I would have finished writing this column much earlier if I hadn't gone online to do a little first-hand research and clicked on an online personal wellness game created by Hartford, CT-based health insurer Aetna in partnership with Seattle-based social media company Mindbloom.
I have to admit I spent a little bit longer on the site than I probably should have been during work hours.
Then again, that's the whole idea.
The platform takes advantage of the science behind social gaming and blends technology, art, and behavioral psychology to engage users in achieving personal health and wellness goals, according to the two companies.
"I'm very passionate about personal development," Mindbloom co-founder Chris Hewett said in an interview. "I'm a big believer in small steps every day and the key is every day. So how do you get someone to change their life one small step at a time? It's about engagement. The idea was to tap into game elements, inspirational content, and social to make this a very powerful way for people to grow the life they want."
The site relies in part on gamification to increase and sustain engagement. Each user has his or her own tree with leaves that represent different areas of life, including health, finances, and spirituality.
Users keep the tree healthy by scheduling and performing tasks. So, for example, one of my goals is to drink more water. When I meet that goal I'll earn sunshine and water to keep my tree healthy. If I don't, my tree will wither and die.
I can add inspirational quotes, personal photos, and music. And I can invite friends to join and share my progress on the site or via other social media sites such as Facebook.
When you set goals, accomplish tasks, and perform other actions, your tree produces seeds that can be used to send a little burst of rain to a friend (200 seeds per shower) or to upload 50 additional images (1,000 seeds per upgrade), for example.