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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Can Empathy Be the Key to Healthier Habits?

 

If you need some help getting unstuck as you try to create healthier new habits, a strategy called Design Thinking might be just the thing for you.

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Traditionally, Design Thinking is used by entrepreneurs and engineers in business and development, but experts suggest that it can work on an individual level to support lasting change. 

Tara Parker-Pope, the New York Times health writer, shares her experiences applying Design Thinking to her own life and writes about how she lost 25 pounds, “reconnected with close friends and refocused my energy on specific goals and habits.” 

She added that Design Thinking helped her identify obstacles keeping her goals out of reach and reframe problems to make them easier to solve.

Design Thinking employs a five-step process with an emphasis on the first two steps:

1.     Empathize: get to the heart of issues that need to be solved. 

2.     Define the problem, which isn’t always as easy as you might think.

3.     Ideate:  brainstorm lots of different solutions. 

4.     Build: develop a prototype or a plan. 

5.     Test the idea and get feedback from others.

As Parker-Pope explains, the process helps you reflect and learn to ask pointed questions about what you need and what you want to achieve. Applying the strategy to her desire to lose weight. she asked herself, “ What would losing weight really do for you?” She shares: 

“Conducting my own personal empathy exercise helped me realize that weight loss was really not my problem. I wanted to feel better about myself, feel less tired and have more energy and confidence to socialize and reconnect with friends. Instead, I needed to focus on my friendships, on boosting my energy and getting better sleep.”

This strategy is the similar to the “Primary Foods” approach that I use in working with clients. Instead of hyper-focusing on foods you eat (and memorizing calories, fat grams, sodium, sugar and the like), we focus on those “foods” that truly sustain you, like supportive relationships, fulfilling work, meaningful movement, and a relevant spiritual practice. Once these “hungers” are met, it’s easier to change your approach to eating foods don’t just fill you up but make you happy and healthy.

So often we shame ourselves into making changes. But wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happens when we first empathize with the parts of ourselves that are tired or disconnected or need some TLC? 

How could you bring Design Thinking into your life? What one thing could you do to promote healthy change? 

Look forward to hearing from you,
Robin