ArticlePDF Available

Do Positive Psychology Exercises Work? A Replication of Seligman et al. ()

Authors:

Abstract and Figures

The current work replicated a landmark study conducted by Seligman and colleagues (2005) that demonstrated the long-term benefits of positive psychology exercises (PPEs). In the original study, two exercises administered over 1 week ("Three Good Things" and "Using your Signature Strengths in a New Way") were found to have long-lasting effects on depression and happiness (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). These exercises were tested here using the same methodology except for improvements to the control condition, and the addition of a second "positive placebo" to isolate the common factor of accessing positive, self-relevant constructs. This component control design was meant to assess the effect of expectancies for success (expectancy control), as well the cognitive access of positive information about the self (positive placebo). Repeated measures analyses showed that the PPEs led to lasting increases in happiness, as did the positive placebo. The PPEs did not exceed the control condition in producing changes in depression over time. Brief, positive psychology interventions may boost happiness through a common factor involving the activation of positive, self-relevant information rather than through other specific mechanisms. Finally, the effects of PPEs on depression may be more modest than previously assumed.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Do Positive Psychology Exercises Work? A Replication of
Seligman et al. (2005)
Myriam Mongrain and Tracy Anselmo-Matthews
York University
Objectives: The current work replicated a landmark study conducted by Seligman and colleagues
(2005) that demonstrated the long-term benefits of positive psychology exercises (PPEs). In the origi-
nal study, two exercises administered over 1 week (“Three Good Things” and “Using your Signature
Strengths in a New Way”) were found to have long-lasting effects on depression and happiness (Selig-
man, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005). Design: These exercises were tested here using the same
methodology except for improvements to the control condition, and the addition of a second “positive
placebo” to isolate the common factor of accessing positive, self-relevant constructs. This component
control design was meant to assess the effect of expectancies for success (expectancy control), as
well the cognitive access of positive information about the self (positive placebo). Results: Re-
peated measures analyses showed that the PPEs led to lasting increases in happiness, as did the
positive placebo. The PPEs did not exceed the control condition in producing changes in depression
over time. Conclusions: Brief, positive psychology interventions may boost happiness through a
common factor involving the activation of positive, self-relevant information rather than through other
specific mechanisms. Finally, the effects of PPEs on depression may be more modest than previously
assumed. C2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Clin. Psychol. 68:382–389, 2012.
Keywords: positive psychology exercises; signature strengths; three good things; depression; happi-
ness; e-mental health
Positive psychology is the study of positive experiences, positive character traits, and the in-
stitutions that help cultivate them (Seligman, 2011). Its proponents argue that the movement
has embraced the most rigorous scientific approach in the study of positive human experi-
ence, and research has proliferated capturing the attention of thousands of scientists (Seligman
et al., 2005; Simonton & Baumeister, 2005; Seligman, 2011). Positive psychotherapy is now
emerging as a new form of intervention, pitting itself against established therapy approaches
(Seligman, Rashid, & Parks, 2006; Wood & Tarrier, 2010). The techniques espoused by positive
psychologists must be held to the same level of scrutiny and accountability as the more tradi-
tional forms of intervention. As stated by Seligman (2011), positive psychology should teach
people effective pathways to improved functioning and well-being.
The current work takes a critical look at a landmark study conducted by Seligman and
colleagues (2005) documenting the efficacy of positive psychology exercises (PPEs). They tested
happiness interventions via the Internet with a convenience sample of 411 participants using
a random assignment, placebo control design. The happiness interventions comprised daily
exercises performed over a 1-week period. The placebo control involved writing about early
memories every night for a week. The two most effective exercises included (a) “Three good
things in life,” in which participants were asked to write three good things that happened
that day and why they happened, and (b) “Using signature strengths in a new way,” in which
participants took an online inventory of their character strengths which provided feedback about
their top five strengths as catalogued by Peterson and Seligman (2004). Participants were then
asked to use one of those strengths in a new and different way every day for 7 days.
Seligman et al. (2005) collected information on happiness and depressive symptoms at pretest,
posttest, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months after the administration of these interventions.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to: Myriam Mongrain, 4700 Keele
St., Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M3 J1 P3; e-mail: mongrain@yorku.ca
JOURNAL OF CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGY, Vol. 68(4), 382–389 (2012) C2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Published online in Wiley Online Library (wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/jclp). DOI: 10.1002/jclp.21839
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005) 383
The “Three good things” and “Using signature strengths in a new way” conditions led to
particularly positive results when the changes in mood were considered over a longer period of
time. For both interventions, differences in levels of depression and happiness were evident at the
1-month, 3-month, and 6-month assessments when compared with the early memory control
condition. These two positive psychology exercises (PPEs) were included for replication in the
current work.
The aim of the current study was to replicate these results while enhancing the scientific rigor
of the work by Seligman and colleagues (2005). The same methodology was employed except
for modifications to the early memory control condition. A more convincing rationale as to why
this exercise may improve well-being was included to match the rationales of the “The three
good things” and “Using signature strengths in a new way” exercises. Termed the “expectancy
control,” this exercise involved an argument for how reflecting on the past, even for a short period
of time, can increase understanding, self-acceptance, and happiness. This change was designed
to control for a “common factor” (Frank & Frank, 1991) in PPEs involving high expectancies
for success. If the PPEs failed to outperform this control condition, then their effects could be
attributed to the manipulation of belief in positive change.
As found in component control designs in psychotherapy research (Haaga & Stiles, 2000), the
“therapeutic ingredients” in PPEs were dismantled further by isolating a common component
involving the access of positive, self-relevant information. A “positive placebo” was created
identical to the first control exercise, except that positive memories about one’s life had to be
retrieved. The role of this positive placebo was to assess whether there was anything “special”
about the PPEs other than the access of positive self-representations. These group comparisons
appeared critical in light of a concluding statement made by Seligman et al. (2005): “The finding
of beneficial effects [of PPEs] with no human therapeutic alliance suggests the operation of
powerful specific ingredients in the exercises” (Seligman et al., 2005, p. 420). The main purpose of
the current work was to test whether those exercises, now incorporated in positive psychotherapy
(Rashid & Seligman, 2011), involved specific ingredients responsible for increasing well-being
rather than a common focus on positive aspects of one’s self and one’s life.
In short, this study attempted to add to the body of research on positive interventions by first
replicating the effects reported by Seligman et al. (2005). In addition, the demand characteristics
of the original control exercise were improved, and a second positive placebo was added to
test for the effects of accessing positive information about the self. The main hypothesis was
that the PPEs (“Using signature strengths in a new way” and “Three good things”) would be
associated with increases in happiness and decreases in depressive symptoms relative to both
placebo groups over 6 months, replicating the findings of Seligman and colleagues (2005). Both
control groups (early, and early positive memories) were expected to provide temporary boosts
in mood that would dissipate over time because they did not involve any specific “therapeutic”
element.
Method
Participants
The initial sample comprised 1,447 primarily White (78%), Canadian (84%) females (83%).
Participant ages ranged from 18 to 72 years, with a mean of 33. Participants were recruited
primarily through advertisements on Facebook, with an ad stating: “Feel better: Participate
in Project HOPE (Harnessing One’s Personal Excellence).” The advertisements appeared to
Canadian users over 18 years of age.
In terms of demographics, 64% of participants had some college or university education, with
40% earning under $20,000 a year and 23% earning over $50,000. Thirty percent of participants
were married and 44% percent had children. As a whole, the sample had clinically signifi-
cant levels of depressive symptomatology (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale
[CES-D] measure of depression, ¯
x=20.39, s =14.62, which is above the cut-off for mild
depression, ¯
x=16; Geisser, Roth, & Robinson, 1997).
384 Journal of Clinical Psychology, April 2012
Participant remuneration.Participants who registered for the study before November
1, 2007, received $30 remuneration upon completion of the posttest measures administered at
1 week (55% received remuneration). To manage costs while increasing sample size, participants
registering after this date were not offered $30 but were entered into a $1,000 draw upon com-
pletion of the posttest measures. To encourage participation in subsequent follow-up sessions,
all participants were entered in a $1,000 raffle at each follow-up. The incentives in the current
study were slightly higher than those provided by Seligman and colleagues (2005), who offered
one $500 and three $100 awards at each follow-up.
Measures
Steen Happiness Index (SHI).The SHI was created and utilized by Seligman et al.
(2005) to serve as a measure of happiness that might be particularly sensitive to upward changes
in happiness (Seligman et al., 2005; Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005). The index comprises
20 items that require the participant to choose from one of five statements that most closely
reflects how they have felt over the past week. Scores on this scale were found to be highly
correlated with other measures of happiness and to have an internal consistency of α=.95 and
a test-retest reliability of .97 over 1 week (Seligman et al., 2005).
CES-D.The CES-D (Radloff, 1977; also utilized in Seligman et al., 2005) is a widely used
20-item inventory designed to measure the incidence of depressive symptoms over the prior week.
Each symptom is rated in terms of frequency on a 5-point Likert scale, ranging from 0 (less than
1 day) to 4 (most or all of the time). Much research has illustrated the good internal consistency,
reliability, convergent and concurrent validity, and sensitivity of this measure (Santor, Zuroff,
Ramsay, Cervantes, & Palacios, 1995). Internal consistency has been reliably found to be excellent
in a wide variety of samples (Corcoran & Fisher, 1987; Radloff, 1977).
Procedure
The measures and design of the study were identical to that of Seligman et al. (2005).
Participants were asked to log onto the website for the study entitled Project HOPE at
www.projecthopecanada.com. Participants then completed a battery of tests including base-
line measures of happiness (SHI) and current depressive symptoms (CES-D) and then were
randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Segments of the rationales for each condition are
provided below:
rExpectancy control (early memories): “‘The unexamined life is not worth living (Socrates).’
The importance of self-knowledge and understanding has long been recognized. We believe
that a strong sense of self and an understanding of the factors that have come to make you
the person you are today are essential components of well-being. Our early life experiences
can influence us and play a role in how we think and act later on in our lives. It may be
important to reflect upon these early experiences to gain a better understanding of the person
we are today. Every night over the next week, set aside about 10 minutes before bed to do this
exercise. It will require you to log on to this website to write about an early memory.”
rPositive placebo (positive early memories, in addition to rationale above): “A careful consid-
eration of our past may help us to better understand who we are today and ultimately lead to
increased self-acceptance and well-being, particularly when we focus on the positive aspects.
Every night over the next week, set aside about 10 minutes before bed to do this exercise. It
will require you to log on to this website to write about an early positive memory.”
rThree good things (Seligman et al., 2005): “We think too much about what goes wrong and
not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense for us to
analyse bad events so that we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However,
people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this
tendency to focus on bad events sets us up for anxiety and depression. One way to keep this
from happening is to develop our ability to think about the good in life. In order to help you
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005) 385
build this skill you will be asked to log on to the website daily for seven days to list three
things that went well on that day and why they happened.”
rUsing signature strengths in a new way (Seligman et al., 2005): “Honesty. Loyalty. Persever-
ance. Creativity. Kindness. Wisdom. Courage. Fairness. These and about 16 other character
strengths are valued in almost every culture in the world. We believe that people can get more
satisfaction out of life if they learn to identify which of these character strengths they possess
in abundance and then use them as much as possible whether working, loving, or playing.
This exercise consists of two parts. You will take a questionnaire that gives you feedback
about your strengths. This will take about 45 minutes. The next day you will be asked to use
these strengths in new ways every day for one week and to report back to us each day to
describe how you did so.”
All exercises included a requirement of approximately 10 minutes a day and all stated the same
expectancy priming: “The benefits of this work may not be immediate, but like exercising, the
advantages can emerge over time with continued practice”. At the conclusion of the week-long
exercise period, participants completed outcome measures including the CES-D and the SHI.
Participants were also sent reminder e-mails for their 1-month, 3-month, and 6-month online
follow-up assessments including the CES-D and the SHI.
Results
Attrition
There were a total of 1,447 participants who filled out the initial questionnaires and were assigned
to an exercise condition. Of these, 344 (24%) completed all the requirements of the study,
including the 6-month follow-up. ttests show that those who dropped out by 6 months were, at
baseline, more depressed, CES-D; t(1444) =2.07, p=.04, and less happy, SHI; t(1444) =−3.66,
p<.001. Drop-out rates did not differ significantly by condition, χ2(3) =4.77, p=.19.
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005)
Happiness.The analyses in Seligman et al. (2005) involved repeated measures analyses of
variance (ANOVAs) that were replicated here to determine whether “Three good things” and
“Using signature strengths in a new way” were effective in increasing happiness levels over the
6-month study period over and above the control conditions. Participants who completed test
measures at all five time points were included.1
An overall repeated measures ANOVA was conducted (four conditions by five time peri-
ods) for the happiness measure (SHI).2A significant main effect for time was found, F(4,
1A drawback of the repeated ANOVA statistic is that participants with missing data points are excluded,
which is particularly problematic given our high attrition rate. Multilevel modeling, conducted in SAS
and using maximum likelihood estimation was performed as a sensitivity test. The models were run on
participants who provided data at baseline and 1 week (n=960) to preserve a more balanced data set
and produce reliable estimates. Payment for participation and demographic variables including age, gender,
income, education, as well as adherence (number of nights the exercises were completed) were included in the
models to determine their potential influence on outcome. All groups, including “Early positive memories”
(estimate =.03, standard error [SE]=.01, t=2.82, p=.005), “Three good things” (estimate =.03,
SE =.01, t=2.68, p=.007), and “Using signature strengths in a new way” (estimate =.03, SE =.01,
t=2.21, p=.03), were related to higher rates of change in happiness compared with the expectancy control
group. The PPEs were not significantly different from the positive placebo. The “Three good things” exercise
was marginally associated with greater reductions in depression when compared with the “Early memories”
control group (estimate =−.46, SE =.25, t=−1.87, p=.06), but not compared with the positive placebo
(estimate =−.14, SE =.24, t=−.57, p=.57). These results mirror those obtained with the repeated
measures ANOVAs presented in the text.
2Eleven participants failed to complete the SHI, explaining the differences in the degrees of freedom for the
happiness and depression analyses.
386 Journal of Clinical Psychology, April 2012
Figure 1. Average happiness scores on the SHI over the 6-month study period.
Note. Effect sizes are noted where means differed significantly from baseline (p <.05).
337) =8.53, p<.001, ηp
2=.092, indicating that participants increased in self-reported levels
of happiness over time. A significant time by condition interaction was also obtained, F(12,
1017) =2.35, p=.006, ηp
2=.027, showing varying changes in happiness over time among the
conditions.
Planned contrasts were conducted comparing happiness scores at each follow-up to baseline
scores within each group. Participants in the expectancy control group tended to increase in
happiness at 1 week (p=.07, d=.10), but returned to baseline at the 1-month, 3-month,
and 6-month follow-ups (ps >.10; see Figure 1). Thus, as expected, the control condition may
have boosted mood initially due to expectancy effects, but did not lead to any lasting change
in happiness. The “Early positive memories” placebo condition showed significant increases in
happiness at 1 month (p<.001, d=.27), 3 months (p=.001, d=25), and 6 months (p=.01,
d=20; see Figure 1). Thus, our results indicate that our positive placebo was associated with
lasting gains in happiness.
For “Three good things,” happiness increased significantly at 1 week (p=.004, d=.15), and
continued to be elevated at the 3-month (p=.001, d=.22) and 6-month (p=.02, d=.16)
follow-ups (see Figure 1). For “Using signature strengths in a new way,” happiness significantly
increased compared with baseline levels at 1 week (p<.001, d=.29), 1 month (p=.03, d=.16),
and at 6 months (p=.01, d=.24; see Figure 1). In summary, the Seligman and colleagues
(2005) findings for happiness were mostly replicated, and the PPEs surpassed the effect of the
expectancy control group, but not the positive placebo.
Depressive Symptoms.Parallel analyses were conducted with depressive symptoms to
determine how exercises may have affected depression over time. An overall repeated mea-
sures ANOVA was conducted (four conditions by five time points) with the CES-D as the
outcome measure. Participants evidenced significant decreases in depressive symptoms over the
6-month study, effect for time, F(4, 348) =4.57, p=.001, ηp
2=.050. However, contrary to
the findings obtained by Seligman et al., (2005), there was no time by condition interaction
effect, F(12, 1050) =1.48, p=.13, indicating that changes in the CES-D did not differ across
conditions.
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005) 387
Discussion
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005)
A science builds itself on tests of replicability. Seligman and colleagues (2005) previously
reported impressive findings that demonstrated the effectiveness of positive psychology exercises
in increasing levels of happiness and decreasing depression over a period of 6 months. Our
methodology was identical, but utilized more powerful placebos and yielded results that were
more modest. The PPEs produced greater increases in happiness compared with the expectancy
control condition, confirming that their effectiveness cannot be reduced to the creation of
“high hopes.” But the positive placebo (positive early memories) produced effects that were
as significant and as long lasting as those of the “Three good things” and “Using signature
strengths in a new way” exercises. We may have serendipitously stumbled upon another effective
exercise with its own specific ingredients, but we prefer to believe that the access of positive,
self-relevant information is the common factor with the largest “therapeutic” effect shared with
the other PPEs.
In sharp contrast to the findings reported by Seligman and colleagues (2005), the PPEs did
not lead to significantly greater reductions in depression over time compared with the control
group. The difference in our findings may be attributable to differences in control groups. The
rationale in the expectancy control condition provided a credibleexplanation for success that may
have narrowed the gap between groups over time. Furthermore, our participants were slightly
more depressed than those in Seligman et al. (2005), and may have been lower functioning.3
Another possible explanation for the more glowing results reported by Seligman and colleagues
(2005) lies in their sample recruited through Seligman’s self-help book Authentic Happiness
(2002). This select group may have had higher levels of motivation, greater interest, and belief
in positive psychology exercises. This possibility is supported by the fact that the drop-out rate
for participants in Seligman and colleagues (2005) was much lower (29%) than the one in the
current study (76%).
Much of what is effective in psychotherapy is attributable to common factors, while specific
techniques account for about 15% of improvement (Asay & Lambert, 1999). It may be useful
for positive psychologists to draw from this foundation, and moderate some conclusions. For
example, Seligman et al. (2005) state: “Identifying specific ingredients is an uncommon early
move in the testing of interventions (PPEs), and our studies go beyond such demonstrations”
(p. 419). We obtained little or no difference between the “Three good things,” “Using signature
strengths in a new way,” and the positive placebo exercise. We could not demonstrate the unique
qualities or specific ingredients belonging to PPEs exclusively. Furthermore, “client factors”
(Asay & Lambert, 1999) must be taken into consideration for the results obtained by Seligman
et al. (2005) and us. Both samples involved people who wanted to become happier, had access
to books and Internet resources, and were interested in online self-help. This client factor makes
the generalization to other populations difficult.
Summary and Future Directions
Some criticisms have been targeted at the placebo controls in positive psychology research and
the potentially premature conclusions drawn around the efficacy of some interventions (Wood &
Tarrier, 2010). Our design allowed us to partial out expectancy effects, and the results suggest that
PPEs do more than provide belief in change when it comes to self-reported levels of happiness.
Our design also allowed for further consideration of the common component that may underlie
the effectiveness of PPEs. The access of positive aspects of the self-schema may be a common
feature shared across the PPEs and the positive placebo in this study. Perhaps thinking positively
about your past, your day, or your strengths activates the natural growth potential in individuals
(Tallman & Bohart, 1999) and may well mobilize hope by providing tools that bolster optimism
3The average CES-D score in Seligman et al. (2005) hovered around 14, while the average score in the current
sample was 20.4.
388 Journal of Clinical Psychology, April 2012
Table 1
Means for Happiness and Depression Across Conditions and Across Time
Baseline 1 week 1 month 3 months 6 months
Happiness (SHI)
Early memories (n=81) x=2.75, s=.81 x=2.84, s=.83 x=2.80, s =.86 x=2.80, s=.85 x=2.70, s=.88
Early positive memories (n=87) x=2.74, s=.72 x=2.82, s=.76 x=2.93, s=.75 x=2.92, s=.76 x=2.89, s=.85
3 good things (n=102) x=2.76, s=.78 x=2.88, s=.81 x=2.80, s =.83 x=2.94, s=.82 x=2.89, s=.87
Signature strengths (n=74) x=2.75, s=.65 x=2.94, s=.72 x=2.86, s=.76 x=2.86, s=.75 x=2.91, s=.74
Depression (CES-D)
Early memories (n=84) x=19.61, s=.14.44 x=18.80, s=13.49 x=19.93, s=14.02 x=20.45, s=14.79 x=20.04, s=14.90
Early positive memories (n=90) x=19.19, s=14.05 x=17.19, s=13.13 x=15.84, s=12.55 x=17.14, s=12.91 x=17.67, s=14.34
3 good things (n=106) x=19.47, s=.14.41 x=15.66, s=11.59 x=18.57, s=12.64 x=16.47, s=11.84 x=16.56, s=14.90
Signature strengths (n=75) x=17.73, s=.14.50 x=14.99, s=13.10 x=16.81, s=14.06 x=14.28, s=11.93 x=15.69, s=14.82
Note. SHI =Steen Happiness Index (Seligman et al., 2005). CES-D =Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (Radloff, 1977).
Replication of Seligman et al. (2005) 389
and stimulate pathways toward change (Snyder, Ilardi, Michael, & Cheavens, 2000). It could also
activate positive emotions that are known to broaden cognition, leading to behavioural changes
and upward spirals in mood (Fredrickson, 2001; Garland et al., 2010). Future research on PPEs
should seek to elucidate the specific mechanisms responsible for improvements in mood and
flourishing and explain how and why they work. This will be most fruitfully accomplished with
rigorous methodological designs and a guiding theory of psychological growth.
References
Asay, T. P., & Lambert, M. J. (1999). The empirical case for the common factors in therapy: Quantitative
findings. In M.A. Hubble, B.L. Duncan, & S.D. Miller (Eds.), The heart and soul of change: What works
in therapy (pp. 23–55). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Corcoran, K., & Fisher, J. (1987). Measures for clinical practice: A sourcebook. New York, NY: Free Press.
Frank, J. D., & Frank, J. B. (1991). Persuasion and healing (3rd ed.). Baltimore, MD: JohnHopkins University
Press.
Fredrickson, B. L. (2001). The role of positive emotions in positive psychology: The broaden-and-build
theory of positive emotions. American Psychologist, 56, 218-226.
Garland, E. L., Fredrickson, B., Kring, A. M., Johnson, D. P., Meyer, P. S., & Penn, D. L. (2010). Upward
spirals of positive emotions counter downward spirals of negativity: Insights from the broaden-and-build
theory and affective neuroscience on the treatment of emotion dysfunctions and deficits in psychopathol-
ogy. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 849-864.
Geisser, M. E., Roth, R. S., & Robinson, M. E. (1997). Assessing depression among persons with chronic
pain using the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale and the Beck Depression Inventory:
A comparative analysis. Clinical Journal of Pain, 13, 163-170.
Haaga, D. A. F., & Stiles, W. B. (2000). Randomized clinical trials in psychotherapy research: Methodology,
design and evaluation. In C. R. Snyder & R. E. Ingram, (Eds.), (Handbook of psychological change:
Psychotherapy processes & practices for the 21st century (pp. 128-153). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley &
Sons Inc.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification.
Washington, DC: APA Press.
Radloff, L. (1977). The CES-D Scale: A self-report depression scale for research in the general population.
Applied Psychological Measurement, 1, 385-401.
Santor, D., Zuroff, D., Ramsay, J., Cervantes, P., & Palacios, J. (1995). Examining scale discriminability in
the BDI and CES-D as a function of depressive severity. Psychological Assessment, 7, 131-139.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness: Using the new positive psychology to realize your potential
for lasting fulfillment. New York, NY: Free Press.
Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York,
NY: Free Press.
Seligman, M. E. P. Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical
validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421.
Seligman, M. E. P., Rashid, T., & Parks, A. C. (2006). Positive psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 61,
774-788.
Simonton, D. K., & Baumeister, R. F. (2005). Positive psychology at the summit. Review of General
Psychology, 9, 99-102.
Snyder, C. R., Ilardi, S., Michael, S. T., & Cheavens, J. (2000). Hope theory: Updating a common process
for psychological change. In C. R. Snyder & R. E. Ingram, (Eds.), (Handbook of psychological change:
Psychotherapy processes & practices for the 21 st century (pp. 128-153). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley &
Sons Inc.
Tallman, K., & Bohart, A. C. (1999). The client as a common factor: Clients as self-healers. In M.A. Hubble,
B.L. Duncan, & S.D. Miller (Eds.), The heart and soul of change: What works in therapy (pp. 91-132).
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Wood, A. M., & Tarrier, N. (2010). Positive clinical psychology: A new vision and strategy for integrated
research and practice. Clinical Psychology Review, 30, 819-829.
... Table 1 for a summary and detailed description of studies). With regards to research study design, seven out of the nine studies were randomised controlled trials (RCTs) [45,46,53,54,[61][62][63] while one adopted a crosssectional longitudinal study design [47] and one used a N-1 counterbalanced design [60]. ...
... Four studies utilised the Early Memories as a control group [45,[61][62][63], four studies used control groups with no activity assigned [31,47,54,60] and one study used a placebo control exercise where the written activity was focused on describing different places the participants had passed that day [46]. All study participants were predominately female. ...
... A variety of different timeframes were used to measure the effect of PPIs on well-being. Two studies measured immediate post-intervention effects on well-being [47,60] whilst four studies measured the sustainability of the effect of the PPI on well-being at 3-months [46,[61][62][63]. A further three studies measured the effect of the PPI on well-being up to 6-months [61][62][63]. ...
Preprint
Background: Community pharmacies are well-placed to deliver well-being interventions; however, to date, nothing has been produced specifically for this setting. The aim of this study was to develop a positive psychology intervention suitable for a community pharmacy setting with the goal of increasing the well-being of community members. Methods: Intervention development consisted of three steps: Step 1- identify the evidence-base and well-being model to underpin the basis of the intervention (Version 1); Step 2 - model the intervention and gather user feedback to produce Version 2, and Step 3 - revisit the evidence-base and refine the intervention to produce Version 3. Results: Findings from nine studies (seven RCTs, one cross-sectional, one N-1 design plus user feedback were applied to model a 6-week ‘Prescribing Happiness (P-Hap)’ intervention, underpinned by the PERMA model plus four other components from the positive psychology literature (Three Good Things, Utilising Your Signature Strengths in New Ways, Best Possible Selves and Character Strengths). A PERMA-based diary was designed to be completed 3-days a week as part of the intervention. Conclusions: This work is an important development which will direct the future implementation of interventions to support well-being in this novel setting. The next stage is to gain the perspectives of external stakeholders on the feasibility of delivering the P-Hap for its adoption into community pharmacy services in the future.
... Positive psychology places a major emphasis on the positive side of people's lives through the cultivation of values, abilities, and states such as flow, savoring, gratitude, kindness, empathy, optimism, strengths, gratitude, hope, and meaning (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). Positive psychology interventions instructing participants to list grateful things per day have shown improvements in positive affect (Martínez-Martí et al., 2010), life satisfaction (Manthey et al., 2016), happiness (Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012), and stress (Kerr et al., 2015), whereas, savoring, or the ability to be engaged in the appreciation of one's activities and experiences, has been found to increase resilience and happiness and reduce depressive symptoms (Smith & Hanni, 2019). Lastly, in the build-up of intrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence, emotional intelligence focuses on monitoring one's emotions and those of others to use this output efficiently to support one's behaviors effectively (Salovey & Mayer, 1990). ...
... For instance, through the cultivation of positive psychology components such as gratitude and savoring as well as strengths and virtues, participants might have learned to appreciate and value to a greater extent not just particular aspects of their life but also their life as a whole. Positive psychology interventions using such components have led to improvements in happiness, well-being, resilience, positive affect, and psychological well-being (Martínez-Martí et al., 2010;Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012;Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009;Smith & Hanni, 2019). In addition, the CRAFT program's emphasis on promoting flow through the different mindful concerts and improvisations might have also contributed to developing happiness and meaningful lived experiences derived from heightened states of absorption, self-awareness, self-control, and a harmoniously ordered consciousness (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). ...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Higher education student musicians face high physical, psychological, and emotional demands affecting their well-being and academic experience. This study examined the feasibility and preliminary effectiveness of the so-called CRAFT program, based on mindfulness, yoga, positive psychology, and emotional intelligence, to improve psychological well-being, psychological distress, emotional regulation, and physical flexibility amongst tertiary education student musicians. Methods Using a single-arm pre-post study design, student musicians (n = 25) at a royal conservatory of music in Spain followed a 25-week CRAFT program that was curricularly implemented during the academic year 2018/2019, once a week for 50 min. The outcome measures included were the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ), the Subjective Psychological Well-Being Subscale (SPWS), the Emotional Regulation Questionnaire (ERQ), the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21), and the Sit and Reach Test (SRT). Results Paired samples t-test and practical significance analyses revealed significant improvements for the total scale of the FFMQ (g = 0.28), the Observe (g = 0.44) and Describe (g = 0.38) subscales of the FFMQ, the SPWS (g = 0.32), the Reappraisal subscale of the ERQ (g = 0.43), and the SRT (g = 0.39). A similar pattern of results was observed in a filtered sample (n = 15) when excluding participants simultaneously engaged in yoga/meditation activities other than the CRAFT program. Conclusions These results indicated that the CRAFT program is a promising intervention for improving mindfulness skills and health and well-being states and abilities amongst higher education student musicians. Further research is needed to substantiate these findings and extend them to similar settings and populations with complex psychophysical concerns.
... Gratitude is identified as one of the virtues discussed by Peterson and Seligman (2004) and explained as recognition that something good happened to you, accompanied by an appraisal that someone, whether another individual or an impersonal source, such as nature or a divine entity, was responsible for it (Emmons & McCullough, 2003). Several studies show that gratitude interventions, such as gratitude lists and gratitude expression, result in increased happiness, well-being, prosocial behaviour and decrease in negative affect (Watkins et al., 2003;Martínez-Martí et al., 2010;Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012;Bolier et al., 2013;Davis et al., 2016). ...
... Research focusing on emerging adult populations have also shown that higher levels of gratitude significantly predicted increases in social support, positive affect and adaptive coping abilities (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006;Lin, 2015;Lin & Yeh 2013;Booker & Dunsmore, 2015;Leontopoulou, 2015). Studies have shown a strong positive connection between gratitude and life satisfaction, (Froh et al., 2009;Wood et al., 2010;Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012;Alkozei et al., 2018;Cunha et al., 2019) and a positive impact on relationships with romantic partners and peers due to gratitude expression (Lambert et al., 2010;Wood et al., 2010;Algoe & Zhaoyang, 2015;O'Connell et al., 2017). In their review paper, Wood et al., (2010) discuss how gratitude impacts relationships. ...
Article
The use of Positive Psychology Interventions is rapidly increasing in the world of psychology, as it focuses on a more wholesome and holistic approach to wellbeing and mental health. The current intervention study tries to understand the impact of Expressing Gratitude over social media on the participant’s Psychological Wellbeing, Peer Relationship Satisfaction, Life Satisfaction, and Positive and Negative affect. The intervention was conducted for two weeks on social media platforms and the control group had to just note the conversations they had. With a total of 32 participants in the experimental group and 38 participants in the control group, the study used paired t-tests to see the impact of intervention through pre-test and post-test scores. The results show that Peer Relationship Satisfaction, Life Satisfaction, and Positive and Negative affect did improve after the intervention, while there was no significant impact on psychological well-being. The currently ongoing pandemic must be kept in mind while understanding the implication of the results. The discussion section elaborates on that topic. Keywords: Gratitude, Intervention, Positive Psychology, Pandemic, Resilience
... Second, experimental evidence on the impact of character strengths on mental health is ambiguous. While some authors reported contributions to decreased depressive symptoms [14,17], others found no such impact [24,25]. Third, although some recent longitudinal evidence provides reasonable support for the prospective associations between character strengths and well-being and/or health [6,26], numerous observational studies concerning character strengths often relied on cross-sectional datasets and provided findings of a correlational nature, which have been already shown to overestimate the magnitude of the actual relationship [27]. ...
... In this vein, our evidence is also in line with the recent findings on the usefulness of strength-based interventions in pain self-efficacy and the capacity to function despite pain [16] and in older age [15]. Regarding the mental health outcomes, our results corroborate the earlier evidence from experimental studies [14,25,71], meta-analyses [9, 17, The E values for effect estimates are the minimum strength of association on the risk ratio scale that an unmeasured confounder would need to have with both the exposure and the outcome to fully explain away the observed association between the exposure and outcome, conditional on the measured covariates. For example, in the studied population an unmeasured confounder would need to be associated with both using one's strengths to help others and cardiovascular disease by risk ratios of 4.58 each, above and beyond the measured covariates, to fully explain away the observed association between the two variables ‡ The E values for the limit of the 95% confidence interval (CI) closest to the null denote the minimum strength of association on the risk ratio scale that an unmeasured confounder would need to have with both the exposure and the outcome to shift the confidence interval to include the null value, conditional on the measured covariates. ...
Article
Full-text available
Purpose Excellent character, reflected in adherence to high standards of moral behavior, has been argued to contribute to well-being. The study goes beyond this claim and provides insights into the role of strengths of moral character (SMC) for physical and mental health. Methods This study used longitudinal observational data merged with medical insurance claims data collected from 1209 working adults of a large services organization in the US. Self-reported physical and mental health as well as diagnostic information on depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease were used as outcomes. The prospective associations between SMC (7 indicators and a composite measure) and physical and mental health outcomes were examined using lagged linear and logistic regression models. A series of sensitivity analyses provided evidence for the robustness of results. Results The results suggest that persons who live their life according to high moral standards have substantially lower odds of depression (by 21-51%). The results were also indicative of positive associations between SMC and self-reports of mental health (β = 0.048-0.118) and physical health (β = 0.048-0.096). Weaker indications were found for a protective role of SMC in mitigating anxiety (OR = 0.797 for the indicator of delayed gratification) and cardiovascular disease (OR = 0.389 for the indicator of use of SMC for helping others). Conclusions SMC may be considered relevant for population mental health and physical health. Public health policies promoting SMC are likely to receive positive reception from the general public because character is both malleable and aligned with the nearly universal human desire to become a better person.
... In addition to sociological and cultural critiques (e.g., Binkley, 2014;Ehrenreich, 2009), multiple analyses questioning the field's alleged novelty (e.g., Kristjánsson, 2012), universalistic aspirations (e.g., Christopher and Hickinbottom, 2008), therapeutic efficacy (e.g., Mongrain and Anselmo-Matthews, 2012), and scientific basis (e.g., Pérez-Álvarez, 2016) have also been 5 Becoming positive souls Spirituality and happiness from New Thought to positive psychology Edgar Cabanas and José Carlos Sánchez-González compelling. In this line, Horowitz (2018) has recently stated that "virtually every finding of positive psychology under consideration remains contested (…) Controversies go well beyond the question of replication or reproducibility. ...
Chapter
Cabanas, E. y Sánchez, J.C. (2020). Becoming positive souls. The science of happiness from New Thought to positive psychology. En Nehring, D., China, M., Kerrigan, D., Cabanas, E. y Madsen, O.J. (eds.), The Routledge International Handbook of Global Therapeutic Cultures. London: Routledge.
... Related, it is unclear the extent to which the mode of intervention-an online, self-help format-may have influenced study findings. While early work suggested that positive psychological interventions are feasible to deliver online (Mitchell et al., 2010;Seligman et al., 2005, but also see Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012), the self-help nature of online interventions may lead to smaller increases in positive affect relative to interventions conducted in an individual or group format (Boiler et al., 2013). This finding is consistent with results from other psychological interventions that demonstrate self-help interventions are less effective at reducing stress (Spijkerman et al., 2016), anxiety, and depression (Saddichha et al., 2014) relative to online interventions that provide guidance. ...
Article
Meta-analyses indicate that positive psychological interventions are effective at increasing positive affect, as well as reducing anxiety and depression; however, it is unclear how well these effects generalize during periods of high stress. Therefore, the current study tested whether a 2-week online positive psychological intervention delivered during the COVID-19 pandemic, a naturalistic stressor, (1) increased positive affect; (2) improved psychological well-being, optimism, life satisfaction, perceived social support, and loneliness; (3) and reduced negative affect in college students, a group known to have high pandemic distress. Participants (N = 250; 76.9% female) ages 18-45 were recruited from the University of Pittsburgh undergraduate subject pool between September and November of 2020. Participants were randomized to the online positive psychological intervention or active control condition and stratified by trait positive affect, sex, and year in college. Participants in both conditions completed one writing activity every other day for two consecutive weeks. Control participants documented their activities for that day (e.g., meals, going to gym). Intervention participants chose from six positive psychology activities. All outcome variables were assessed pre- and post-intervention by validated questionnaires. Across both conditions, positive and negative affect decreased from pre- to post-intervention. No other psychological factor differed by condition, time, or their interaction. The current null findings are in line with a more recent meta-analysis indicating that positive psychological interventions may have smaller effects on psychological well-being and depressive symptoms than was reported pre-pandemic. Study findings may suggest reduced efficacy of virtual positive psychological interventions under highly stressful circumstances. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s42761-022-00148-z.
... Virtues are positive qualities which are widely regarded as morally valuable (e.g., wisdom, courage, justice), and character strengths are ways of expressing virtues (e.g., creativity, kindness; . Identifying, developing, and using character strengths is associated with well-being across the life span (Ivtzan et al., 2016;Jach et al., 2018;Mongrain & Anselmo-Matthews, 2012;Park et al., 2004;Proctor et al., 2011), as well as greater achievement in academic contexts (Niemiec, 2013;Park & Peterson, 2009;Shoshani & Shwartz, 2018;Weber & Ruch, 2012). As a result, schools are increasingly implementing programs which help youth to identify and employ character strengths (Lavy, 2019;Waters, 2011). ...
Article
Full-text available
Schools are increasingly bolstering student character strengths to promote academic success and well-being. Schools' character-promotion efforts would benefit from involving students' caregivers. Online resources may be an accessible way to engage students' families, but further research is needed to maximize accessibility and engagement. A brief character strengths program was developed and integrated within online accounts accessed by parents of kindergarten students. Content analysis of parent focus groups (N = 14, 86% women) indicated that access to and engagement with the program was improved by several factors, including visuals, intuitive navigation, strength-based content, and school-based recruitment. Content analysis of caregivers' (N = 54, 91% women, M age = 36.52, SD age = 4.40) responses to the program's reflection questions indicated that parents prefer highly applicable content, particularly information about noticing and developing character strengths in their child. Finally, exploratory descriptive statistics indicated that single parents, fathers, and parents of racial minority children were less likely to engage with the program which alludes to the additional barriers faced by these socio-demographic groups. The results provide specific suggestions for involving parents in school-based character promotion efforts, as well as highlight the importance of additional research to better understand the needs of diverse families. Supplementary information: The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s41042-022-00072-4.
Article
Positive psychology interventions (PPIs) have the potential to bypass barriers to seeking mental health services by promoting well-being without the cost and stigma. Research on PPIs thus far has focused on depressed individuals as well individuals who sought out PPIs on their own. It is less clear, however, whether the promising findings on PPIs could extend to PPIs effectively reducing levels of vulnerability factors in individuals at risk for depression. Rumination is a perseverative cognitive process and named as a transdiagnostic risk factor for psychopathology. The current study tested the efficacy of a gratitude-writing intervention in college students who had high scores of rumination. Participants completed either the gratitude-writing or distraction task for 4 days. The gratitude-writing exercise was significantly more effective than the distraction exercise in reducing the brooding subtype of rumination and in increasing positive affect. Implications for the use of this intervention include its potential to increase confidence in PPIs and to serve as a stepping stone for young adults to seek mental health resources.
Article
Purpose This study aims to examine how perceived supervisor support for strengths use (PSSSU) directly and indirectly facilitates career satisfaction and perceived employability as mediated by strengths use behavior. Design/methodology/approach A two-wave questionnaire survey was administered to nurses ( n = 221) and analyzed using structural equation modeling. Findings Results indicated that PSSSU directly enhanced career satisfaction and indirectly enhanced perceived employability through strengths use behavior. Research limitations/implications As the sample was limited to nurses in a Japanese hospital, it is possible that the characteristics of the national culture and occupation affected the results. Practical implications Support for strengths use is important especially in stressful work environments in order to retain professional employees by enhancing their employability and career satisfaction. Originality/value This study extends the literature by identifying the different effects of PSSSU on the two types of career-related well-being. The present research is the first study to show the mediating role played by strengths use behavior in linking PSSSU to perceived employability.
Article
In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.
Article
In this article, the author describes a new theoretical perspective on positive emotions and situates this new perspective within the emerging field of positive psychology. The broaden-and-build theory posits that experiences of positive emotions broaden people's momentary thought-action repertoires, which in turn serves to build their enduring personal resources, ranging from physical and intellectual resources to social and psychological resources. Preliminary empirical evidence supporting the broaden-and-build theory is reviewed, and open empirical questions that remain to be tested are identified. The theory and findings suggest that the capacity to experience positive emotions may be a fundamental human strength central to the study of human flourishing.
Article
This popular study of "psychological healing"treats topics ranging from religious revivalism and magical healing to contemporary psychotherapies, from the role of the shaman in nonindustrialized societies to the traditional mental hospital. Jerome and Julia Frank (who are father and daughter) contend that these therapies share common elements that improve the "morale"of sufferers. And in combating the "demoralizing meaning"that people attach to their experiences, the authors argue, many therapies are surprisingly similar to rhetoric (the art of persuasion) and to hermeneutics (the study of meanings). Highly acclaimed in previous editions, Persuasion and Healing has been completely revised and expanded. In addition to a broadened exploration of the role of demoralization in illness, this latest edition offers updated information on topics including self-help, family therapy, psychopharmacology, psychotherapy for the mentally ill, and techniques such as primal therapy and bioenergetics. As they explore the power of "healing rhetoric"in these activities, the authors strengthen the ties among the various healing profession.
Book
The following values have no corresponding Zotero field: ID - 4