Participate in a Harvard-Based Study about Using Text Messages to Promote Healthy Behaviors in Type 2 Diabetes

WRITTEN BY: Christopher Celano, M.D.

The Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program, from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, is studying connections between mental health and medical health in patients with chronic conditions (e.g., cardiovascular diseases, diabetes). The group’s current project involves a text messaging-based study to understand how positive feedback might affect those with T2D. The study is actively looking for participants – find out more below!


Living with diabetes can be challenging. To make sure your blood sugar is in range, you may be asked to make changes to several different parts of your life, such as monitoring blood sugar levels, taking new medications, exercising, or changing the types of foods that you eat. Making these changes can be overwhelming, and even if you are already doing these things, it can be difficult to continue to do them on a daily basis.  

Research has shown that diabetes health is closely linked to psychological well-being. Simply put, people who feel more positive or optimistic are also more likely to experience superior health outcomes, such as better blood sugar control. Why is this the case? It appears that having a positive mindset may help people to keep up with all the healthy behaviors required to manage diabetes health. More specifically, feeling grateful, optimistic, or happy may help us to feel motivated and determined to keep up with physical activity, a healthy diet, and remembering to take diabetes medications.  

Our group at Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital has been studying the connections between psychological well-being and health outcomes in people with Type 2 diabetes over the past several years. In particular, we are interested in finding ways to help individuals with Type 2 diabetes to feel more positive and engage in healthy behaviors, such as physical activity. To accomplish this, we utilize a particular branch of psychology – positive psychology – to help people increase positive thoughts and feelings. Positive psychology focuses on helping people to experience greater life satisfaction by performing specific activities, such as identifying and using personal strengths, appreciating pleasant events, performing kind acts for others, and leveraging past successes to accomplish goals in the future. 

Our work has demonstrated that positive psychology-based programs really do work to promote positive emotions and engagement in healthy behaviors in individuals with different medical problems, such as heart disease. Based on our recently completed mixed methods project, optimism and positive affect lead to initiating physical activities among patients who have had acute coronary syndrome. We are optimistic that these types of interventions may also be helpful for people with Type 2 diabetes.

Currently, our group is working on a project to develop a text messaging-based intervention to promote positive feelings, physical activity, and overall health management in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. We hope that this will be an easy and convenient way for people to be supported in managing diabetes. The first step in developing this program is to get feedback from individuals with diabetes to understand which types of messages are most helpful. We would like to invite you to help us get started! 

Are you 18 or older, and do you have Type 2 diabetes? Are you interested in increasing your engagement in healthy behaviors, like physical activity or a healthy diet? If so, we invite you to complete a Harvard research survey about health, emotions, and your opinions on text messages to promote healthy behaviors! The survey should take 15-20 minutes and is completely voluntary. Your responses will help us develop new, effective ways to help people with Type 2 diabetes increase their health. If you are interested, please click here. Thank you!


Christopher Celano, M.D.

Dr. Christopher Celano is an Associate Director of the Cardiac Psychiatry Research Program (CPRP) at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. His research is largely focused on development and implementation of behavioral interventions to improve patient-centered outcomes for patients with chronic conditions.