Americans are bombarded with advice about how to live better, healthier lives- Meditate! Exercise! Do something nice! But for many, it’s hard to know where to start, or how to tell if these changes make a difference. Others may have a desire to try a new habit but need some structure to stay on track.
In 2019, researchers at several American universities launched the “Study of Me” to test the appeal and effectiveness of N-of-1 trials to help people pick and stick with healthy habits. Participants were recruited through social media and through an episode on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show.
In the study, participants could choose to try:
- Deep breathing meditation
- Writing in a gratitude journal
- Ten minutes of vigorous exercise
- Performing small acts of kindness.
Then, for the next 30 days, participants were randomly assigned to their chosen activity or their “usual routine.” Throughout the trial, participants tracked their levels of stress, happiness, and sense of focus.
In this case, the researchers did not use a phone app to run the study. Instead, participants received prompts through text messages and emails. At the end of the trial, participants received an email with a personalized description of the results of their experiment.