Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Kelsey Ouyang, Ishita Dubey, Ellen M. Martin
For autoimmune patients, the journey to diagnosis, treatment and therapy can be arduous, convoluted and alienating. The lack of common understanding of autoimmune and chronic inflammatory conditions–that they are invisible illnesses that are not always evident but nonetheless take a toll on the body–can further exacerbate a sense of isolation.
Finding similarity and compassion in a community of fellow autoimmune patients is thus an incredibly powerful resource for navigating your illness, a resource that Thyroid Refresh aims to provide through their website and their community-based game, THYROID30Ⓡ.
Finding Each Other
Ginny Mahar and Danna Bowman both struggled with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Having originally founded their own thyroid websites, they first connected by sharing food recipes. However, upon realizing that there was not enough support available to thyroid patients like themselves, they created Thyroid Refresh, a company that has made daily healing into a game by allowing users to earn badges and points for healthful interactions.
THYROID30Ⓡ – A Thyroid Wellness “Game”
What is it?
THYROID30Ⓡ is a 30-day wellness game that helps thyroid patients achieve their health goals in a simple, attainable and fun manner. THYROID30Ⓡ helps members achieve a variety of goals, from losing weight, to beating brain fog, to boosting energy–you name it! THYROID30Ⓡ provides the motivation, accountability, and team-based support to help its members get to their destinations.
How do you start?
At the start of each wellness cycle, users are given questions about their health goals and their big “Why?” to help them define their purpose. When we asked Ginny and Danna about this, they explained that they “can’t do the work for [the members],” so having users realize their individual purpose is crucial for actually achieving progress.
While each individual user must put in their own work to attain better health, they do not do it alone! Upon initiation of the program, users join a team. With the understanding that “accountability to others in their team can sometimes outweigh the accountability to themselves,” Ginny and Danna believe that this team aspect will encourage users to stay motivated. For example, a player will earn points not just for themselves but also because they want to help their team earn points to move up in team rankings.
Additionally, each team is led by a captain. These captains are typically practitioners or other involved thyroid leaders that can provide additional resources to the team members in addition to the resources already provided on the website. However, captains are not the only ones who provide encouragement and support – all of the team members act as each other’s cheerleaders, especially since one of the daily tasks is to relish (celebrate one’s own accomplishments and recognize others’ too)!
How do you play?
Each day players work towards increasing their daily scores by completing eight daily Rituals: Remember, Refuel, Reactivate, Repair, Rejuvenate, Reduce, Relish, and Recharge. These rituals are adapted common-core tenets of a thyroid-healthy lifestyle. By incorporating these rituals into the app, Ginny and Danna remind users to take care of their bodies and be aware of how daily lifestyle choices affect their quality of life.
On top of earning points throughout the day, users can earn different badges and awards to recognize their accomplishments. One of my personal favorites was “pom poms,” which can be earned by cheering on others!
Additional Resources and Support
Thyroid Refresh has a team of experts that have created a library of resources that all THYROID30Ⓡ players and Thyroid Refresh members have access to. Their team of experts and contributors include health and nutrition coaches and psychotherapists. For example, Andrea Wool, founder of Autoimmune Strong, has provided several of her own videos on how to exercise with autoimmune diseases.
Even though there are many experts that provide valuable content for the users, Ginny and Danna note that “Thyroid Refresh is not a medical site and is not a replacement for medical care.” Instead, Thyroid Refresh aims to bridge the gap between patients and experts.
Why it Matters
THYROID30Ⓡ provides a comforting solution to the solitude that frequently accompanies an autoimmune diagnosis. I myself felt secluded and alone when, at the age of 60, I contracted shingles and was forced to take three naps a day, confounding all of my doctors, who were unable to provide me with an adequate answer for my condition, leaving me with nowhere to turn for compassion from someone undergoing a similar journey. I am certain that, had I had access to a resource such as THYROID30Ⓡ at the time, it would have helped ease this loneliness and instead bolstered my drive to thrive and foster community.