wanted to see what would happen if she could change their mindset to help them recognise that they actually were very active.

We took measurements like weight, body fat and how satisfied they were with their jobs, then split them into two groups,” Dr Crum said. Half were then given a presentation about how their work was really good exercise and detailed how many calories they were actually burning. The other half were given nothing.

When they retook their measurements four weeks later, the women who didn’t receive the presentation hadn’t changed in weight or body fat. But the women who had received the information dropped weight, reduced blood pressure, and dropped body fat.

It was fascinating, that just as a result of a simple 15-minute presentation, the whole game changed, producing a cascade of effects on their health and wellbeing,” Dr Crum said.

Now there is whole lot of really amazing stuff to learn from this study. My very good friend Dominic Pertus has written a great blog post about this very same study looking at the effect of mindset. Well worth a read.

But for me, as a person interested by influencing behaviour change, the idea that simply highlighting to people what they are already doing can have dramatic effect (on their actual physical health in this case!) is fascinating.

What are people already doing that you can highlight and raise their awareness of, to help support them achieve their improvement goals?

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