Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Text messages can boost mood

Text messaging boosts mood u ok?

Text messaging has been blamed for everything from contributing to illiteracy to reckless driving.

But researchers claim that both receiving and sending text messages can be good for a person's mental health, particularly if they are feeling stressed, isolated and alone.

Professor Adrian Aguilera, a clinical psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who treats many low-income Latinos for depression and other mental disorders, said his patients report feeling more connected and cared for when they receive text messages.

"When I was in a difficult situation and I received a message, I felt much better. I felt cared for and supported. My mood even improved," reported one patient in the psycholgist's cognitive behavioural therapy group at San Francisco General Hospital.

Professor Aguilera's research began in 2010 with a Short Message Service project, in which patients were sent automated text messages prompting them to think and reply about their moods and responses to positive and negative daily interactions.

"We are harnessing a technology that people use in their everyday lives to improve mental health in low-income, under-served communities," he said.

Prof Aguilera came up with the texting idea when he realised that many of his patients had difficulty applying the skills they learned in therapy to their daily lives, possibly because of the many stresses they routinely faced.

They could not afford laptops, tablets or smart phones, but most had a basic cellular phone and a pre-paid monthly plan.

"The people I wanted to impact directly didnt have as much access to computers and the internet," Professor Aguilera said. "So I thought about using mobile phones to send text messages to remind them to practice the skills covered in therapy sessions."

Although the text-messaging sessions were designed to run for a number of weeks, around 75 per cent of the patients asked to continue receiving the messages.

Professor Aguilera said that patient feedback has provided new insight into the human need for regular contact or check-ins for mental health professionals, even if only through automated technology.

When the project stopped for a week due to technical problems, some patients really noticed the difference, he added.

This article was published on Thu 12 April 2012

Image © WavebreakMediaMicro -

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