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Managing Commuter Stress by Cell Phone

18 Jun

Researchers from the Istituto Auxologico Italiano in Milan, Italy, tested an unlikely idea for easing commuter stress. They compared three kinds of specially prepared multimedia de-stressing programs designed for delivery over cell phones to stressed out commuters. (One can only hope that these were implemented when people were stuck in traffic and not driving..)

In a controlled trial, 33 commuters were randomly divided between three conditions: (1) what they called "mobile narratives" - this was essentially guided imagery audio recordings, taking the listener to a sandy beach in their imaginations; (2) new age music with an accompanying new age style video to watch; and (3) no treatment.

In two consecutive days the two intervention groups experienced two 6-minute multimedia experiences on each way of their commute, on their Motorola A925 3G phones.

The trials showed the efficacy of only the audio guided imagery narratives in reducing the level of stress experienced during a commute trip. No effects were found in the new age video watchers or in the controls. (No surprise here! This is consistent with other research comparing audio with video or virtual reality interventions. Audio rules, as a rule.)

The researchers conclude that 3G mobile handsets may be used as a relaxation tool if it can deliver the right content - a specific therapeutic protocol with meaningful narratives - i.e., guided imagery.

Citation: Riva G, Preziosa A, Grassi A, Villani D. Stress management using UMTS cellular phones: a controlled trial. Studies in Health & Technology Informatics 2006; 119: pages 461-3. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award