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AI-Powered Micro-Supports Revolutionising Personalised Well-Being Delivery

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The rate of unhappiness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, and lack of purpose among Americans has reached alarming levels, adversely impacting both, their mental and physical well-being. These issues have far-reaching implications, resulting in various adverse outcomes. Furthermore, many individuals cannot access mental health services through conventional channels.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Center for Healthy Minds are working to deal with these complex issues and enhance human well-being. They are conducting experiments to discover solutions that utilise Artificial Intelligence (AI) in delivering personalised well-being content through individuals’ mobile devices as and when required.

“We are optimist to support individuals’ well-being on mobile phones that are sensitive to what they feel and easy to engage with themselves,” explained Christy Wilson-Mendenhall, Co-investigator on the new, two-year project, which is set to launch this year.

The research received a US$3 million donation from the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to support its goal of exploring and developing technologies that could potentially enhance the delivery of algorithm-based micro-supports in the future. The support of the programme will be delivered through a version of the Healthy Minds programme, currently used in the Healthy Minds Program smartphone app.

The project will start with a multi-phase study involving human participants to forecast their temporal emotional states. Specifically, the study will focus on moments when individuals experience feelings of distraction, loneliness, self-criticism, or unfulfillment, as these are instances in which they may potentially derive advantages from micro-support.

This initial phase will be valuable input for creating machine learning tools and algorithms for the upcoming platform. The researchers aim to refine their micro-support framework and content by conducting tests involving diverse participants. These tests will evaluate the micro-supports’ relevance, timeliness, and potential helpfulness to users.

Ultimately, the objective is to develop a platform capable of delivering micro-supports triggered by an algorithmic mechanism. In practical implementation, the application will collect participant data in real-time through an “experience sampling” process.

This sampling method will involve participants creating short videos responding to encouragement, such as “I am feeling…”. By doing this, the application will capture their current emotional state. Additionally, the app will passively gather mobile data, such as the participants’ geolocation information and activity patterns.

Afterwards, researchers will collect and analyse the data to assess the user’s well-being, per the four pillars of the Healthy Minds well-being framework: awareness, connection, insight and purpose. Researchers will analyse the data to assess users’ well-being in terms of the four pillars of the Healthy Minds well-being framework: awareness, connection, insight and purpose.

Awareness emphasises cultivating mindfulness and developing an ability to observe and acknowledge one’s experiences without judgment. Connection fosters a sense of community, reduces loneliness, and contributes to overall well-being.

Insight focuses on developing self-reflection skills and questioning and reframing negative or unhelpful thinking patterns. It allows individuals to develop resilience and make positive life changes. While purpose gives individuals a sense of direction, enhances their overall well-being, and helps them navigate challenges.

The findings from this analysis will guide the provision of concise “in-the-moment” well-being practices designed to actively involve users in fostering positive behaviours throughout the day. These micro-supports will be designed to be effortless, enabling users to fully immerse themselves in their daily activities while still benefiting from the practices.

Davidson believes that these micro-supports delivered at the right time and place may impact well-being.


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