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Using Design Thinking to Develop Healthy Habits That Stick

32 min read

As health and wellness coaches, you will have ample expertise talking together with your shoppers about their present health habits and figuring out which of them could be improved.

The problem for health and wellness coaches and shoppers alike lies in figuring out which habits could be improved and how to obtain a sustained change in the long run. 

Before embarking on a healthy life-style journey with a consumer, it’s essential to ask your self if the purpose is to obtain a health habits change or a mindset change? To determine, you must know the distinction between the 2 and perceive how they’re intimately linked in efficient health methods. 

Here we offer you an summary of health habits change and mindset change, and we introduce you to Design Thinking as one among many methods for a way to assist your shoppers undertake long-term health-related habits and life-style modifications. 

Behavior Change and Mindset Change: What’s the Difference?


A mindset is a set of beliefs and assumptions concerning how malleable particular attributes are on this planet round you. From a psychological perspective, there are two varieties of mindsets: mounted mindsets and progress mindsets. 

People with mounted mindsets have beliefs which might be mounted and unchangeable. A consumer with a hard and fast mindset is unwilling or unable to change their means of viewing their situation and challenges. A coach with a hard and fast mindset may imagine that shoppers both have the pure capacity to change habits or they don’t. 

If we have a look at the Transtheoretical Model of health habits change beneath, a consumer with a hard and fast mindset won’t find a way to transfer past the contemplation stage. They acknowledge a necessity to change however face boundaries to change. On the opposite hand, a coach with a hard and fast mindset could assume {that a} consumer doesn’t have the willingness or capacity to transfer past the contemplation stage and, because of this, doesn’t provide helpful instruments to assist them migrate to the preparation stage or past.  



On the opposite hand, individuals with progress mindsets have beliefs that may change with extra data, important thought, and dedication. Clients and sufferers want to undertake progress mindsets to think about the potential for change of their lives and enhance their subjective well-being. Coaches additionally want to have progress mindsets to view their shoppers as consultants on their private expertise and be open to modifying strategies and strategies as they arm themselves with new data. 

It is feasible to develop a progress mindset in health both in your self or in your consumer. Some of the ways to do this embody:

  • Acknowledging and embracing imperfections
  • Viewing challenges as alternatives
  • Trying new and alternative ways of attaining the identical purpose
  • Informing your self with the most recent analysis and pointers round health circumstances and continual sickness prevention
  • Valuing the method over the end result
  • Celebrating progress with others
  • Rewarding actions fairly than traits
  • Emphasizing progress over velocity
  • Recognizing enhancements even when the targets haven’t been reached
  • Placing effort earlier than expertise
  • Learning from errors
  • Making new targets for each purpose achieved

The Design Thinking method, which we describe beneath, embraces lots of the ideas talked about above. So, as you progress towards modifying health behaviors, you might be concurrently creating a progress mindset. 

Health Behaviors

To perceive health habits change, it’s essential to perceive what constitutes a health habits. 

Experts outline health behaviors as actions or actions that people undertake to keep or enhance their health, stop health points, sluggish illness development or regression, or obtain what they understand as a optimistic physique picture. 

Health behaviors will not be solely particular person selections. They are influenced by social determinants, like ideologies, discrimination, inequalities, and company; environmental determinants, like entry to protected sidewalks and quite a lot of low-cost food; and psychological determinants, like nervousness, depression, consuming problems, and addictions. 

Remember that health professionals mustn’t separate health behaviors from health outcomes. When an individual seeks health habits change, both in themselves, in a affected person, or in a person they’re teaching, they goal to modify or substitute present behaviors with these perceived to favor higher health outcomes.

Some health outcomes could also be simply measurable, like weight achieve or weight loss and triglyceride or levels of cholesterol. Other outcomes, like motivation and a way of well-being, could also be more difficult to measure however are equally essential.  


Learn what it takes to become a Health & Wellness Coach!

The Connection Between Health Behavior and Mindset

The diagram beneath summarizes the connection between mindset, health behaviors, health determinants, and health outcomes. 


preview-full-What Influences Health Outcomes_V2


AFPA printed an article on the subject of habits change science, which we encourage you to learn to achieve a greater understanding of health behaviors and the theories behind attaining long-term health habits change.  

Looking within the Mirror: Coach Mindset

Health professionals are sometimes desirous about their shoppers’ mindsets and the way these affect their shoppers’ health journeys. However, because the coach, your mindset is of main significance earlier than desirous about the potential affect you’ll be able to have in your shoppers. Your shoppers’ means of their health and well-being shall be considerably influenced by your mindset and understanding of the whole lot from what influences health habits to the “ideal” behaviors to undertake. 

To illustrate the affect a coach’s mindset can have on their shoppers’ mindset, and due to this fact, consumer habits, let’s have a look at a few theoretical examples. 

  • Example 1: The Bootstrap Health Coach

A licensed health and nutrition coach has been working with shoppers for over ten years. She has developed her apply based mostly on the beliefs that each particular person has the only duty for his or her health, and exterior components are merely “excuses” for not having the ability to comply with their meal and exercise plans. 

In this case, the coach’s mindset will stop her from seeing the opposite components that affect health behaviors that aren’t in her shoppers’ management. Perhaps a consumer lives in a food desert and has restricted entry to contemporary meals, or their revenue can’t cowl the price of the meals on the meal plan she has left them, or a lifetime of being pressured by their household to eating regimen has brought about a trauma response to food restrictions. 

  • Example 2: The “Skinny Is Healthy” Fitness Coach

A health coach was impressed to get licensed in health teaching after loving the physique {of professional} bodybuilders. He all the time appeared up to them because the “ideal” physique kind and equated their low physique fats with health. 

After getting his certification, he opened up a health teaching enterprise for individuals who need to get match on the health club. His strategies are guided by the idea that an individual should have a low physique fats proportion to be healthy or obtain an “ideal” physique. 

While this coach’s mindset could assist bodybuilding athletes obtain aggressive requirements of physique composition, he assumes that physique composition is one of the best ways to measure health standing. This assumption may have an effect on his capacity to establish health points in individuals with excessive muscle and low physique fats percentages as a result of he assumes that their physique composition equates to health. In actuality, nevertheless, individuals with physique compositions with low fats and excessive muscle percentages may additionally be battling continual illnesses, consuming problems, and nutrient imbalances.  

Additionally, this mindset will negatively have an effect on the coach’s relationship with shoppers who’ve physique sorts with larger physique fats percentages, even when it doesn’t have an effect on their power, health standing, or capacity to perform difficult exercises. This mindset may be extremely damaging to people who’ve a optimistic physique picture no matter physique composition and need to exercise for health, not obtain a selected physique. 

Over time, the coach’s mindset, which influences what the coach says and treats his shoppers, may negatively have an effect on his shoppers’ psychological health. 

Coaches’ Mindsets Influence Clients’ Mindsets

One essential factor to take into account is that coaches are seen as consultants and academics by their shoppers. They imagine that their coaches know the way to consider an individual’s health standing and that they’re consultants on how to help their shoppers in attaining reasonable life-style modifications. 

In different phrases, coaches’ mindsets will have an effect on their shoppers’ mindset. A coach’s place is finally one among energy but additionally of duty. 

Thus, coaches should proceed to educate themselves and achieve sensitivity to the advanced components that affect health behaviors, together with environmental and social facets. 

An Innovative Solution to Achieving Behavior Change: A Design Thinking Mindset in Health Coaching

Health habits change theories, just like the Health Belief Model and the Transtheoretical Model we describe intimately right here, are efficient methods of understanding what components can affect an individual’s actions that have an effect on their health and well-being within the quick and long run. They are additionally useful for understanding the place an individual could be on the continuum of adopting healthy habits. 

However, health habits change theories are restricted in providing concrete instruments for serving to coaches work with shoppers to undertake actions that help their long-term health whereas nonetheless being delicate to experiential variations, like these associated to race, tradition, trauma, discrimination, socioeconomic standing, gender, and others.

One method to selling healthy behaviors is by making use of an idea known as “Design Thinking” into health teaching. Note that this is just one method to virtually attaining health habits change in health settings.

From Theory to Action with Design Thinking

Several teams of researchers, together with one in the US and one other in Brazil, have proposed utilizing Design Thinking within the health subject to enhance healthcare high quality, affected person outcomes, and general patient experience.  

Design Thinking is an method utilized to many fields, from engineering to entrepreneurship to healthcare, that prioritizes a deep sense of empathy for end-user wishes, wants, and challenges. With this method, health suppliers, like health coaches, can totally perceive an issue to develop a complete and efficient resolution that meets a consumer’s wants. 

With the rising curiosity in applying Design Thinking to healthcare, healthcare authorities determined to consider the potential of Design Thinking in healthcare. 

The CDC printed a systematic review of studies on the applying of Design Thinking in healthcare. The examine discovered that Design Thinking can be utilized in diversified settings and circumstances. In basic, in contrast to conventional interventions, the healthcare options created confirmed higher usability, effectiveness, and affected person satisfaction than typical approaches. 

Thus, Design Thinking utilized successfully is probably going a helpful method to attaining health habits change in a health teaching surroundings. 

Here we summarize Design Thinking ideas based mostly on 4 pillars that instantly affect a health coach’s mindset when working with shoppers: empathy, inclusive communication, collaboration, and experimentation. Note that in case you go deeper into analysis on design considering, the quantity and division of pillars could differ barely between thinkers. 


In probably the most primary sense, empathy entails the human capacity to perceive an individual’s feelings and perspectives and why they might perform particular actions. The first step in Design Thinking within the healthcare surroundings, together with health teaching, is to put individuals first to make an effort to really perceive why an individual thinks, makes selections, and takes actions that have an effect on their health as they do. 

Effective interviewing strategies are important for taking the primary steps in creating empathy. Still, health professionals should hold communication traces open and recurrently examine in with sufferers and shoppers all through the intervention course of. 

Inclusive Communication

Once you will have listened to your consumer and recognized issues that you just understand as being boundaries to their health and well-being, it is vital to share these insights utilizing visible communication instruments and having an open thoughts to change these perceptions. 

Let’s take a theoretical instance. 

During the primary session and interview course of, your consumer reveals she is apprehensive she could be on the street to creating kind 2 diabetes as a result of she was lately identified with pre-diabetes at her yearly checkup. 

When you ask her what components of her life-style she thinks contribute to the event of diabetes, she tells you it’s her eating regimen and her lack of bodily exercise. She says that she doesn’t exercise as a result of she doesn’t really feel protected going outside in her neighborhood, and though she likes cooking, she eats numerous take-out food as a result of she has irregular work hours. 

As a coach, you’ll be able to activate inclusive communication by confirming that, simply as she has recognized, analysis reveals that inactivity and particular dietary patterns do improve diabetes threat. 

You also can inform her that you just perceive, based mostly on what she shared with you, that there are further issues, like irregular hours and never feeling snug doing bodily exercise outside. By saying what you will have recognized as an issue out loud, you enable your consumer to verify or make clear your considering. It additionally permits them to ask questions in regards to the connection between bodily exercise and eating regimen and diabetes threat. 


Which home of the next two homes would you want to dwell in most: One that was chosen for you based mostly on assumptions about how you want to dwell, or one the place you’re employed with an architect to co-design your self? 

You’ll doubtless choose to dwell within the second home as a result of your voice was heard in creating practical areas for you and your loved ones. 

Collaboration is an important precept of design considering in healthcare. When a consumer has a voice regarding one of the best ways to undertake more healthy actions in ways in which contemplate bodily, financial, and social boundaries and limitations, they are going to be more likely to comply with swimsuit. 


“Experimentation” doesn’t imply, by any means, that you must experiment with unfounded strategies together with your shoppers. 

Experimentation refers to stepping away from one-size-fits-all options as an alternative of adopting personalized solutions that reply to communities’ and people’ wants and realities. 

As health coaches, you discover research-supported strategies for approaching issues and consider whether or not they are often utilized inside the collaborative plan you will have constructed together with your consumer. 

Then, you’re employed together with your consumer to implement these modifications. While your consumer does so, you take into account that you might be primarily seeing if the designed technique is working together with your consumer. You do that by checking in recurrently, measuring progress, and making changes to targets and actions the place mandatory. 

Applying Design Thinking in Health Coaching: The Double Diamond 

Healthcare researchers explored the applying of the Double Diamond method developed by the Design Council to enhance health outcomes. 


preview-gallery-Double Diamond_V1

The Double Diamond framework proposes a means of making use of the 4 ideas of Design Thinking. The diamonds put collectively modes of exploring an concept extra broadly with taking centered motion. 

The first diamond is to uncover and outline. Through empathetically connecting together with your shoppers and utilizing inclusive communication, you’ll be able to specify one or a number of health challenges they’re dealing with. 

In the second diamond, you retain the problem in thoughts. You work together with your shoppers to develop and implement an answer that can end in modified health behaviors and, finally, the specified health outcomes. You examine in recurrently and modify the tactic if wanted. If your consumer doesn’t expertise the specified modifications, the following step is to re-examine the framing of the issue or the timeline. 

Throughout the method, you’ll be able to rely in your research-backed strategies financial institution and coach toolbox to help you within the logic for attaining sure outcomes or modifying sure behaviors and supplying you with the instruments to accomplish that. 

The double diamond is framed inside the management you will have as a coach to information them towards their targets. Your shoppers additionally develop the management take management over their health. Engagement all through the method could make all of the distinction when it comes to constructing a collaborative relationship together with your consumer, the place you deliver the experience on health and so they deliver the experience on their life expertise. 

Main Takeaways

In some ways, supporting your shoppers to undertake healthy existence by means of health behaviors is on the core of health teaching. By nature, coaches step away from one-size-fits-all options and hear to shoppers’ distinctive challenges and targets to help them in making reasonable shifts within the selections they make. The purpose is to enhance health outcomes, whether or not it’s as measurable as decrease levels of cholesterol or as holistic as growing a way of well-being. 

The problem for health practitioners, health coaches included, is to take all the analysis on health-promoting existence and make them relevant to individuals from numerous backgrounds. 

Just as mindsets affect shoppers’ health behaviors, they affect a coach’s method to managing shoppers’ health challenges. One of the methods to floor health habits change principle is through the use of a Design Thinking mindset to perceive health challenges by means of empathy and statement, co-create options with shoppers, and apply interventions whereas being open to making changes alongside the best way. 


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