Could changing your password improve mental health?
The study was conducted with of sexual minority students, during their first weeks at university.
Entering your password into your computer on a daily basis may seem like a trivial gesture. But with the right keywords, it could have a significant effect on mental health, according to a study published in the scientific journal Internet Interventions.
NYU Shanghai researcher Gu Li and University of British Columbia (UBC) researcher Frances Chan conducted the study among 296 sexual minority students attending these universities.
< p class="e-p">The first collection was made from UBC students in 2019, and the following year the study was expanded to Shanghai students.
One of the things we were thinking about is how to preserve the effects of a psychological intervention. For example, it's been known that when leaving a therapy session, a patient usually forgets what was discussed, says Gu Li, an assistant professor of psychology at NYU Shanghai. The researchers therefore wanted to discover a means that would serve as an easy reminder of the new tools acquired in therapy.
Researcher Gu Li began the study while at the University of British Columbia and later picked up a second time from NYU Shanghai students.
People use passwords every day; so we thought that these passwords could include therapeutic messages, says the NYU Shanghai researcher, who began his research in 2019, when he was at the University of British Columbia at the University of British Columbia. opportunity for a postdoctoral fellowship.
“One of the great psychological tenets is that to write it down is to believe it, so you have to write it down to remember and reinforce the message, so that it becomes part of your cognition.
—Gu Li, Researcher and Assistant Professor of Psychology at NYU Shanghai
The research focused on sexual minority students who were just entering college, as young adults face several challenges during the transition to college. In addition, [these students] generally experience microaggressions related to sexual orientation, can we read in the study.
The researchers started by sending out a survey to all freshmen in college. Respondents from sexual minorities were then contacted to participate in a session in which they were asked about their mental health and internalized homophobia.
Sexual minority youth typically experience a decline in psychological well-being in the initial weeks of freshman year at college .
The first group was split into two, and members of one of the two subgroups were asked to change their passwords based on their values .
Participants were therefore asked to choose a value from a list provided, such as academic performance, musical ability and the importance of the present moment. They then had to explain why these values were important to them or in what context they were.
University of British Columbia psychology professor Frances Chen collaborated with Gu Li on this research.
You take this message, like ''self-respect is important because it makes me a better person'', and you make it your password ''self-respect makes me a better person'' or you can use an acronym, he explains.
Six weeks after the password change, students completed a questionnaire asking them to rate three things: their overall satisfaction with life, their sense of fulfillment, and the degree of symptom intensity. depressive.
Generally, students from sexual minorities experience a decline in their psychological well-being during their first weeks at university. This was the case for the subgroup who did not change their password and for a part of the members of the second group who did not use their password very often, specifies the researcher .
Those who changed their password more frequently saw a smaller drop in well-being.
Alexa Martin-Storey, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the Université de Sherbrooke and holder of the Canada Research Chair in Stigma and Psychosocial Development, sees the results positively: I think that it's always a challenge to encourage people to develop therapeutic tools in contexts outside of therapy, she explains.
She cautions, however, that this approach is not a panacea for the mental health challenges faced by stigmatized groups, such as sexual minorities: Essentially, changing a password isn't going to do mental health miracles. She notes, however, that the main challenge in mental health is to balance efficiency and feasibility, and changing your password is very doable, specifies the researcher.
Professor Alexa Martin-Storey says she is encouraged by the results of this research and believes that repeated assertions constitute a important step in improving mental health among stigmatized groups.
Gu Li encourages all people to choose passwords that work for them. We are starting to use facial recognition a lot to access our computers, but passwords have their particular advantages, he points out.
As a next step, he would like to try the same experiment with people from visible minorities, as well as with people from sexual minorities in countries where the ;access to mental health support services is limited.