Mood Nudges: The Science Bit

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bookcoverI’d like to give a massive thanks to everyone who attended my workshop on ‘Mood Nudges’ as part of Manchester Girl Geeks (MGG) event for Geek Mental Help Week.

I’ve written about the workshop in more detail on the MGG website, where we used exercises from Jon Cousins’ Nudge Your Way to Happiness: The 30 Day Workbook for a Happier You to generate simple mood-boosting ideas.

You can read more about what we did in the workshop here.

The Science Bit

At the end of the workshop I alluded to some recent research Jon that suggested the Mood Nudges 30 day programme made a real difference to those who completed the workbook.

Jon has given me a sneak preview of the findings which are outlined below:

We set out to understand whether using the book Nudge Your Way To Happiness can help people who are clinically depressed.

If we measured their depression with a test that doctors use, before and after working their way through the book (which
takes 30 days) would we see a difference?

The test we used, called the PHQ-9 – the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire) – produces a score between 0 and 27, with 0 meaning no depression, and 27 representing the most severe depression possible.

The score range is divided into five bands that, apart from the highest division, are drawn at five-point intervals.

Healthcare professionals use the PHQ-9 to help decide, in part, what treatment – such as antidepressants or psychotherapy / counselling might best help a patient.

They also ask patients to complete the test as one way of determining whether or not a chosen treatment is working.

When the PHQ-9 is used to measure progress, the rule of thumb is that a reduction in score of 5 points or more over a period of 4-6 weeks means the current treatment regime is working, and should therefore be continued.

We asked 51 people to use the book for 30 days, completing the PHQ-9 before they started, and again when they’d finished.

The participants were a randomly chosen subset of readers of the Moodnudges blog who weren’t pre-selected on the basis of being depressed, so the sample included a range of individuals from those who had only the most minimal depression to others who were experiencing moderately severe depression.

The results, which can be seen in graph form, show two important findings:1. Across the board, the average reduction in PHQ-9 score over 30 days was 5.3, suggesting that using Nudge Your Way to Happiness can be as clinically effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy.

2. The greatest reductions in score were seen in those who were most depressed to start with. On average these participants’ scores fell from a level definitely placing them in the Moderately Severe category to one at the very lowest end of the Moderate division: only a whisker away from being labelled Mild.

Future work could involve working with a larger sample, and structuring the study as a randomized controlled trial. But these early results do seem promising.

Resources

Find out what we did at the Mood Nudges workshop for Geek Mental Help Week hosted by Manchester Girl Geeks.

Mood Nudges website and daily blog: http://moodnudges.com/

Moodscope (free and paid options): https://www.moodscope.com/

Geek Mental Help website

Geek Mental Help on Twitter

Thanks to Mark Brown aka @markoneinfour and my brother Ellis for helping me develop the workshop format.

Note: Twitter Data Shows When We’re Happy, Sad, Hungover

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Last week Mashable reported that Twitter had gathered data about key words used in tweets which indicated the moods and behaviour of people on each day of the week for each month of the year.

Essentially they have aggregated the frequency of the following terms:

  • “feel happy”
  • “feel sad”
  • “hungover”
  • “late for work”

So, what did this reveal?

The most interesting finding to me is that December is a month of highs and lows. While Tuesdays in December often attract “feel happy” tweets, this is the month of the year when users are most likely to use the term “feel sad” in their update.

Why am I interested in this?

Part of the ‘Cheer up love’ care labels project which I have not really explored here is exchanging data from mobile apps with a wearable item like the care labels I have talked about.

So it could be possible that setting the wearable would add a ‘signature’ to your texts, emails or social media updates. This might be the combination that you have set the wearable to that day.

But taking it further, could the wearable item receive data from your texts, emails, social media updates or other quantified self apps or devices which would prompt the wearer to adjust their labels?

I’ve spoken before about using a mood tracking program such as MoodScope to recommend care labels for that day. MoodScope currently only records one mood score per day – but other apps could continue to inform your choice of wearable care labels on a much more regular basis.

First steps to generating a list of care labels

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To get started I wrote a massive list of the kind of needs I thought people would feel the need to express using care labels. They fall into these general categories:

Sustenance

  • have a cup of tea and a chat
  • share a meal and talk

Communication

  • call me
  • text me
  • Facebook / Twitter / G+ me

Mood-related

  • handle with care
  • no questions
  • no difficult questions
  • smile at me
  • be patient with me
  • let me be alone
  • don’t take offence

Openness

  • ask me how I am
  • be listened to
  • to listen to you
  • smile at me
  • introduce me to a friend
  • include me in your plans
  • tell me the truth

Physical presence

  • just be there
  • share a hug
  • need some space
  • approach with caution
  • leave me alone
  • spend some time together one-to-one
  • spend some time together in a group

Entertainment

  • celebrate with me
  • a good night out
  • have a laugh
  • see some comedy
  • watch a film
  • go to the theatre
  • dancing / clubbing

As you can see there is some room for fluidity in these categories, with several suggested care labels fitting into more than one list. I suspect there may be a Venn diagram in there somewhere and will be having a look at that next.

Mood scores

Additionally, I came up with the possibility of adding a score of 0-100. This is what the mood-tracking website MoodScope allows you to. This level of detail would not be possible with care label beads that only allowed for four variations, but could be stripped down to:

  •  < 25
  •  25 – 50
  •  50 – 75
  •  > 75

Is there anything obvious I have missed? Please add your thoughts to the comments below.

You can read more about the thinking behind Care Labels For Humans on the About page.