Monday, 10 December 2012

The benefits of a buddy.

In the beginning, I didn't plan to share my mood scores with anyone other than the psychiatrist who suggested I should record them. It didn't occur to me that anyone would be interested in them, nor that there might be any value in doing so.

But then along came Jonny.

He and I became friends after bumping into one another in the local park tearoom, and I'd shown him my original Moodscope cards as I gradually refined them. In those days they were twenty pieces of laminated cardboard. I tracked the scores every day as a line graph in a little playing-card-sized hand-made book.

But couldn't I devise a way, asked Jonny, for him to see my daily scores, without having to chance upon me in the tearoom? I don't think it was nosiness. He wanted to help, and figured that if he could see my ups and downs, it might give him more insight.

Just as they did in this case, sometimes good things happen by chance. I figured the easiest way to satisfy Jonny's curiosity was to build a quick website (just for him and me), programmed to immediately and automatically send him an email whenever I recorded a score. It would also show him my graph.

And this is where things got interesting. As soon as Jonny began receiving my scores, my mood pattern quickly changed. Instead of soaring up, then plunging down again on a frequent basis (a result of my bipolar disorder) the fluctuations lessened, and my average mood became substantially higher.

It was hard to know whether this was simply because I knew someone was showing an interest in me, or if it was more down to Jonny questioning me on what could have caused my ups and downs, or perhaps a combination of these two. There again it could even have been something else I hadn't even considered. But the thing is, through a very serendipitous process we discovered that sharing mood scores could be beneficial.

A one-person effect? It seems not. A day or so ago I mentioned the progress made by a larger group of Moodscopers over a lengthy period. Was there a difference in mood improvement between those who shared scores with buddies and those who didn't?

Yes. Over 180 days (about six months), the 'un-buddied' improved by a relative 50.2 per cent. Those sharing scores with buddies, however, did better still - with a relative uplift of 63.7 per cent.

Once again let me stress that our findings aren't from a randomised controlled trial, and the participants were self-selecting: they were using Moodscope because they chose to. The signs, however, do point strongly towards the idea that having a Moodscope buddy adds to the benefits of mood tracking alone.

Moodscope Plus makes the buddying process smoother, with Conversation Pages that enable a two-way flow of on-page messages between Moodscope member and buddy.

We'd (that's me and other Moodscopers) would love to know what you think about this. To tell us, please comment below.