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Synthesizing positive psychological interventions: Suggestions for conducting and interpreting meta-analyses



Systematic reviews, such as meta-analyses, are highly valued within scientific, professional, and lay communities because they provide an easily digestible aggregate of a large body of work. A recently published meta-analysis of positive psychology interventions concluded that these interventions have small effects and argued for the use of these interventions in diverse populations (Bolier et al., 2013). We caution researchers against drawing conclusions from this study because of the unusual definition of what is (and is not) a positive psychological intervention. Bolier and colleagues (2013) define their area of inquiry as “pure positive psychology interventions” and limit their sample to studies conducted within the years following the formal founding of the positive psychology movement. This decision – while well intentioned, as it provides specificity to their criteria for inclusion – is, in our view, too narrow, excluding a host of studies that use the same intervention strategies and target the same outcomes but do not explicitly reference “positive psychology”. The inclusion criteria of a systematic review directly impact its findings and conclusions. Using the criterion of papers that explicitly reference positive psychology creates an arbitrary boundary that reflects neither the research nor practice of the field; the best practitioners prioritize effectiveness and efficiency over explicit ties to “positive psychology”. Arbitrary boundaries hinder science and impair the ability of researchers, clinicians, and the general public to draw accurate conclusions from the findings. It also limits the meta-analyst’s ability to conduct moderation analysis that can help drive the field forward by answering research questions that are difficult to address in a single study. Positive psychology and psychology more generally would benefit from definitions of terms that are conceptually-based and thus meta-analyses that are theoretically sound.
Schueller, S. M.., Kashdan, T. B., & Parks, A. C., (2014). Synthesizing positive psychological
interventions: Suggestions for conducting and interpreting meta-analyses. International Journal of
Wellbeing, 4(1), 91-98. doi:10.5502/ijw.v4i1.5
Stephen Schueller
First Author’s University
First Author’s Email
Copyright belongs to the author(s)
Synthesizing positive psychological interventions:
Suggestions for conducting and interpreting meta-
Stephen M. Schueller · Todd B. Kashdan · Acacia C. Parks
Abstract: Systematic reviews, such as meta-analyses, are highly valued within scientific,
professional, and lay communities because they provide an easily digestible aggregate of a large
body of work. A recently published meta-analysis of positive psychology interventions concluded
that these interventions have small effects and argued for the use of these interventions in diverse
populations (Bolier et al., 2013). We caution researchers against drawing conclusions from this
study because of the unusual definition of what is (and is not) a positive psychological
intervention. Bolier and colleagues (2013) define their area of inquiry as “pure positive psychology
interventions” and limit their sample to studies conducted within the years following the formal
founding of the positive psychology movement. This decision while well intentioned, as it
provides specificity to their criteria for inclusion is, in our view, too narrow, excluding a host of
studies that use the same intervention strategies and target the same outcomes but do not
explicitly reference “positive psychology”. The inclusion criteria of a systematic review directly
impact its findings and conclusions. Using the criterion of papers that explicitly reference positive
psychology creates an arbitrary boundary that reflects neither the research nor practice of the field;
the best practitioners prioritize effectiveness and efficiency over explicit ties to “positive
psychology”. Arbitrary boundaries hinder science and impair the ability of researchers, clinicians,
and the general public to draw accurate conclusions from the findings. It also limits the meta-
analyst’s ability to conduct moderation analysis that can help drive the field forward by answering
research questions that are difficult to address in a single study. Positive psychology and
psychology more generally would benefit from definitions of terms that are conceptually-based
and thus meta-analyses that are theoretically sound.
Keywords: meta-analysis, positive psychology, moderator analysis, interventions, definition
1. Background
The proliferation of interventions aimed at increasing positive emotions, behaviors, and thoughts
has led to increasingly nuanced questions about the efficacy of such interventions (Lyubomirsky
& Layous, 2013), the application of such interventions to new, unique populations (Froh,
Kashdan, Ozimkowski, & Miller, 2009; Meyer, Johnson, Parks, Iwanski, & Penn, 2012), new
settings (Huppert & Johnson, 2010; Reivich, Seligman, & McBride, 2011; Seligman, Rashid, &
Parks, 2006), and new modes of delivery (Parks & Szanto, 2013; Schueller & Parks, 2012).
Although these interventions first surfaced in the research literature 35 years ago (Fordyce, 1977),
their presence has multiplied over the last decade thanks to an increasing interest by researchers
within the positive psychology community in their design and application and a growing
Synthesizing positive psychological interventions
Schueller, Kashdan, & Parks
appreciation of the importance of positive behaviors, cognitions, and emotions in mental health
care. Given the number of studies, researchers and practitioners require updated, accurate
summaries of the field. A recently published meta-analysis concluded that positive psychology
interventions are effective in increasing subjective wellbeing, psychological wellbeing, and in
reducing depressive symptoms with small effect sizes, on average (Bolier et al., 2013). These
findings are consistent with a previous meta-analysis (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009) and with other
qualitative reviews of the field (Lyubomirsky & Layous, 2013; Schueller & Parks, 2014). However,
the usefulness of the meta-analysis by Bolier and colleagues (2013) is hampered by its narrow
conception of which interventions to include. We argue for the consideration of positive
psychological interventions rather than positive psychology interventions to emphasize the
importance of including interventions that are conceptually aligned with the goals of the positive
psychology movement rather than only those that explicitly identify positive psychology within
their published studies (Parks & Biswas-Diener, 2013). We want to promote a discussion of what
positive psychological interventions, defined more inclusively, would entail and to encourage
those interested to read Bolier and colleagues (2013), available as an open-access journal article,
and to consider our commentary in light of their work.
2. What is a Positive Psychological Intervention?
A positive psychological intervention promotes positive emotions, behaviors, and/or thoughts,
thereby increasing the wellbeing of an individual or group (Parks & Biswas-Diener, 2013). This
definition underscores two essential components of positive psychological intervention: (1) the
intervention’s goal and (2) the pathways via which the intervention operates.
In order to be considered a positive psychological intervention, an intervention’s goal must
target wellbeing, broadly defined. In intervention studies, wellbeing is commonly defined and
measured from a subjective wellbeing approach. In this perspective, wellbeing is a sum of
positive evaluations of one’s life (cognitive) and frequent experiences of positive emotions and
infrequent experiences of negative emotions (affective) (Diener, 2000). Raising one’s wellbeing
thus increases positive facets and decreases negative facets. Intervention studies use diverse
outcomes to cover these facets including increases in happiness, satisfaction with life, and
positive emotions and decreases in depressive symptoms and negative emotions. Both existing
meta-analyses on interventions within positive psychology summarize these outcomes (Bolier et
al., 2013; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). Other facets of wellbeing, however, are equally important
and even measures commonly associated uniquely with either hedonic or eudaimonic
approaches to wellbeing, often proposed as distinct concepts, often work and move in tandem
(Kashdan, Biswas-Diener, & King, 2008).
Meeting the goal criterion alone, however, does not suffice to differentiate positive
psychological interventions from many other interventions (e.g., cognitive-behavioral therapies),
and so the pathway by which the intervention operates must also be evaluated. Positive
psychological interventions must operate via mechanisms that are known to promote positive
emotions, behaviors, and/or thoughts rather than fixing deficits or addressing maladaptive
patterns. To incorporate this pathway aspect, Bolier and colleagues’ (2013) specify that
interventions must “have been explicitly developed with the theoretical tradition of positive
psychology (usually reported in the introduction section of the article)” (pg. 3). Bolier and
colleagues (2013) further operationalize this in their search criteria by including only
interventions “covering the period from 1998 (the start of the positive psychology movement) to
November 2012” (one article, Lichter, Haye, and Kammann (1980), included in the analysis was
published prior to this date). Although Bolier and colleagues (2013) drew on Sin and
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Schueller, Kashdan, & Parks
Lyubomirsky’s (2009) criteria, this criterion is more selective than Sin and Lyubomirsky’s (2009),
which only required that a study test “an intervention, therapy, or activity primarily aimed at
increasing positive feelings, positive behaviors, or positive cognitions” (pg. 469). Indeed, of the
51 studies included in Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) and 39 included by Bolier and colleagues, 16
As an alternative to the approach used by Bolier and colleagues (2013), we posit that this
pathways component be based on accumulated knowledge of the affective, behavioral, cognitive,
and motivational processes that support wellbeing. Indeed, sufficient evidence exists to detail
some of these differences (Lyubomirsky, 2001), highlighting strategies such as gratitude,
kindness, optimism, savoring, and mindfulness to name a few. Other alternatives could include
a thorough conceptual mapping of the field of positive psychology (e.g., Rusk & Waters, 2013).
Conceptual and empirical considerations would provide a better representation of the practices
of the field than an explicit reference to “positive psychology”, which might merely represent
biases, preferences, or interests of the publishing author or journal.
3. Impact on the Field
We believe that the definition employed by Bolier et al. (2013), restricted to “positive psychology”
interventions, is conceptually limited and left uncorrected will stand to weaken subsequent
research. The first problem is that how a meta-analysis defines a construct sets a precedent for
how that construct should be defined in future studies. It is important, then, to address any
problems with Bolier and colleagues’ (2013) definition before it becomes widely used. Their
narrow definition has the potential to significantly silo the field by including only work
conducted by those who explicitly acknowledge positive psychology. Positive psychology would
benefit from being more inclusive and integrated with research that shares clear conceptual
As an example, consider the research on values affirmations (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). In
laboratory intervention studies, researchers ask people to reflect on the self-defined, abstract, life
principles that serve to guide personal goals and the dedication of effort to what is most
meaningful and important to them (Cook, Purdie-Vaughns, Garcia, & Cohen, 2012; Creswell et
al., 2005). After this act, participants enter a threatening environment. Across multiple studies,
researchers have found that value affirmations lessen psychological and physiological indices of
stress and improve performance compared to control conditions (Martens, Johns, Greenberg, &
Schimel, 2006; Schmeichel & Vohs, 2009). In none of these studies is “positive psychology
mentioned and there are no citations to papers seminal to the positive psychology movement.
Bolier and colleagues’ (2013) inclusion criteria also do not allow for including any work in
relevant areas that preceded the founding of the field. Positive psychology did not create the
exploration of increasing wellbeing and a substantial base of empirical work existed prior to its
inception (e.g., Fordyce, 1977).
As another example, a rapidly expanding body of literature is accumulating on the “Best
Possible Self” intervention (Austenfeld, Paolo, & Stanton, 2006; Austenfeld & Stanton, 2008;
Boehm, Lyubormirsky, & Sheldon, 2011; Hanssen, Peters, Vlaeyen, Meevissen, & Vancleef, 2013;
King, 2001; King & Miner, 2000; Layous, Nelson, & Lyubomirsky, 2013; Lyubomirsky,
Dickerhoof, Boehm, & Sheldon, 2011; Meevissen, Peters, & Alberts, 2011; Oyserman, Bybee, &
Terry, 2006; Peters, Flink, Boersma, & Linton, 2010; Peters, Meevissen, & Hanssen, 2013; Sheldon
& Lyubomirsky, 2006), a positive psychological intervention that promotes optimistic thinking
by having individuals imagine a future where everything has gone as well as it possibly could.
Promoting optimism is clearly in line with the goals of positive psychological practices and
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Schueller, Kashdan, & Parks
theoretical and empirical support exists for its inclusion using the pathways criterion we
proposed earlier. Indeed, Bolier and colleagues (2013) included several studies of this
intervention in their meta-analysis (Boehm et al., 2011; King, 2001; Layous et al., 2013;
Lyubomirsky et al., 2011; Peters et al., 2010; Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2006) but omitted others
(e.g., Austenfeld et al., 2006; Austenfeld & Stanton, 2008; Hanssen et al., 2013; King & Miner,
2000; Meevissen et al. 2011; Oyserman et al., 2006; Peters et al., 2013). As such, one cannot make
conclusions whether the “Best Possible Self” is efficacious or understand how this intervention
might compare to positive psychological interventions using different pathways (e.g., kindness,
gratitude, etc.). Bolier and colleagues’ (2013) proposed solution is to conduct meta-analyses that
are restricted to specific types of interventions; however, approaching the field in this way limits
the ability to make comparisons within a meta-analysis and ignoring specific research areas
might bias a meta-analysis of positive psychological interventions (e.g., Bolier et al., 2013).
The importance of comparisons within a meta-analysis relates to another consequence of
using a narrow definition of positive psychology interventions. Such an approach limits
confidence in the conclusions, especially with regards to moderating factors. Bolier and
colleagues’ (2013) conclusion was that interventions produced small effects on subjective
wellbeing (d = .34), which was considerably smaller than the medium-sized effect (r = .29, which
corresponds to d = .61) found by Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009). This difference was even more
pronounced for depressive symptoms (d = .23 for Bolier et al., 2013; r = .31 for Sin & Lyubomirsky,
2009, which corresponds to d = .65). Bolier and colleagues (2013) also concluded that longer,
individual interventions delivered to people experiencing psychosocial problems and recruited
via the healthcare system were the most effective interventions (Bolier et al., 2013). It is unclear
if these results would hold if other interventions were included (e.g., mindfulness, reminiscence,
forgiveness, value affirmation). An open question here is whether interventions labeled explicitly
as positive psychology interventions have any bias in their design, reporting, or likelihood of
publication that would subsequently bias findings using only these studies as a basis for analysis.
This could be explored in a subsequent review if its answer is deemed valuable to the field.
4. Advancing Positive Psychological Interventions
Meta-analyses serve as summaries of the state of the field (i.e., what works, what does not work)
and highlight potential avenues for future exploration (e.g., moderator findings suggest design
considerations for future studies and possible mechanisms of action). As such, inclusion criteria
require conceptual sophistication, as many others will use these criteria to define what does and
does not belong within the scope of a field. The meta-analysis by Bolier and colleagues (2013)
surveyed a narrow selection of positive psychology interventions. Specifically, their criteria silo
the field by examining only those interventions that explicitly reference positive psychology and
that occurred after the formal founding of the field.
This approach is inconsistent with how positive psychology operates in both research and in
practice. Positive psychology draws heavily from previous movements including humanistic
psychology, community psychology, and virtue ethics. Its practices overlap with techniques
developed and practiced elsewhere including mindfulness (from Buddhist tradition), goal
pursuit (from cognitive therapy), and exploring values (from acceptance and commitment
therapy). It draws from traditions of research that long predate the term “positive psychology,”
but that are clearly relevant, including humor, positive emotion, forgiveness, savoring and
gratitude, among others. Researchers and practitioners in positive psychology do not draw the
arbitrary boundaries used by Bolier and colleagues (2013). Enforcing such a boundary, therefore,
paints a picture of the state of the field that is inaccurate.
Synthesizing positive psychological interventions
Schueller, Kashdan, & Parks
One goal of positive psychology is to provide “a balanced, empirically grounded, and
theoretically rich view of human experience” (Gable & Haidt, 2005, pg. 109). In light of this goal,
we should strive to be integrative and comprehensive in our methods rather than narrow and
specific. As an alternative to the approach used by Bolier and colleagues (2013), we posit that this
pathways component be based on accumulated knowledge of what impacts wellbeing. Positive
psychology is a broad tent and positive psychological interventions encompass a range of
techniques. Systematic reviews should address how well all of these practices work on average
and seek to gain advice about the best ways to design, explore, and implement these practices.
Conceptualizing what constitutes a positive psychological intervention, however, is just one
challenge for the field revealed by these recent meta-analyses. Another related issue, revealed by
the existing meta-analysis, as well as our definition, is what are the targets of interventions. Both
Bolier and colleagues (2013) and Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) required that studies include
measures of wellbeing or depressive symptoms. Although wellbeing makes conceptual sense
from the framework of positive psychology, the use of depressive symptoms is a bizarre
attachment of intervention research in the field. After all, a core assumption of positive
psychology is that applied psychology (clinical, counseling, etc.) is insufficient for improving the
human condition, with its lengthy attachment to moving people from suffering (-5) to a normal
range of distress (-1). In addition, there is a need for interventions that move people from average
psychological and physical health (0) to a state of flourishing (+3 or higher) (Duckworth, Steen,
& Seligman, 2005). Based on this clearly articulated framework of positive psychology,
reductions in depressive symptoms (capturing nothing more than a reduction in psychological
distress) over the course of a positive psychological intervention offers nothing beyond the
primary outcomes being used in clinical psychology and psychiatry. Increasingly, positive
psychological interventions are being aimed at clinical populations, such as people with
schizophrenia (Meyer et al., 2012), smokers who wish to stop smoking (Kahler et al., 2014), and
suicidal inpatients (Huffman et al., 2013), but with the focus being on building the positive
aspects in these individuals as opposed to reducing the negative. A broader definition focusing
on positive psychological interventions will undoubtedly capture a broader range of targets and
outcomes and future analyses should ensure that outcome measures are aligned with the
conceptual framework of the interventions.
Conflict of Interest Statement
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
Steven M. Schueller
Northwestern University
Todd Kashdan
George Mason University
Acacia Parks
Hiram College
Synthesizing positive psychological interventions
Schueller, Kashdan, & Parks
Publishing Timeline
Received 1 April 2014
Accepted 3 April 2014
Published 5 June 2014
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Positive psychological interventions (PPIs), which aim to cultivate psychological well-being, have the potential to improve health behavior adherence. This systematic review summarized the existing literature on PPI studies with a health behavior outcome to examine study methodology, quality, and efficacy. Of the 27 identified studies, 20 measured physical activity, eight measured medication adherence, seven measured diet, and three measured smoking (eight targeted multiple behaviors). Twenty studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs; 13 fully powered), and seven had a single-arm design. Study samples were usually adults (n = 21), majority non-Hispanic white (n = 15) and female (n = 14), and with a specific disease (e.g., diabetes, n = 16). Most interventions combined a PPI with health behavior-focused content (n = 17), used a remote delivery method (n = 17), and received a moderate or low study quality rating. Overall, 19/27 studies found a health behavior improvement of at least medium effect size, while six of the 13 studies powered to detect significant effects were statistically significant. Of the behaviors measured, physical activity was most likely to improve (14/20 studies). In summary, PPIs are being increasingly studied as a strategy to enhance health behavior adherence. The existing literature is limited by small sample size, low study quality and inconsistent intervention content and outcome measurement. Future research should establish the most effective components of PPIs that can be tailored to different populations, use objective health behavior measurement, and robustly examine the effects of PPIs on health behaviors in fully powered RCTs.
Research on positive psychology interventions (PPIs) are expanding, also in non-Western contexts. This study examined literature on PPIs in African countries through a scoping review. Databases were searched for studies implemented between 2006 and 2019. The bibliographic search used a broad and inclusive definition of PPIs and yielded 23 studies for analysis. The results indicated that the majority of studies were implemented in group settings among adults in South Africa, using quantitative research designs. However, research elsewhere on the continent is starting to emerge. There is a need for more research among youth, older persons and clinical populations. Future studies should also focus on cultural adaptation of existing PPIs, and take cultural practices and traditions into account.
Harmony is recognized as fundamental to being and functioning well in philosophical traditions and empirical research globally and in Africa. The aim of this study was to explore and describe harmony as a quality of happiness in South Africa (N = 585) and Ghana (N = 420). Using a qualitative descriptive research design, participants’ responses to an open-ended question from the Eudaimonic-Hedonic Happiness Investigation (EHHI, Delle Fave et al., Soc Indic Res 100:185–207, 2011) on what happiness meant to them were coded according to the formalized EHHI coding manual. Responses that were assigned any of the following codes were considered: codes from the “harmony/balance” category in the “psychological definitions” life domain; and codes from any other life domain containing the words “harmony”, “balance”, or “peace”. This resulted in 222 verbatim responses from South Africa and 80 from Ghana that were analyzed using content analysis to get a sense of the experiential texture of harmony as a quality of happiness. Findings showed that happiness was often expressed as harmony and balance within and between intrapersonal, interpersonal, transcendental, and universal levels of functioning, with wholeness, interconnectedness, and synergy implied. These findings, resonating with philosophical reflections on harmony from Africa and elsewhere, suggest that harmony as a quality of happiness is essentially holistic and contextually embedded and that context-sensitive interdisciplinary approaches to theory building and intervention development pertaining to harmony are needed locally and globally.
Positive mental health, and the validity of its assessment instruments, are largely unexplored in the Ghanaian context. This study examined the factor structure of the Twi version of the Mental Health Continuum-Short Form and explored the prevalence of positive mental health in a sample of rural Ghanaian adults (N = 444). A bifactor exploratory structural equation modelling (ESEM) model fit the data better than competing models (confirmatory factor analysis [CFA], bifactor CFA, and ESEM models). We found a high omega reliability coefficient for the general positive mental health factor (ω = .97) and marginal reliability scores for the emotional (ω = .51) and social well-being (ω = .57) subscales, but a low reliability score for the psychological well-being subscale (ω = .41). Findings support the existence of a general mental health factor, and confirm the underlying three-dimensional structure of mental health, but suggest that caution should be applied when interpreting subscale scores, especially for the psychological well-being subscale. Based on Keyes’s criteria for the categorical diagnosis of the presence of positive mental health, 25.5% of the sample were flourishing, with 74.5% functioning at suboptimal levels (31.1% languishing, 41.4% with moderate mental health) and may benefit from contextually relevant positive psychological interventions, which may also buffer against psychopathology.
Psychology is concerned with human behaviour, therefore all psychologies are contextually-embedded and culturally informed. A movement towards globalising psychology would invariably diminish the localised socio-cultural situatedness of psychology, and instead seek to advance a dominant Euro-American centred psychology even in regions where such applications do not fit. The emergence of strong voices, and theoretically grounded and empirically supported positions from the global South in general and sub-Saharan Africa in particular, in studies of well-being allows for the opportunity to explore and describe an Africa(n) centred positive psychology. Acknowledging the limitations of cross-cultural psychological approaches, which have encouraged the uncritical transportation of Euro-American centred concepts and values, in this chapter we utilise assumptions from critical, cultural and African psychology to present our initial thoughts about a culturally embedded, socially relevant and responsive, and context respecting Africa(n) centred positive psychology. This challenge warrants consideration of early contributions to the study of well-being, its current data-driven positivist tendency, as well as African worldviews grounded in interdependence, collectivism, relatedness, harmony with nature, and spirituality. For an Africa(n) centred positive psychology, it is also essential to consider questions of epistemology, ways of knowing about the world and the human condition, context respecting knowledge, and theory building. Drawing on current scholarly evidence in sub-Saharan Africa, which emphasises relationality and societal values and norms shaping experiences of well-being, we propose future directions and discuss implications for empirical research and theory building within positive psychology which seeks to centre Africa and African experiences.
Child marriage has been identified as a violation of human rights and an obstacle to promoting the development goals concerning gender, health and education. All these impacts undermine the development of the girl child. Despite the potential for negative outcomes, the presence of intrinsic and extrinsic resources can buffer the adverse effects (e.g., psychological, physical and economic impact) of early marriage. This study employed a qualitative exploratory, descriptive design to explore and describe protective resources utilised by married girls in the Northern region of Ghana to cope with the challenges in their marriage and to promote positive outcomes. Using semi-structured interviews, data was collected from 21 married girls who were aged between 12 and 19 years. Findings, from a thematic analysis of data, showed that intrinsic resources that promoted positive outcomes included possession of resilience attitudes, the use of help-seeking and active coping, and in some instances avoidance coping for problems they perceived as unsolvable. Extrinsic resources included interpersonal support networks, however, participants reported limited access to community and NGO support, which were also identified as protective resources. Policy makers and clinicians should consider a social justice approach in evaluating and recommending protective resources to girls in early marriages when working to promote their well-being. In so doing, attention should be placed on making external support systems accessible to married girls.
Developmental and epileptic encephalopathies (DEEs) are chronic and life-threatening conditions, frequently with a genetic basis and infantile-onset. Caregivers often experience enduring distress adapting to their child's diagnosis and report a deficit of accessible psychological supports. We aimed to pilot a novel, empirically-driven suite of audio-visual positive psychology resources tailored for caregivers of children with a DEE, called ‘Finding a Way’. Methods We recruited caregivers through two paediatric hospital databases, and we also shared an invitation to the online questionnaire via genetic epilepsy advocacy organisations. The online questionnaire included a combination of validated, purpose-designed, and open-ended questions to assess the acceptability, relevance, and emotional impact of the resources among caregivers. Results 167 caregivers from 18 countries reviewed the resources, with 56 caregivers completing over 85% of the evaluation. Caregivers rated the resources as highly acceptable and relevant to their experiences. In both the quantitative and qualitative data, caregivers reported that the resources normalised their emotional experiences and provided helpful suggestions about managing their personal relationships, seeking support and accepting help from others. Frequently reported emotional responses after viewing the resources included feeling “comforted”, “hopeful”, “connected” and “reassured”. Suggestions for improvement included, expanding the suite of resources and embedding the resources with links to specialised psychological services. Conclusion ‘Finding a Way’ is a novel codesigned suite of audio-visual positive psychology resources tailored for caregivers of children with DEEs. Our results suggest that ‘Finding a Way’ is acceptable to caregivers and may contribute towards enhanced emotional adaptation and coping.
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Preservice teachers’ attitudes towards technology integration influence their motivation for and future behavior in teaching, but effective interventions to modify attitudes towards technology integration are scarce in teacher education programs. This quasi-experimental study redesigned and integrated one of the most widely used positive psychology interventions—Best Possible Self (BPS)—for use in a stand-alone technology integration course to measure its effect in improving preservice teachers’ attitudes towards technology integration. While results show no statistically significant difference between the control and treatment groups, the treatment group had more positive trends (significant increase in positive attitudes) than the control group (no significant increase in positive attitudes) even under the negative influence of pandemic. The results of this study suggest a need for continued development of and research on this type of activity.
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The current article discusses the potential utility of self-help books as a means of disseminating positive psychological interventions, and presents data comparing a positive psychology-based self-help book with a cognitive-behavioral self-help book and a self-monitoring control condition. We studied college freshmen (N=58), and argue that this population is a particularly appropriate target for well-being intervention. Outcome measures included both indices of efficacy (depressive symptoms and life satisfaction) and effectiveness (e.g. the extent to which participants found their assigned activities to be meaningful). The two book groups outperformed the control and were equivalently efficacious at reducing depressive symptoms; on life satisfaction, positive self-help outperformed cognitive-behavioral, but only at 6-month follow-up. Positive self-help was also superior to cognitive-behavioral self-help on indices of effectiveness. Possibilities for future directions are discussed, with an emphasis on the realities of practical dissemination to both college students, and to the general public.
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Positive psychology aims to understand the positive side of human functioning, expanding research on positive behaviors, cognitions, emotions, and character traits. The findings of this research have highlighted strategies (e.g., savoring, gratitude, kindness, social relationships, and hope and meaning) that, when practiced, lead to increases in individual happiness. Researchers and practitioners have translated these strategies into effective interventions that can be disseminated directly to individuals, allowing them to actively pursue greater levels of happiness. We present a summary of the current state of positive psychological interventions as they pertain to self-help. A major focus in the application of positive psychological interventions for self-help is dissemination—ensuring that those interested have access to evidence-based strategies to increase their happiness. The future of self-help involves spreading these practices through classes, workshops, books, and increasingly prevalent technologies such as Internet sites and mobile applications. We outline unique concerns related to providing self-help in the absence of professional support including motivation and engagement, variety and flexibility, and person-activity fit. As positive psychology has developed a host of evidence-based practices, the next stage of research requires implementing these strategies in ways to support their use in real-world contexts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved)
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Low positive and high negative affect predict low rates of smoking abstinence among smokers making a quit attempt. Positive Psychotherapy can both increase positive affect and decrease negative affect and therefore may be a useful adjunct to behavioral smoking counseling. The purpose of the present study was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of a Positive Psychotherapy for Smoking Cessation (PPT-S) intervention that integrates standard smoking cessation counseling with nicotine patch and a package of positive psychology interventions. We delivered PPT-S to 19 smokers who were low in positive affect at baseline. Rates of session attendance and satisfaction with treatment were high, and most participants reported using and benefiting from the positive psychology interventions. Almost one-third of participants (31.6%) sustained smoking abstinence for 6 months after their quit date. Future studies to assess the relative efficacy of PPT-S compared to standard smoking cessation treatment are warranted.
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People have a basic need to maintain the integrity of the self, a global sense of personal adequacy. Events that threaten self-integrity arouse stress and self-protective defenses that can hamper performance and growth. However, an intervention known as self-affirmation can curb these negative outcomes. Self-affirmation interventions typically have people write about core personal values. The interventions bring about a more expansive view of the self and its resources, weakening the implications of a threat for personal integrity. Timely affirmations have been shown to improve education, health, and relationship outcomes, with benefits that sometimes persist for months and years. Like other interventions and experiences, self-affirmations can have lasting benefits when they touch off a cycle of adaptive potential, a positive feedback loop between the self-system and the social system that propagates adaptive outcomes over time. The present review highlights both connections with other disciplines and lessons for a social psychological understanding of intervention and change.
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The objective was to assess the feasibility and acceptability of nine positive psychology exercises delivered to patients hospitalized for suicidal thoughts or behaviors, and to secondarily explore the relative impact of the exercises. Participants admitted to a psychiatric unit for suicidal ideation or behavior completed daily positive psychology exercises while hospitalized. Likert-scale ratings of efficacy (optimism, hopelessness, perceived utility) and ease of completion were consolidated and compared across exercises using mixed models accounting for age, missing data and exercise order. Overall effects of exercise on efficacy and ease were also examined using mixed models. Fifty-two (85.3%) of 61 participants completed at least one exercise, and 189/213 (88.7%) assigned exercises were completed. There were overall effects of exercise on efficacy (χ(2)=19.39; P=.013) but not ease of completion (χ(2)=11.64; P=.17), accounting for age, order and skipped exercises. Effect (Cohen's d) of exercise on both optimism and hopelessness was moderate for the majority of exercises. Exercises related to gratitude and personal strengths ranked highest. Both gratitude exercises had efficacy scores that were significantly (P=.001) greater than the lowest-ranked exercise (forgiveness). In this exploratory project, positive psychology exercises delivered to suicidal inpatients were feasible and associated with short-term gains in clinically relevant outcomes.
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Theory and research suggest that people can increase their happiness through simple intentional positive activities, such as expressing gratitude or practicing kindness. Investigators have recently begun to study the optimal conditions under which positive activities increase happiness and the mechanisms by which these effects work. According to our positive-activity model, features of positive activities (e.g., their dosage and variety), features of persons (e.g., their motivation and effort), and person-activity fit moderate the effect of positive activities on well-being. Furthermore, the model posits four mediating variables: positive emotions, positive thoughts, positive behaviors, and need satisfaction. Empirical evidence supporting the model and future directions are discussed.
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A 4-week-long experiment examined the effects of a positive activity intervention in which students wrote about their “best possible selves” (BPS) once a week. We manipulated two factors that might affect the success of the happiness-increasing activity—whether the positive activity was administered online versus in-person and whether the participant read a persuasive peer testimonial before completing the activity. Our results indicated that the BPS activity significantly boosted positive affect and flow and marginally increased feelings of relatedness. No differences were found between participants who completed the positive activity online versus in-person. However, students who read a testimonial extolling the virtues of the BPS activity showed larger gains in well-being than those who read neutral information or completed a control task. The results lend legitimacy to online self-administered happiness-increasing activities and highlight the importance of participants’ beliefs in the efficacy of such activities for optimum results.
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This study quantitatively assessed the size, disciplinary reach, impact, and topic breadth of positive psychology (PP), in order to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the growth and significance of the field. Over 1.7 million documents in 700 PsycINFO ® journals covering the fields of psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, management, business, public health, and sport science were analyzed using semantic and bibliographic methods. Results indicate that PP covers many different research topics from a diverse range of disciplines, and that PP literature has been growing rapidly in significance. Over 18,000 documents were identified as belonging to PP, with 2300 published in 2011. These documents represent over 4% of PsycINFO ® documents within the data-set published that year, and make PP close to the median size of all disciplines listed in the Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Reports ®, Social Sciences Edition. The aggregate impact factor for PP in 2011 was 2.64.
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In a variation on Pennebaker's writing paradigm, a sample of 81 undergraduates wrote about one of four topics for 20 minutes each day for 4 consecutive days. Participants were randomly assigned to write about their most traumatic life event, their best possible future self, both of these topics, or a nonemotional con- trol topic. Mood was measured before and after writing and health center data for illness were obtained with participant con- sent. Three weeks later, measures of subjective well-being were obtained. Writing about life goals was significantly less upset- ting than writing about trauma and was associated with a sig- nificant increase in subjective well-being. Five months after writ- ing, a significant interaction emerged such that writing about trauma, one's best possible self, or both were associated with decreased illness compared with controls. Results indicate that writing about self-regulatory topics can be associated with the same health benefits as writing about trauma.
Conducted 3 studies in which a self-study program, designed to increase felt personal happiness and life satisfaction, was developed. The program was based on the literature of happiness, and it was hypothesized that normal community college students (total N = 338) could become happier if they could modify their behaviors and attitudes to approximate more closely the characteristics of happier people. In the 1st study, 2 of 3 pilot programs produced statistically significant happiness boosts compared to a placebo control. A single program was then designed that combined the best aspects of the pilot programs. In the 2nd study, an experimental group receiving this combined program showed significant boosts in happiness compared to a placebo control. In the 3rd study, the combined program was presented to Ss on a take-it-or-leave-it basis--those applying it showing significant boosts in happiness compared to those who did not. The studies suggest that the resulting self-study program may be helpful to individuals wishing to increase the emotional satisfaction they derive from living. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved).