How gratitude can benefit your life

Thank youHappy Thanksgiving!

We all give thanks on this holiday. Cultivating gratitude throughout the year can have tremendous positive effects on your health and your relationships.

Here are seven scientifically proven benefits of gratitude, from an article by Amy Morin in Forbes.

1. Gratitude opens the door to more relationships. If you thank a new acquaintance, they are more likely to seek an ongoing relationship.

2. Gratitude improves physical health. Grateful people report feeling healthier than other people.

3. Gratitude improves psychological health. Gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.

4. Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression. People who feel grateful are less likely to retaliate against others.

5. Grateful people sleep better. Writing in a gratitude journal improves your sleep.

6. Gratitude improves self-esteem. Grateful people don’t resent others’ accomplishments but are able to appreciate them.

7. Gratitude increases mental strength. Gratitude helps reduce stress, overcome trauma and make you more resilient.

So take a few moments to focus on all that you have–and give thanks.

You can read the entire article here.

Stories help people know what to do


Blue baby intensive care

A nurse had the courage to trust a stethoscope instead of a heart rate monitor–and saved a baby’s life.

Storytelling is one of my favorite topics. I often talk about stories as a way to get people to care about something. But that’s only part of what stories can do.

Stories teach

Stories also play an important role in teaching people how to make decisions, how to act, what to do. They are a way of sharing knowledge in a way that will stick, more than a set of printed instructions would.

Some of the storytelling examples in Made to Stick: [Read more…]

What’s wrong with your message? Make it more emotional

Girl and puppy on lawn

What’s more likely to get you to stop using pesticides on your lawn? Facts about possible impacts of pesticides on streams? Or the idea that you might harm your kids and pets by using pesticides?

When I worked on reducing pesticide use (for the Local Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County), we found that talking about health threats to children was much more effective than talking about water quality. Research shows that people are more motivated to act to protect their kids than to protect the environment.

It’s really not surprising. People have strong feelings about their children and want to protect them. Evoking emotions makes people more likely to act than evoking thoughts. [Read more…]

A tiny bottle of arsenic

Old fashioned drug bottleWhen Dave Galvin talks about why we need to manage hazardous waste from houses and small businesses, he sometimes holds up a tiny bottle of rat poison. It’s 100% arsenic.

When people talk about Dave’s presentations, they are likely to mention the tiny of bottle of arsenic. They may not remember much else about his presentation, but they remember that. It’s concrete.

Dave is the manager of King County’s Hazardous Waste Management Program, so it’s not unusual for him to speak in public. He could (and sometimes does) spout facts and figures, budgets and statistics. But the bottle of arsenic has an impact far beyond its size.

The third chapter of Chip and Dan Heath’s book “Made to Stick” is titled “Concrete.” They describe some teaching examples, such as using stick figures of kids playing ball to teach arithmetic or using a case study to teach college accounting. Learning is easier if abstract concepts are connected to things that are concrete. [Read more…]

How to make your ideas stick like duct tape

Duct tapeDuct tape is designed for a long-term bond. If you’re trying to change someone’s behavior, beliefs or opinions, wouldn’t you like your ideas to stick in the same way?

I’m rereading a great book called “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die.” I first read the book when it was recommended by a client for whom I was doing a writing project. It’s written by two brothers: Chip and Dan Heath. Among many other kudos, “Made to Stick” was on several “best books of the year” lists and was selected as one of the best 100 business books of all time.

Over the next few posts, I’ll explore the book’s six principles. For now, here is a brief summary. [Read more…]

Cool resource to help think through ways to change behavior

behavioral_cake_hero_warmerThe next time you’re planning a behavior change project, take a look at Artefact’s behavior change strategy cards. They can help you brainstorm new ideas.

The set of 23 cards was created as a way to take insights from fields like behavioral economics and cognitive psychology and help make them practical tools. They’re attractive, with not too many words, making them easy to use.

I’ve been working on changing people’s environmental behavior for many years. But I found that the cards gave me some new insights and things to try. [Read more…]

Eating cookies or socializing: Changing the habit loop

Coworkers in cafeteria

Before Charles Duhigg could lose weight, he needed to understand the cue that took him to the cafeteria every day to buy a cookie.

Why did he eat a cookie as a mid-afternoon break?

Every day at about 3:30 Charles Duhigg would go to the cafeteria, buy a cookie and chat with his co-workers. This habit had led to a weight gain of eight pounds. If he wanted to lose weight, the experts said, he first had to figure out his habit loop. [Read more…]

Would you drive more slowly to win a prize?

Car speeding

What if you could win a prize for safe driving? Would it encourage you to drive more slowly? The answer, an experiment in Sweden found, is yes.

The system uses a camera that takes a picture of every vehicle driving by. If the car is going too fast, the driver receives a speeding ticket. If the car is going at or below the speed limit, the driver is entered into a lottery to win part of the fines from the speeding drivers.

The experiment reduced the average speed of cars driving through a school zone from 32 km per hour to 25 km per hour, according to an article in Drive. [Read more…]

The Super Bowl and supersize bowls

Football fans and foodAmericans are fat. More than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Big portions are a big reason. Drinks, snacks and meals have all gotten bigger over time. As portion sizes increase, people get fatter.

Our perceptions play a role. An experiment conducted at a Super Bowl party found that people who were served snacks from large (four-liter) bowls ate 56 percent more than people served from smaller (two-liter) bowls. The larger bowl made portions look smaller. If you don’t want your friends to overeat, use smaller bowls at your Super Bowl party.

The Small Plate Movement promotes using 10-inch plates instead of 12-inch plates. People eat 22 percent fewer calories from a smaller plate, without affecting their perceived fullness or satisfaction.

But the market doesn’t help reduce portion size. [Read more…]

We’re all sheep

Sheep flockThe Wall Street Journal ran an article about how to get people to adopt green behaviors. The headline said, “It isn’t financial incentives. It isn’t more information. It’s guilt.”

The article later called it peer pressure, which I think is more accurate than guilt. We don’t know which emotions are at play when people want to be like others. Often they’re not even aware of others’ influence. They may even deny others’ influence.

They just do something because other people are doing it. They’re acting like sheep.  Read more> [Read more…]