Why, it’s a Health Month!
Generally, I find February the most depressing and drawn-out month of the year, which is always strange to me given that it’s actually the shortest month of them all. If it’s so short, why does it feel like lasts forever? Why doesn’t it just fly by?
This February, I’m trying to turn things around a bit and not get caught up in my usual slump. To do this, I’m making a concerted effort to stay positive (vague!), run regularly (slightly less vague!), and chart my progress toward specific goals through this website/online game called Health Month. I started playing around with the site toward the end of last month, and decided I would play with it some more this month, in order to get the full effect.
Here’s how it works. At the beginning of the month, you choose a series of rules, and set parameters for yourself. The rules you choose can be selected from pre-entered ones, or customized to suit your goals. You get to determine how often you do/don’t do something, and what kind of reward or punishment will be meted out at the end of the month. To the left, I’ve provided a screen cap of the rules I set for myself.
Once you’ve chosen your rules, you’re ready to play. You can set things up so that the site sends you a reminder to check in (or “play your turn”) once a day, and there are different metrics you can use to track your weight, body fat percentage, energy level, mood, and stress level. You can provide as much or as little information as you want.
The game is meant to have a social aspect to it, but so far I haven’t really interacted with anyone, which is fine with me. I think (although I’m not sure) that it’s currently in beta, but I was able to sign up without having to request an account, so I’m not sure that access is limited in any way.
Admittedly, I haven’t been a user of Health Month for a very long period of time. But that hasn’t stopped me from formulating an opinion on it, naturally! As far as I’m concerned, there are things about it that are positive, and there are things about it that are less positive. Here’s my assessment (and I should point out that a) these opinions are entirely my own and b) I wasn’t asked by anyone from Health Month to post about it, mention it, or even use it. I just thought it might be kind of interesting to check out):
- A lot of options to customize. You really can select a variety of things to focus on, and there’s a lot of freedom when it comes to determining how important your goals are, how hard they will be to accomplish, etc.
- Playing can add an element of fun or interest to goals that might be hard for you to achieve otherwise. When you fail to meet your goals, you lose points. No one likes to lose points, even if the points have no value outside of the game. I lost one recently and I feel really guilty and kind of ashamed of myself.
- The social aspect of the game potentially puts you in touch with others who are looking to accomplish similar things.
- The site analyzes the information you put in and tracks progress for you in a variety of ways. I always find it fun and interesting to track my own progress in different areas, and I like the fact that I don’t have to generate summaries and analyses myself.
- A general lack of information when it comes to many aspects of the game. For instance, you can set up to three rules for free. If you want to add more rules on top of those, you have to pay. I’m sure that’s fine for some people (depending, of course, on how much you value your rules), but the site doesn’t make it very clear.
- A few things seem kind of buggy. I set up a profile, and to the best of my knowledge, I completed it. But the site is still prompting me to complete my profile.
- Support doesn’t seem great. I sent in an email about a few problems I was having early on (ie back in January) and never heard back. This struck me as strange because there are a lot of places on the site where users are encouraged to submit feedback and interact with the Health Month team (which, as far as I can tell, consists principally of one person).
- I really had to work out for myself how things were supposed to be done. There are guidelines, but their location wasn’t immediately obvious, and I didn’t get a sense that there was anything equivalent to a quick setup resource. Everything I know about Health Month, I figured out on my own. For that reason, everything I’ve said in this post could be 100% wrong.
Basically, the concept is a good once, but the execution still has a few kinks that need to be worked out. I think a bit more transparency when it comes to policies, procedures, and user guidelines could really help make this into a fun, enjoyable way for people to work toward achieving something. I definitely prefer it to Social Workout which, in spite of its potential, just doesn’t really go anywhere if you ask me. And because sites like these are becoming more and more common, they really need to set themselves apart in order to avoid fading into obscurity or never getting off the ground.