Nudge

"Drink more water" is one of those aspirational items which has been hanging around my to-do lists, project planning notes and habit tracking apps for what feels like half a lifetime. I've known it would be a healthy living "quick win" all along; a feeling cemented a few years ago when I tracked various aspects of my day-to-day life and found that I occasionally went for several months without drinking a beverage that wasn't either alcoholic or caffeinated.

Regardless of whether I was at home with unlimited free access to water and drinking vessels, or working away in unfamiliar places where deliberate meal choices were easier to deal with, I always struggled. I tried several times to find a suitable nudge mechanism, but the habit never stuck.

That seems to have changed. A couple of weeks ago when attending a conference, I got a free cupanion water bottle. I didn't need another water bottle, but I took one anyway...because it was free. In fact, with the bare minimum of encouragement from the people at the desk, I took two. They look great, hold a sensible volume, and have a nice feeling when carried. Since picking up the bottles, I have consistently drunk at least a litre of water every day.

What I've discovered is that I actually needed two nudges to form this habit. The positive aesthetic and tactile experiences of using the bottle are enough to get me drinking most of the time, but to fill in the gaps in my attention I needed some form of gamification. The cupanion bottles achieve this via a barcode sticker which can be scanned using a smartphone app - each scan results in a charitable donation to some good cause related to providing clean water to those who might not otherwise have access.

The fact that scanning the barcode is beneficial to a good cause isn't just incidental - without it, I would've lost interest in the app within a few days, and these would just be another pair of bottles littering my house. As things stand though, I have both selfish and selfless reasons to keep drinking water - together these should finally allow me to maintain the habit.


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