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The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the Literature to Evaluate Efficacy and Guide Future Research

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Abstract

Since its inception in 2001, the best possible selves (BPS) activity has been the focus of more than 30 studies which have shown it to be a viable intervention for increasing optimism, positive affect, health and well-being. It is timely to critically review the findings from the BPS literature and suggest directions for future research. The majority of BPS studies have used an experimental methodology and have administered the BPS activity to diverse groups including students, adults, depressive individuals and suicidal inpatients. The BPS intervention can be effective when administered in-person or on-line and repeating the activity appears to enhance efficacy. Suggestions for future research include: (a) investigation of mediator variables, (b) additional outcome variables such as hope and appreciation, (c) comparative studies regarding dosage to enhance effectiveness, (d) extension of the BPS into a best-possible-other activity, (e) diversity of delivery methods, and (f) thematic content analysis of BPS text.
REVIEW ARTICLE
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review
of the Literature to Evaluate Efficacy and Guide Future
Research
Paula M Loveday
1
Geoff P Lovell
2
Christian M Jones
3
Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016
Abstract Since its inception in 2001, the best possible selves (BPS) activity has been the
focus of more than 30 studies which have shown it to be a viable intervention for
increasing optimism, positive affect, health and well-being. It is timely to critically review
the findings from the BPS literature and suggest directions for future research. The
majority of BPS studies have used an experimental methodology and have administered
the BPS activity to diverse groups including students, adults, depressive individuals and
suicidal inpatients. The BPS intervention can be effective when administered in-person or
on-line and repeating the activity appears to enhance efficacy. Suggestions for future
research include: (a) investigation of mediator variables, (b) additional outcome variables
such as hope and appreciation, (c) comparative studies regarding dosage to enhance
effectiveness, (d) extension of the BPS into a best-possible-other activity, (e) diversity of
delivery methods, and (f) thematic content analysis of BPS text.
Keywords Best possible selves Best possible other Literature review Writing
interventions Hope Well-being
&Paula M Loveday
paula.loveday@research.usc.edu.au
Geoff P Lovell
glovell@usc.edu.au
Christian M Jones
cmjones@usc.edu.au
1
Engage Research Lab, University of the Sunshine Coast,
Locked Bag 4, Sippy Downs, Maroochydore DC, QLD 4558, Australia
2
Psychology Department, School of Social Sciences, University of the Sunshine Coast,
Sippy Downs, QLD, Australia
3
Faculty of Arts, Business and Law, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, QLD,
Australia
123
J Happiness Stud
DOI 10.1007/s10902-016-9824-z
1 Introduction
The best possible selves (BPS) activity is a writing intervention developed by Laura King
(2001), in which participants write about themselves in the future, imaging that everything
has worked out in the best possible way. The instructions used for the BPS intervention are:
‘Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it
possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your
life goals. Think of this as the realisation of all your life dreams. Now write about
what you imagined (King 2001, p. 801).
In the original experiment, King contrasted the BPS activity with a trauma-writing
activity, arguing that writing about a topic that was engaging and meaningful (as the BPS
was shown to be) and that promoted emotion regulation would be as beneficial as writing
about a traumatic event and that participants would be spared the negative emotion that is
associated with trauma writing (King 2001). Participants who wrote about their BPS for
20 min per day over four consecutive days had, compared with participants in the control
group (who wrote about their plans for the day ahead), increased net positive affect
(p\.001) at the end of the intervention, increased well-being 4 weeks later (p=.05) and
fewer visits to health centres 3 months later (p\.01) (King 2001). Similar results were
evident for participants in the trauma-writing condition however, as hypothesised by King,
participants reported that they found the BPS activity to be less upsetting than the control
(p\.001) whereas the trauma-writing was evaluated as more upsetting than the control
(p\.001) (King 2001).
In a commentary paper regarding the broader intervention literature, the BPS inter-
vention was described as an activity with a ‘rapidly expanding body of literature accu-
mulating around it’ (Schueller et al. 2014, p. 93). Our review confirms this with the
identification of 30 research articles pertaining to the BPS intervention, of which 23 have
been published since 2010. The aim of the present review is to: (a) categorise the extant
BPS research by type of evidence sought and then research question addressed, (b) report
the findings within each category so as to evaluate the efficacy of the BPS and (c) suggest
directions for future research.
2 Methodology
This systematic literature review used three search strategies to source published BPS
studies. Initially, meta-analyses and commentary papers which focused on positive psy-
chological interventions and/or writing interventions were consulted to identify future-
focused positive activities that use the writing paradigm (Bolier et al. 2013; Frattaroli
2006; Schueller and Parks 2014; Sin and Lyubomirsky 2009). This search generated 12
studies. The second strategy was to examine electronic databases including Psychinfo,
Scopus, Web of Science and Google Scholar using the following search terms: ‘best
possible self/selves’, ‘positive psychological/psychology interventions’ and ‘writing’.
Abstracts were reviewed to determine whether the study pertained to the BPS activity and a
further 14 relevant papers were identified. Finally, the reference lists of all 26 papers were
examined and a further five papers were included.
A total of 31 studies (4616 participants) were included in this review based on the
following criteria: (a) available in English-language, (b) peer-reviewed articles,
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
(c) published between 2001 (the first BPS study) and 2016, and (d) used the BPS inter-
vention (or a close approximation).
The first level of analysis was to categorise papers by the type of evidence being sought.
The vast majority of studies (n =28)usedanexperimental(n=24)orquasi-experimental,
non-randomised (n =4) methodology. Correlational studies (n =3) have been conducted,
two of which were led by King herself (King and Raspin 2004;KingandSmith2004). The
second level of analysis was to identify studies (n =6) in which the BPS was one of a
portfolio of positive psychological interventions being tested (n =4) or where the BPS
results were reported as a ‘treatment condition’ in conjunction with another intervention
(n =2). In all remaining studies the BPS was used as a stand-alone intervention and/or
reported separately. The third level of analysis was to identify studies in which participants
completed a single session of the BPS intervention where the induction of a specific effect
was the focus (n =6). The final analysis was to group together longitudinal experiments that
addressed similar research questions (n =16). This grouping resulted in three research areas:
BPS compared with a trauma intervention (n =5), BPS using different delivery methods
(n =3), and long-term experiments to investigate moderating variables and persistence of
well-being enhancement (n =8). Table 1summarises these studies and identifies significant
findings with separate sections reflecting the following categories: (a) correlation studies,
(b) outcome variables, (c) trauma comparison, (d) delivery method, (e) portfolio studies, and
(f) moderating variables. N.B. a number of studies could have been allocated to more than
one category, the allocation was based on a narrative approach to this review of the literature.
3 Study Categories
3.1 Correlation Studies
Much BPS research is situated within the field of positive psychology which uses ‘sci-
entific techniques to investigate the good life’ (Peterson and Park 2003, p. 145). In a recent
exploration of the role of self-control in lay theories of the good life, the authors identified
that their outcome measures for the good life were limited and that there are ‘undoubtedly
additional factors that constitute the good life’ (Wirtz et al. 2016, p. 9). As participants
complete the BPS exercise they describe their own (lay) version of the good life. Exam-
ination of the writing completed during BPS experiments may help to uncover the addi-
tional factors that constitute the good life. Thus far, little use has been made of the insights
contained within the writing generated during the BPS activity and most BPS studies do
not report (other than as a manipulation check) analysis of the BPS text.
The BPS activity may be a particularly instructive and perhaps underestimated, inter-
vention within positive psychology. Positive psychology, as defined by its co-founders, is
concerned with ‘well-being, contentment and satisfaction (in the past); hope and optimism
(for the future); and flow and happiness (in the present)’ (Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi
2000, p. 5). The BPS intervention asks participants to imagine their future in a hopeful and
optimistic way (Peters et al. 2010) and quantitative studies have shown that the BPS
increases well-being and life satisfaction (Lyubomirsky et al. 2011), as well as flow and
happiness (Layous et al. 2013). The BPS intervention aligns neatly with the definition of
positive psychology and systematic examination of the themes described in the BPS text
would complement what has been quantitatively uncovered.
Qualitative studies that have examined the content of the BPS text reveal some inter-
esting findings. For example, the salience and elaboration of their found-self, as described
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
Table 1 Characteristics and results of BPS studies categorised by type of study
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
A. Correlation studies
Hill et al.
(2014)
337 Students USA In-person No BPS Single
session
SWBS
SWLS
Intrinsic Goals positively
related to religious WB
(p=.015) and negatively
related to life satisfaction
(p=.021)
King and
Raspin (2004)
73
T2-
48
Adults -
divorced
women
USA Mailed No BPS before
(retrospectively) and BPS
after divorce
Single
session
SWLS
BSI
SOC
SCT
Salience (p\.01) and
elaboration (p\.05) of
found-self associated with
higher SWB and
elaboration of found-self
correlated with ED
(p\.05)
King and Smith
(2004)
107
T2-
56
Adults—gay
men and
lesbian
women
USA Mailed No BPS gay-self and BPS
straight-self
Single
session
SWLS
BSI
SCT
Salience of gay-self
positively related to life
satisfaction (p\.01) and
salience of straight-self
negatively related to life
satisfaction (p\.01)
B. Outcome variables
Peters et al.
(2015)
56 Students Netherlands In-person Yes BPS
Control—typical day
Eye-tracker
Single
session
LOT-R
FPQ
PVAQ
FEX-pos
FEX-neg
PANAS
BPS increased PA
(p\.001), increased
expectancies for positve
outcomes (p\.001).
Affect and expectancy
results not moderated by
dispositional optimism
Geschwind
et al. (2015)
50 Students and
paid
volunteers
Belgium In-person Yes BPS
Control group—typical day
Single
session
m-DES BPS increased PA
(p=.002) and difference
in PA remained 20 min
later (p=.047)
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Renner et al.
(2014)
40 Students Netherlands In-person Yes Negative mood induction
BPS group
Control—typical day
Single
session
PANAS
Mood
DAS
BPS increased PA
(p=.03) and improved
mood change on three
measures: pos-neg
(p\.05), dull-glad
(\.001), happy-sad
(p\.05)
Boselie et al.
(2013)
74 Students Netherlands In-person Yes BPS & pain
BPS & no pain
Control—Typical day &
pain
Control—Typical day & no
pain
Cold pressor task
Executive functioning task
Single
session
LOT-R
FEX-pos
FEX-neg
PANAS
PCS
BPS increased positive
future expectancies
(p=.007), increased PA
(p=.002) and decreased
negative future
expectancies (p=.009)
Hanssen et al.
(2013)
79 Students Netherlands In-person Yes BPS
Control—typical day
Cold pressor task
Single
session
LOT-R
FEX-pos
FEX-neg
Mood—Pos
& Neg
PCS
S-PCS
BPS increased expectation
of positive future
outcomes (p\.01),
increased positive mood
(p\.01) and decreased
expectation of negative
future outcomes
(p\.01). BPS lower pain
intensity at all times
(p\.05), not mediated
by pain expectation
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Peters et al.
(2010)
82 Students Netherlands In-person Yes BPS
Control—typical day
Single
session
LOT
EPQ-RSS
PANAS
SPT
BPS increased PA
(p\.001) and increased
expectancies for positive
outcomes (p=.004).
Increase in expectancies
for positive outcomes not
moderated by increase in
PA (p=.019). Increase
in PA not moderated by
dispositional optimism or
personality
C. Trauma comparison
Maddalena
et al. (2014)
64 Students USA In-person or at
home
Partial Trauma—High EP
BPS—Low EP
Control (both high and low
EP)—last 24 h
3 in one
day or
Weekly 3
weeks
EAC
(EE&EP)
SWLS
RSES
LOT
BNSS
PMS
PANAS-X
Physical
symptoms
HCV
Targeted interventions had
fewer health-centre visits
(p=.0058) and health
symptoms (p=.0107) at
follow-up
Yogo and
Fujihara
(2008)
83 Students Japan In-person Yes BPS
Trauma
Control—last 24 h
Weekly
6 weeks
WMC
MMS
Physical
symptoms
BPS decreased depression/
anxiety after each writing
session (p\.01) and
physical symptoms
(p\.05)
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Austenfeld and
Stanton
(2008)
63 Students USA In-person Yes BPS
Trauma
Control—last 24 h
Weekly
3 weeks
EACS
(EE&EP)
CES-D
PANAS-X
PILL
HCV
Blood
pressure
BPS (low EP) lower
hostility and fewer health
care visits. BPS (high EP)
more visits. BPS (low EE)
associated with lower
hostility and higher EE
associated with higher
hostility (p=.05)
Austenfeld
et al. (2006)
64 Medical
students
during 3rd
year
internship
USA In-person Yes BPS
Trauma
Control—last 24 h
Fortnightly
8 weeks
EACS
(EE&EP)
CES-D
PANAS-X
PILL
HCV
BPS (low EP) fewer health-
centre visits compared
with low EP in trauma
group (p=.041)
BPS (Low EP) lower
depressive symptoms
compared with trauma
group at 3 months (pnot
given)
King (2001) 81 Students USA In-person Yes BPS
Trauma
BPS & Trauma
Control—plans for day
Daily
4 days
Mood (pos
& neg)
SWLS
LOT-R
HCV
BPS increase net PA
(p\.001), higher well-
being (p=.05) and lower
health centre (p\.01)
less upsetting (p\.001)
D. Delivery methods
Owens and
Patterson
(2013)
62 Elementary
school
children
USA In-person Yes Drawings of:
BPS
Gratitude
Control (activity from day)
Weekly
6 weeks
PANAS-C
BMSLSS
PCSC
BPS—increased self-esteem
(p=.004). Girls more
likely to draw BPS
images with societal
concerns-religion
(p=.012)
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Layous et al.
(2013)
131 Students USA On-line
In-person
Yes Online-BPS
Online-BPS & testimonial
Online-Control (last 24 h)
In person-BPS
In person- BPS &
testimonial
In person-Control (last
24 h)
Weekly
4 weeks
AAS
NSS
Flow
BPS increased PA
(p=.03), increased flow
(p=.03). No significant
difference between the
on-line and in-person
groups
Harrist et al.
(2007)
75 Students USA In-person Yes BPS-write
BPS-speak
Control-write (daily
schedule)
Control-speak (daily
schedule)
Daily
4 days
Mood
HCV
LOT-R
BPS fewer health centre
visits (p\.023),
increased positive mood
(p\.003) and decreased
negative mood (p\.025)
E. Portfolio studies
D’raven et al.
(2015)
75
T2
36
T3
35
Adults -
depressed
Canada In-person No BPS, Mindfulness, Time
control, Goal-setting,
Reducing over-thinking,
Three good deeds, Self
talk, Optimism, Positive
experiences, Savouring,
Gratitude letter and visit,
Planning a date, Counting
blessings, Three good
things
Weekly
6 weeks
Physical
Mental
health
SF12v2
Enhanced Role physical
(p=.047), General
Health (p=.044),
Vitality (p=.022), Role
emotional (p\.001),
Mental health (p=.010),
Mental health summary
(p=.001)
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Manthey et al.
(2015)
435
T2
322
General
population
Germany On-line Yes BPS
Gratitude
Control—tasks in week
ahead
Weekly
8 weeks
SWLS
SPANE
STADI
Interest and
enjoyment
Treatments groups
increased SWLS
(p=.011) and PA
(p=.003) and decreased
NA (p=.007) and DEP
(p=.046). Fit strongly
related to increased PA
(p=.001)
Huffman et al.
(2014)
52 Suicidal
inpatients
USA In-person Random
presentation
of
interventions
BPS—accomplishments,
BPS—social
relationships, Gratitude
letter, Personal strengths,
Acts of kindness,
Enjoyable important
meaningful activities,
Counting blessings,
Forgiveness letter,
Behaviour on values
Daily
9 days
BHS
LOT-R
BPS (accomplishment)—
decreased Hopelessness
(p=.003) and increased
Optimism (p=.002).
BPS (social) decreased
Hopelessness (p=.002)
and increased Optimism
(p=.047)
Parks et al.
(2012) (study
3)
327 Live Happy
iphone app
users
USA On-line No BPS, Goal tracking,
Savouring, Gratitude
Journal, Remembering
happy days, Social
relationships, Expressing
gratitude, Acts of
Kindness
Participant
choice
Revised
PANAS
SHS
SWLS
Mood improvement
(p\.001) and Happiness
improvement (p\.001)
Pietrowsky and
Mikutta
(2012)
17 Depressive
patients
Germany In-person Yes Intervention group—BPS
then TGT Control—
future and early memory
Daily
3 weeks
BDI
SWLS
PANAS
LOT-R
RS-II
Treatment group—
decreased depression
(p\.05), higher PA
(p\.05) higher
resilience (p\.05)
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Lyubomirsky
et al. (2011)
330
T2
317
T3
197
Students USA On-line after
initial F2F
Yes Intervention group—
Gratitude letter or BPS
Control—previous week
Weekly
8 weeks
P&U
SWLS
SHS
Higher WB for self-select
(p=.02) and more likely
to continue (p=.01),
effort predicts WB at
follow-up (p=.03), more
effort into activities in
treatment group
(p=.004)
F. Moderator variables
Ng (2016)
Study 2
216 Students Singapore On-line Yes BPS
Control—layout location
Weekly
3 weeks
Affect scale
PANAS
IPIP
SHS
BPS (high neuroticism)
increased happiness
(p=.024). No difference
for participants with low
neuroticism
Odou and
Vella-
Brodrick
(2013)
210
76 at
T2
38 at
T3
Adults Australia On-line Yes BPS
three good things
Control—wait list
Daily
7 days
WEMWBS
PANAS
SQMI
TVIC
THS
GQ-6
Lower NA at T2 for
intervention groups
(p=.02). Submitted
responses increased well-
being at T3 (p=.01)
Seear and
Vella-
Brodrick
(2013)
211
73 at
T2
37 at
T3
Adults Australia On-line Yes BPS
three good things
Control—wait list
Daily
7 days
WEMWBS
PANAS
MAAS
THS
GQ-6
IPIP
BPS decreased NA
(p=.032) and BPS (low
mindfulness) increased
PA (p=.046).
Motivation to perform
highly correlated with
frequency of performance
(p\.01), increase in WB
(p\.01) and increase in
PA (p\.01)
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Peters et al.
(2013)
90
82
T2
Students Netherlands In-person and
at home for
repeats
Yes BPS
Gratitude
Control typical day
Daily
7 days
SWLS
LOT-R
ASQ
BPS increased life
satisfaction (p=.01),
improved ASQ
(p=.024), optimism
increase persisted
(p\.001)
Meevissen et al.
(2011)
54
51-
T2
Students Netherlands In-person,
repeats in
home
Yes BPS
Control—daily activities
Daily
14 days
LOT
SPT
ASQ
PANAS
SCM
EPQ-N
BPS increased SPT-Pos
(p\.01), WB and PA
(p\.01) and decreased
SPT neg(p\.01) and
WB (p\.01), practised
more frequently (p\.01)
and regarded as less
difficult (p=.031)
Boehm et al.
(2011)
220 Adults
(Asian and
Anglo
Americans)
USA On-line Yes BPS
Gratitude
Control—past week
Weekly
6 weeks
SWLS BPS increased life
satisfaction (p\.05).
Asian-americans in
treatment conditions no
change in life satisfaction
compared with Anglo-
Americans (p=.02)
Shapira and
Mongrain
(2010)
1002
197-
T2
Adults USA On-line Yes BPS
Self-compassion letter
Control—early memory
Daily
7 days
DSQ
CES-D
SHI
BPS lower depression at 1
month (p\.001) and 3
months (p\.001). BPS
increased happiness at 1
week (p=.01), 3 months
(p\.001) and 6 months
(p=.02)
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
Table 1 continued
References n Participants Country Administration Random
assignment
Overview of study Dosage Measures
used
Finding/result
Sheldon and
Lyubomirsky
(2006)
67 Students USA In-person
initially,
home for
repeats
Yes BPS
Gratitude
Control—typical day
Daily
28 days
PANAS
SCM
BPS increased PA (p\.01)
and greater SCM
(p\.01). SCM predicted
continued performance of
activities (p\.02). SCM
and exercise performance
predicted decreased NA
(p\.05) but not PA
AAS Affective Adjective Scale, ASQ Attributional Style Questionnaire, BMSLSS Brief Multidimensional Students’ Life Satisfaction Scale, BHS Beck Hopelessness Scale, BDI
Beck Depressions Inventory, BSI Brief Symptom Inventory, CES-D Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale, TVIC Test of Visual Imagery Control, DAS
Dysfunctional attitude scale, DSQ Depressive Experiences Questionnaire, EACS Emotional Approach Coping Subscale, EE Emotional Expression, EP Emotional Processing,
EPQ-RSS Eysenck Personality Questionnaire Revised Short Scale, EPQ-N neuroticism subscale, FEX–Neg Future Expectancies–Negative, FEX-Pos Future Expectancies-
Positive, FPQ Fear of Pain Questionnaire, GQ6 Gratitude Questionnaire-six item, HCV Health Centre Visits, IPIP International Personality Item Pool, LOT Life Orientation
Test, LOT-R Life Orientation Test–Revised, MAAS Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale, MCU Medical care utilisation, m-DES Modified Differential Emotions Scale,
MMS Multiple Mental States, NA Negative Affect, NSS Need Satisfaction Scale, PA Positive Affect, PANAS Positive and Negative Affect Scale, PANAS(C) Positive and
Negative Affect Scale (Children), PANAS(X) Positive and Negative Affect Scale-neg, PCS Pain Catastrophising Scale, PCSC Perceived Competence Scale for Children, PILL
Pennebaker Inventory of Limbic Languidness, PMS Profile of Mood States, PVAQ Pain Vigilance and Awareness Questionnaire, P&U Pleasant and Unpleasant Affect, RS-II
Resilience Scale, RSES Rosenberg Self Esteem Scale, SCT Sentence Completion Test, SCM Self-Concordance Motivation, SF12V2 Health-Related Quality of Life
Assessment Tool, SHI Steen Happiness Index, SHS Subjective Happiness Scale, SPANE Scale of Positive and Negative Experience, S-PCS Situational Pain Catastrophising
Scale, SPT Subjective Probability Test, STADI State-Trait-Anxiety-Depression Inventory, SOC Sense of Coherence Scale, SQMI Shortened Questionnaire upon Mental
Imagery, SWBS Spiritual Well-Being Scale, SWLS Satisfaction with Life Scale, THS Trait Hope Scale, TVIC Test of Visual Imagery Control, WEMWBS Warwick-Edinburgh
Mental Well-being Scale, WMC Working Memory Capacity
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
by a sample of divorced women during the BPS exercise, was associated with higher self-
assessment of well-being 2 years later (King and Raspin 2004). For a sample of gay men
and lesbian women, the salience of their gay-self was positively related to life satisfaction
whereas the salience of their straight-self was negatively related to life satisfaction (King
and Smith 2004). In a study where children were asked to draw a picture of their BPS, girls
were more likely than boys, to draw realistic images and images associated with societal
concerns (Owens and Patterson 2013). Finally, contrary to what was hypothesised, in the
BPS writing of a sample of first-year college students, spiritual goals and general intrinsic
goals were found to be negatively correlated with life satisfaction (Hill et al. 2014). Further
analysis of the BPS text may offer researchers an insight into what individuals envision
when they write about their idea of the ‘good life’.
3.2 Outcome Variables
Research over the last 5 years has explored the question of whether the BPS can be used to
induce specific positive outcomes. The first such study in this area, which was a catalyst for
at least five other studies, was an experiment conducted by Peters et al. (2010). The
researchers administered the BPS activity to participants in a deliberate attempt to increase
expectancies for positive future outcomes (optimism) and positive affect (Peters et al.
2010). The experiment was successful in achieving its goal as participants in the BPS
group had increased state optimism (p=.004) and increased immediate positive affect
(p\.001) compared with participants in the control group (Peters et al. 2010). The
increase in optimism was not moderated by the change in positive affect, suggesting that
the BPS activity can be used to induce optimism irrespective of whether participants
experience increased positive affect (Peters et al. 2010).
The value of the BPS activity as an optimism induction has been established in further
studies where it was used to demonstrate the links between optimism and decreased pain in
cold pressor tasks (Boselie et al. 2013; Hanssen et al. 2013) and between optimism and
attention to positive visual stimuli in an eye-tracker experiment (Peters et al. 2015). Given
the optimistic instructions provided with the BPS activity and the evidence that the BPS
exercise is an effective tool for inducing optimism, the role of dispositional optimism as a
moderator for efficacy has been investigated. Many studies show that dispositional opti-
mism does not moderate increases in state optimism observed following completion of the
BPS activity (Harrist et al. 2007; Meevissen et al. 2011; Peters et al. 2010,2015).
The specificity of the BPS as a positive mood induction (rather than an optimism
induction) has been tested in two experiments: one in which the BPS activity was shown to
increase positive mood after a sad mood induction (Renner et al. 2014) and another where
positive mood persisted after participants were exposed to a pain condition (Geschwind
et al. 2015). In other BPS studies, where induction of positive mood was not the primary
focus, the results are mixed. In some instances, positive affect is increased (Sheldon and
Lyubomirsky 2006) and in others there was no difference in positive affect (Odou and
Vella-Brodrick 2013). These apparently contradictory results can be explained by the
choice of differing populations and the use of different delivery methods and dosage
regimes. The induction research described here has explored the induction of two specific
states: optimism and positive mood. Future research may discover that the BPS activity has
the potential to induce other positive states.
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
3.3 Trauma Comparison
The BPS intervention has its origins in the experimental disclosure field where extensive
research had shown that writing about traumatic events can have beneficial effects for
some individuals (Frattaroli 2006). Originally, catharsis was proffered as the explanation
for the beneficial outcome, however the catharsis explanation was called into question
when an experiment found that writing about another person’s trauma, one that the indi-
vidual had not actually experienced, was found to be beneficial (Greenberg et al. 1996).
Self-regulation was offered as an alternative explanation and King (2001) speculated that
writing, whether about traumatic experiences or about a personally meaningful task such as
one’s BPS, would aid an individual’s self-regulation and that this may explain the bene-
ficial effects of writing activities.
Austenfeld et al. (2006) conducted a study with students in their third-year medical
internship (considered to be a potentially traumatic time) who were randomly assigned to
write about the challenges they were experiencing (trauma-writing condition) or their BPS
(Austenfeld et al. 2006). The focus of the study was emotional expression (one’s efforts to
communicate emotional experiences) and emotional processing (one’s efforts to under-
stand emotions) (Austenfeld et al. 2006). Results showed that the BPS activity does not
work equally well for all types of individuals (Austenfeld et al. 2006). Participants who
were assigned to the BPS group and who were low in emotional processing experienced
the greatest benefit in the experiment with fewer health centre visits and fewer depressive
symptoms compared with those assigned to the trauma group (Austenfeld et al. 2006). This
suggests that emotional processing is a factor that should be considered when assigning the
BPS activity, it may be particularly beneficial for individuals low in emotional processing.
Austenfeld and Stanton (2008) followed up the initial experiment with a student sample
and reported similar outcomes: participants assigned to the BPS group who were low in
emotional processing had fewer health centre visits and lower hostility (Austenfeld and
Stanton 2008).
A recent study, using a factorial experimental design utilised the above findings
regarding emotional processing and emotional expression and deliberately assigned writing
activity (either trauma or BPS) based on the emotional processing and emotion expression
levels of participants (Maddalena et al. 2014). In the follow-up to this study, participants
who had been assigned to activities that aligned with their preferences had fewer health
centre visits and physical illness symptoms (Maddalena et al. 2014). The results of these
experiments suggest that the BPS is not a one-size-fits-all intervention and that it may not
be a beneficial activity for certain individuals especially those high in emotional
processing.
3.4 Delivery Method
In the original BPS experiment, participants completed the BPS activity in-person, inde-
pendently and submitted a handwritten response to the researcher (King 2001). Since that
time the BPS has also been found to be effective if participants speak rather than write their
responses. In a 2 92 factorial design, participants were randomly allocated to either write
or talk to the researcher about their BPS (Harrist et al. 2007). Participants in both groups
had increased positive mood, decreased negative mood and fewer health-centre visits than
the control groups (Harrist et al. 2007). Although both delivery methods were shown to be
effective and feasible, the spoken delivery method was not adopted in subsequent research.
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
In an experiment investigating the administration of positive psychological interventions to
children, Owens and Patterson (2013) asked elementary school-aged children to use
drawings to respond to the BPS instructions. Children in the BPS group had increased self-
esteem compared with the control group and manipulation checks confirmed that children
were able to effectively complete the BPS intervention using the drawing methodology
(Owens and Patterson 2013). There have been no studies to assess whether drawing would
be a suitable method for adult participants.
Extending the line of enquiry regarding administration of the BPS activity, Layous et al.
(2013) randomly assigned participants to complete the BPS activity either on-line or in-
person. Participants in the BPS groups had increased positive affect and flow compared
with the control groups and there was no significant difference between the on-line and in-
person groups (Layous et al. 2013). On-line administration is now standard practice in BPS
experiments (Ng 2016; Shapira and Mongrain 2010) unless the BPS activity is used as part
of an experiment that requires participants to be present such as an eye-tracker task (e.g.
Peters et al. 2015). The studies described here concerning delivery method suggest that the
BPS is a robust tool in the sense that positive outcomes are achieved whilst using a variety
of delivery methods.
3.5 Portfolio Studies
In addition to investigating the BPS as a stand-alone intervention, researchers have con-
ducted portfolio studies in which the BPS is one of a number of interventions provided to
participants. In one study, using the Live Happy iPhone app (Live Happy LLC 2015),
participants were free to choose any number of the eight positive psychology exercises
including the BPS (Parks et al. 2012, study3). Results showed that both mood and hap-
piness scores improved for users of the iPhone app and that gains could be predicted based
on frequency of use and number of different activities chosen (Parks et al. 2012). Mood
and happiness scores were not provided for each individual activity, however the BPS was
assessed as mid-range in terms of popularity i.e. not as popular as activities such as ‘goal
tracking’ and ‘savouring’ and not as unpopular as activities such as ‘expressing gratitude
personally’ and ‘acts of kindness journal’ (Parks et al. 2012).
Other studies have included the BPS as one of a number of interventions, however
participants have not been offered choice regarding which activity they undertake. For
example, in a non-choice, quasi experiment, a range of nine positive psychological
interventions was randomly administered to suicidal inpatients and results in this
exploratory study showed that positive interventions were feasible and useful for this
population (Huffman et al. 2014). Results for each of the interventions were reported
separately and the BPS was shown to result in increased optimism and decreased hope-
lessness (Huffman et al. 2014). The BPS however, had lower efficacy scores compared
with most other interventions including the ‘gratitude letter’, ‘counting your blessings’ and
‘personal strengths’ (Huffman et al. 2014), although the BPS did have higher efficacy
scores than the ‘forgiveness letter’ (Huffman et al. 2014). In another quasi-experiment, the
BPS was offered as one of 13 interventions in a program for depressed adults (D’raven
et al. 2015). The overall program of 13 interventions was shown to be effective in
enhancing general, mental and emotional health, however, results for the BPS were not
reported separately and cannot be evaluated (D’raven et al. 2015).
Additionally, the BPS activity has been used, in conjunction with a gratitude inter-
vention, as a treatment condition in an experiment to ascertain whether well-being
enhancement varies depending on whether or not participants self-select into a happiness
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
study (Lyubomirsky et al. 2011). In this large on-line study, participants selected a study
advertised as a ‘happiness’ study or a ‘cognitive’ study and were then (regardless of their
choice) randomly allocated to a treatment group (BPS or gratitude) or a control group
(Lyubomirsky et al. 2011). Results for the BPS were not reported separately however, self-
selection into a happiness study, predicted effort and continuation of the activity and
participants in the treatment condition had higher well-being post intervention and at
follow-up 8 weeks later (Lyubomirsky et al. 2011). These findings suggest that motivation
to increase happiness plays a part in the efficacy of positive activities such as the BPS
activity. A replication of the Lyubomirsky et al. (2011) experiment which included video
instructions for participants, showed similar results (Manthey et al. 2015).
The results reported here indicate that when the BPS is included as one of a portfolio of
interventions it can be used effectively with a variety of populations including on-line
happiness seekers (Parks et al. 2012), depressed individuals (D’raven et al. 2015) and
suicidal inpatients (Huffman et al. 2014). Because results are not generally reported for
individual activities, it is premature to state that the BPS would be effective as a stand-
alone intervention for these populations.
3.6 Moderating Variables
Research into positive activities, such as the BPS, has demonstrated that the extent to
which a positive activity increases well-being is moderated by: (a) activity-features,
(b) person-features, and (c) the degree of ‘fit’ between the person and the activity (Lyu-
bomirsky and Layous 2013). The longer-term experiments described in this section have
all investigated an aspect of moderation.
The most frequently-cited paper in this review relates to a study conducted by Sheldon
and Lyubomirsky (2006) who were the first to investigate a person-feature which mod-
erates the efficacy of the BPS. Using self-determination theory and the sustainable hap-
piness model as their foundation, the researchers hypothesised that motivation to perform
the BPS activity and the frequency of performance would moderate efficacy (Sheldon and
Lyubomirsky 2006). In the initial session, participants in the BPS group had increased
positive affect relative to participants in the gratitude or control conditions (p\.01) and
greater self-concordant motivation (p\.01) to continue with the BPS activity even though
continued practice was not a requirement of the study. Four weeks later participants in the
BPS condition were found to be more likely to continue to practice the BPS activity and
have reduced negative affect (p\.05).
Additional person-features have been considered in subsequent studies to determine
person-activity fit for the BPS. The BPS has been shown to be effective for increasing
happiness levels in individuals high in neuroticism (Ng 2016). Depressed individuals who
completed a version of the BPS with modified wording, reported lower depression levels
and increased happiness up to 6 months later (Shapira and Mongrain 2010). Culture may
also be an important factor with Anglo-Americans reporting increased life satisfaction after
the BPS compared with Asian-Americans (Boehm et al. 2011). This finding suggests that
the self-focused wording of the BPS activity may be less effective for individuals from
cultural traditions that place more value on family and community. Further research is
needed to investigate targeting particular positive activities to different cultural groups
(Boehm et al. 2011).
Because the BPS activity involves an element of mental imagery, researchers have
hypothesised that individuals with higher mental imagery ability would have superior
results in terms of well-being improvement, compared with those with lower mental
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
imagery ability (Odou and Vella-Brodrick 2013). However, in an on-line study this
hypothesis was not supported, suggesting that the BPS can be an effective intervention
irrespective of mental imagery ability (Odou and Vella-Brodrick 2013). In the same study,
mindfulness was proposed as an additional person-feature and results suggested that
mindfulness levels do make a difference with participants low in mindfulness attention
having greater positive affect after the BPS activity (Seear and Vella-Brodrick 2013). In
this experiment, there were observed increases in mindfulness levels for participants in the
BPS group perhaps indicating the potential of the BPS as a mindfulness tool (Seear and
Vella-Brodrick 2013).
In addition to person-features, activity-features of the BPS intervention need to be
investigated. For example, the longitudinal experiments described in this review require (or
request) participants to repeat the BPS activity. There does not, however, appear to be
strong justification for repeat schedules with some studies using a daily administration
(King 2001; Peters et al. 2013) and others weekly administration (Austenfeld et al. 2006;
Boehm et al. 2011). With the exception of Maddalena et al. (2014) where weekly dosage
was shown to be more beneficial than daily; experimental manipulation of this variable has
not been carried out i.e. all participants in BPS studies have been given identical dosages.
Further studies are needed before it can be determined whether weekly or daily dosage of
the BPS would achieve superior results.
A related activity-feature concerns the provision of themes or life-domains to guide
participants’ writing during repeat dosages. In examining the BPS research there is no
justification provided for the choice of themes given to participants who repeat the activity,
rather researchers simply state the themes that they used. This is problematic for com-
parison purposes as there is a variety of themes provided in studies both in terms of number
and breadth. Some researches provide three themes: personal, professional, relationship
(Meevissen et al. 2011; Peters et al. 2013). Others provide four themes: social, health,
academic and career (Layous et al. 2013) and others eight themes: romantic, hobbies,
family, friendship, community, health, career and free topic (Manthey et al. 2015).
Although researchers have given considerable attention to the factors that may moderate
the efficacy of the BPS activity, this has perhaps been at the expense of investigating
mediating variables. Relatively little is known about the underlying mechanisms that
explain why and how the BPS works.
4 Future Research Directions
Before making recommendations regarding future research questions, we examine the
research directions envisaged by King (2001) and compare her suggestions with what has
been investigated and reported over the last 15 years. The initial recommendation was that
the study should be replicated and the 30 studies reviewed here show that researchers have
heeded this call. King (2001) also suggested exploration of the underlying mechanisms that
could explain the efficacy of the BPS intervention. Included in her suggestions were the
hypotheses that writing about goals enables individuals to more effectively pursue them
and that possible drivers would include: visualising, increased self-awareness and self-
regulation. BPS research has only considered these mediating variables indirectly. King
(2001) recommended that future studies include a goal measure to ascertain if the BPS
exercise generates clearer goals and less goal conflict, however studies have not included a
goal measure. Finally, King (2001) noted as a limitation in her study that her sample was
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
young students in an advantaged position and suggested that future research should use
more diverse populations. The BPS literature examined here has achieved this diversifi-
cation of populations with the exception of investigating relative levels of advantage.
We now make recommendations for future research based on the findings from the
research reviewed here. To address the dearth of qualitative research in the BPS field,
future studies should provide thematic analysis of the content of the BPS writing with the
aim of documenting common and important themes regarding the ‘good life’. Furthermore,
it is recommended that coding protocols used in qualitative research should have a theo-
retically-sound basis, for example coding using the six aspects of psychological well-being
(Ryff 2014).
The BPS exercise has been found to be effective in inducing optimism and positive
affect, however other outcome measures remain to be studied with possible candidates
including hope and appreciation. Hope, as it is most commonly measured is a goals-based
construct (Snyder et al. 1991) and the BPS activity is a means by which participants
document their life goals. Therefore, the BPS activity may have potential as a hope
induction. Additionally, given the focus of the BPS exercise on the positive aspects of life,
it may have utility as a gratitude/appreciation intervention (Wood et al. 2010). Table 1
shows that hope, gratitude and appreciation have not been included as outcome measures in
BPS studies. Furthermore, although many outcome measures have been considered in BPS
research, the measurement of subjective well-being (affect and life satisfaction) have been
over-emphasised at the expense of broader measures of well-being such as psychological
well-being (Ryff 2014) and social well-being (Keyes 2002).
We conclude that the BPS may not be an activity that has universal applicability and
research into individual person-features that moderate efficacy should be systematically
investigated. A recent study (Ng 2016) examining personality should be extended to include a
full investigation of the Big Five personality traits to determine which types would benefit
most from the BPS activity. Additional studies that target interventions based on empirically
established person-features such as emotional processing levels (Maddalena et al. 2014) will
enhance our understanding of the applicability of the BPS intervention.
The majority of BPS studies have used writing as the medium by which participants
capture what they imagine during the BPS activity. However, individuals will differ in
their preferred method of completing the BPS activity and future research should inves-
tigate alternative completion methods such as using pictures, drawings, photographs or
voice recordings. Another consideration is extending the BPS beyond the western context.
Table 1shows that research has been conducted predominantly in the west. Although BPS
studies are now conducted on-line and use features such as video instructions, there has
been little scientifically-tested, technological advancement in terms of interactivity. The
BPS activity provides scope for smart-phone apps that enable individuals to save and add
to their BPS as new thoughts arise and perhaps share these thoughts through social net-
works. Empirical testing of commercially-available smart-phone apps such as Bliss
positive psychology app (De Mott 2016) is recommended.
This review has shown that researchers use a variety of dosage regimes however there
are no comparison studies examining different BPS repeat schedules and their effective-
ness. Researchers commenting on the broader intervention field are now calling for studies
that test varied timing and frequency of activities specifically asking whether the BPS is
best performed weekly, daily or ‘only when one is feeling low’ (Nelson and Lyubomirsky
2014, p. 279).
Although enhancing the BPS activity has not been a primary goal of the studies
reviewed here, a number of researchers have in fact ‘enhanced’ the BPS. For example,
P. M. Loveday et al.
123
wording of the script for the BPS activity has been modified from the original (King 2001)
and most researchers now use a longer version of the script that includes the words ‘best
possible self’ (Sheldon and Lyubomirsky 2006). In some studies, in addition to completing
the BPS, participants are asked to describe how they would overcome an obstacle to
achieve their goals (Austenfeld et al. 2006) or how they would take a small step towards a
particular goal (Layous et al. 2013). In other studies, participants engage in 5 min of vivid,
detailed imagery activity after they have completed the written component of the BPS
activity (Peters et al. 2010). There are no studies that have compared the original BPS with
these modified versions. Additionally, if the BPS activity is shown to be enhanced with a
supplementary activity it raises the question of whether the BPS activity could be made
more effective if it was preceded with an activity such as a positive mood induction. Future
research should address this matter. The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions
(Fredrickson 2001) has been posited as a potential mediator for the BPS activity (Mee-
vissen et al. 2011) however, this has not been empirically tested. Investigations into this
theory and others as potential mediators would advance BPS research.
Finally, the title of the BPS activity and the wording of scripts used with participants
shows that the tool is designed to focus on the self. An open research question is whether
there are advantages in extending the initial self-focus of the BPS to a subsequent imag-
ining of a best possible self for another. Gratitude interventions, by way of contrast, have
been configured in two ways: (a) self-focused in which one writes a list of things for which
one is grateful, and (b) as an other-focused activity in which one writes a gratitude letter to
another person or conducts a gratitude visit to another person (Wood et al. 2010). Some
BPS researchers have included the topic of relationships during repeats of the BPS activity
(Layous et al. 2013; Peters et al. 2013), however the focus has remained on the self in
relation to others, rather than on the ‘other’. The notion of introducing an ‘other’ focus to
the BPS activity i.e. making it a Best-Possible-Other (BPO) activity, is a departure from
the common administration. The BPO, where one imagines the best possible future for
someone else may be as radical an idea as King’s initial speculation that, by writing about
positive self-topics, the gains from expressive writing could be achieved without the
negative emotions.
5 Summary and Conclusions
In examining the literature, we found that there is much to recommend the BPS inter-
vention. The BPS is flexible with regard to delivery method and can be efficacious whether
it is delivered in-person or on-line. Participant responses to the BPS can be handwritten,
typed, spoken or drawn. The BPS can also be used as intervention with students, adults and
children and depressed and suicidal individuals. Participants in BPS experiments report
that their motivation to complete, and continue with the BPS activity is high and when
researchers read the BPS text, interesting insights can be gained. As an alternative to a
trauma-writing intervention, the BPS is most effective for individuals low in emotional
processing and as an optimism-induction activity, the BPS is reliable and can be used as a
component of pain experiments. Finally, the BPS can be recommended as one of a port-
folio of interventions and when used alone and repeated over time can result in a significant
increase in well-being, which can persist over time.
There remains much that can be learned from investigations into the BPS activity.
Future qualitative BPS research will give us further insight into the components of the
The Best Possible Selves Intervention: A Review of the
123
good life and future experimental work will indicate the optimal dosage of the BPS and
those individuals most likely to benefit. Finally, the efficacy of the BPS intervention will be
increased through investigating the underlying mechanisms, developing a BPO configu-
ration and enhancing the BPS activity to induce specific, desired well-being outcomes such
as hope and appreciation.
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... Even though there is no direct study providing evidence of BPS's effects in increasing positive attitudes, BPS's effects in increasing well-being, positive affect, and optimism are fundamental for its potential to increase positive attitudes. Since King's initial study, there has been a "rapidly expanding body of literature accumulating around" the BPS intervention (Schueller et al., 2014, p. 93) and BPS's effectiveness in increasing positive affect and optimism was confirmed by three systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses (Loveday et al., 2016;Carrillo et al., 2019;Heekerens & Eid, 2020). First, Loveday et al. (2016) conducted a systematic literature review, including 31 qualified studies with 4616 participants. ...
... Since King's initial study, there has been a "rapidly expanding body of literature accumulating around" the BPS intervention (Schueller et al., 2014, p. 93) and BPS's effectiveness in increasing positive affect and optimism was confirmed by three systematic literature reviews and meta-analyses (Loveday et al., 2016;Carrillo et al., 2019;Heekerens & Eid, 2020). First, Loveday et al. (2016) conducted a systematic literature review, including 31 qualified studies with 4616 participants. They summarized that BPS was "a viable intervention for increasing optimism, positive affect, health and well-being" for "diverse groups including students, adults, depressive individuals and suicidal inpatients," and "can be effective when administered in-person or on-line and repeating the activity appears to enhance efficacy" (p. ...
... There are at least four reasons that the BPS intervention has the potential to increase preservice teachers' positive attitudes towards technology integration by being integrated into a stand-alone technology course. First, BPS is a short writing activity that usually lasts no longer than 20 min and can be completed in as little as 10 min for a single session (Carrillo et al., 2019), although its effectiveness can be enhanced through repeated sessions (Loveday et al., 2016). Second, BPS's delivery method is flexible, which means that its effectiveness is comparable whether it is delivered in-person or online (Loveday et al., 2016). ...
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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.
... This session, based on King's work, 36 asks participants to envision and write about the best possible self in ten years, in different life domains. The activity has been mainly used with young adults and students 37 and some authors 13 have pointed out uneasiness of participants faced with this challenge and others have underscore the need to validate the exercise with older adults. 38 We assumed that this exercise, for people of an average age of 65, might not be adequate and thus precaution and participants' well-being were favored. ...
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Introduction: Psychological interventions to cultivate mental health in older adults are scarce and tend to focus on and use a limited number of activities. Objective: The aim of this study was to test the effects of an intervention based on Keyes' concept of positive mental health. Methods: The intervention was conducted with 24 self-selected participants, while 34 were part of the control group. Positive mental health and distress outcomes were measured at baseline and at the end of the intervention. ANCOVA analysis and effect sizes were calculated. Results: Results showed that the intervention increased mental health (F= 18.22, p<0.001, η2= 0.334, d= 1.45, power 0.986) and decreased psychiatric symptomatology in the experimental group versus the control group (F= 7.07, p= 0.011, η2= 0.16, d= 0.87, power= 0.736), which showed no change. Discussion: Despite study limitations, the intervention effectively promoted older people's well-being. Future research, should evaluate the long-term effects of the intervention with varied older adult populations.
... Moreover, while approaching adolescents with a high risk or those who have engaged in drinking, nurses can work with parents or caregivers to intervene based on possible selfapproach (Lee & Liao, 2021). Interventions that target fostering positive possible selves or negating negative possible selves (e.g., drinking possible self) as well as elaborating one's best or most important possible self may prevent adolescent drinking behaviors and promote positive adolescent development (Lee & Liao, 2021;Lee et al., 2015b;Loveday et al., 2018;Oyserman et al., 2004). Guiding adolescents to acknowledge their individual strengths, image their best or most important possible selves as the realization of their life, and conceive of strategies to achieving or avoiding the possible selves through continuous discussion and narrativization may be adopted (King, 2001;Lee & Liao, 2021;Oyserman et al., 2004). ...
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Alcohol use ranks as one of the most prevalent health-risk behaviors among Taiwanese adolescents. Possible selves—personalized future-oriented cognitions about the self—are significant motivators of one's actions, which may potentially influence adolescent drinking behavior. This study aimed to estimate the content domain-specific possible selves and their associations with drinking behaviors among Taiwanese adolescents. A total of 225 Taiwanese seventh and eighth graders from a public junior high school were recruited. An anonymous self-reported questionnaire was used to collect data during two time-points at six-month intervals. Results showed that having a “physical appearance” related hoped-for possible self and a “friendship” related feared possible self was associated with adolescent alcohol use after six months. Whereas, having the “physical appearance” related hoped-for and feared possible selves were associated with alcohol problems, at both, baseline and six months later. Future studies could clarify the meaning behind “physical appearance” related possible selves.
... Traditional career development advice has been criticized for its focus on those aspects of individuals' careers that they can proactively control (Mitchell et al., 1999). Career advisors need to recognize that careers are less under rational individual control than the literature traditionally suggested (Arthur, 1994;Arthur et al., 1995;Hall, 1996), and instead to advise individuals to interact imaginatively with an envisaged possible career (Markus and Nurius, 1986;Loveday et al., 2018). Instead of job matching (Parsons, 1909;Holland, 1959), which in a rapidly changing work context may be only short-term, or making superficially rational choices between pre-determined longerterm career scripts (Laudel et al., 2018), career counselors need to emphasize that individuals and their career context are interdependent, and that neither is static, but that they each change through time and through their reciprocal interaction. ...
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The purpose of this article is to present a new distributed interactive career decision-making framework ( di CDM) in which person and context together determine the development of a sustainable career. We build upon recent theories from two disciplines: decision theory and career theory. Our new conceptual framework incorporates distributed stakeholders into the career decision-making process and suggests that individuals make decisions through a system of distributed agency, in which they interact with their context to make each career decision, at varying levels of participation, from proactive to reactive. We focus on two key career decision-making drivers originating from the person (exercising personal agency and seeking meaning), and two key drivers from the career context (making demands on an individual’s resources and affording scripts). This manuscript challenges the individual-driven approach to career development, and instead proposes that a process of distributed career decision-making takes place between each person and the various stakeholders, both individual and institutional, that also drive their career. Career seekers and counselors can use this framework to supplement an individual-focused approach and incorporate the role of distributed decision-makers in sustaining an individual’s career. Empirical research is needed to explore and test the applicability of the framework to career decisions in practice.
... In this study, we focus on three positive-psychological interventions that are popular among researchers and practitioners: first, the best-possible-self (BPS) intervention (King, 2001), which has been repeatedly shown to increase positive affect and optimism and to decrease pessimism (see Heekerens & Eid, 2020;Loveday et al., 2016;Malouff & Schutte, 2016, for reviews and meta-analyses); second, the gratitude letter exercise (Seligman et al., 2005), which has been repeatedly shown to increase gratitude and psychological well-being (see Davis et al., 2016, for a meta-analysis); and third, self-compassionate writing (Shapira & Mongrain, 2010), a frequently used component of comprehensive interventions that focus on the cultivation of compassion, which might increase compassion, self-compassion, and mindfulness, as well as alleviate depressive and anxious symptoms (see Kirby, 2017;Kirby et al., 2017, for a review and meta-analysis). The magnitude of the effects of brief stand-alone positive-psychological interventions is typically small to medium and decreases over time (Bolier et al., 2013) and may even be smaller when using online formats (e.g., Heekerens & Eid, 2020). ...
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Growing evidence suggests that online positive-psychological interventions effectively increase well-being, and a wealth of evidence describes cognitive-affective responses to such interventions. Few studies, however, have directly compared responses across popular exercises such as the best-possible-self intervention, the gratitude letter, or self-compassionate writing. In addition, current evidence is ambiguous regarding the effects of potential moderator variables such as trait gratitude and emotional self-awareness. To address these issues, we randomized 432 German adults to perform either optimism, gratitude, self-compassion, or control writing interventions in an online setting. Participants reported trait gratitude and trait emotional self-awareness before the interventions, as well as momentary optimism, gratitude, self-compassion, positive affect, and current thoughts immediately after the interventions. Results indicate higher momentary optimism after the best-possible-self intervention and higher momentary gratitude after the gratitude letter than after the control task. There were no differences when comparing the best-possible-self intervention with the gratitude letter. Both interventions increased the number of positive self-relevant thoughts. The self-compassion condition showed no effects. Moderation analysis results indicate that neither emotional self-awareness nor trait gratitude moderated the intervention effects. Future studies should compare responses across different positive-psychological interventions using more comprehensive exercises to ensure larger effects.
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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.
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In this sudden widespread on-going covid-19 epidemic, we all know that technology is definitely the saviour of the mankind. But how many people are able to access the technology is the major question. Especially in the field of education, students with disabilities are the people who are facing the real challenge of learning. The parents or care givers of students with different disabilities like visually impaired, problem with motor skills, hearing impairment and slow learners find it really hard to access computers and other devices because the process of installing suitable software and adapting them to a different mode of learning becomes a challenging task. With a view to ensuring accessible e-content amid the pandemic, the education ministry has released guidelines for development of e-content for children with special needs.
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The aim of this study was to examine whether dispositional optimism and induced optimism are associated with an attentional bias for positive stimuli. Fifty-six healthy participants performed an eye-tracking task twice, while their gazing time at faces displaying joy, anger, pain, or a neutral expression was measured. Participants scoring high on dispositional optimism tended to gaze longer at joy faces during the first face-presentation trial compared to participants scoring lower on optimism, and this correlation became significant during the second face-presentation trial. In between the two presentations, participants received either an optimism manipulation or a control manipulation. There was no effect of type of manipulation on gazing behavior but post hoc analyses demonstrated that participants showing an increase in state optimism displayed a significant decrease in gaze duration for anger faces and a nearly significant increase in gaze duration for joy faces.
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Effects of Positive Psychology (PP) have been shown in several studies to alleviate depressive symptoms in patients suffering from major depression or dysthymia when administered within psychotherapy. The present study served to test for the effects of two interventions from PP (best possible self, three good things) when practised by depressive patients for three weeks without any other concomitant psychotherapy. Seventeen depressive patients were randomly assigned to either the PP group or the control group. Patients in the PP group wrote down the best possible self for one week and then three good things for another two weeks. Patients in the control group wrote down images of the future of mankind for one week and early memories for two weeks. Prior to the intervention and again after it had finished, depressive symptoms, satisfaction with life, positive and negative affect, optimism, and resilience were assessed. While in both groups of patients well-being and resilience increased and depressive symptoms declined, the decline of depressive symptoms and the increase of positive affect and resilience were more pronounced in the PP group. The results support the notion that even a short intervention using PP alone alleviates depressive symptoms and increases well-being. Although the effects were of marginal significance, this may be attributed to the relatively small sample size. Likewise, the use of an Intent-to-Treat analysis may have affected the PP group more than the control group, indicating an underestimation of the potency of PP in the present study.
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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.
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To what extent do people view self-control as central to achieving a healthy, high-quality life? While scientific evidence strongly supports the notion that self-control is associated with successful adaptation and optimal functioning, we examine whether individuals connect this trait with positive outcomes. In Study 1, participants rated the likelihood that an individual with high self-control (or self-esteem) would experience good health and a high-quality life. Studies 2–3 experimentally portrayed a target person as high or low in self-control (and self-esteem) before participants rated the target on an array of positive outcomes. Across studies, self-control was perceived as less strongly connected with a high-quality life than self-esteem. Mediation analyses suggest that people link self-esteem (but not self-control) with healthy behaviors that, in turn, lead to superior perceived physical and psychological health. While self-esteem is strongly associated with lay concepts of the good life, the importance of self-control may be comparatively under-recognized.
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A 3-month experimental online study examined the short-term and 1 month follow-up effects of regularly practicing one of two cognitive interventions on subjective well-being. Participants were 435 self-selected adults (366 female, 69 male, aged 18–63) randomly assigned to one of three conditions: writing about best possible selves in the future (n = 135), making gratitude lists (n = 150) or writing to-do-lists as a control condition (n = 150). The study was fully self-administered and exercise instructions were given in online videos. Repeated-measures MANOVA revealed that both interventions significantly increased subjective well-being in comparison to the control condition. Effect sizes for the different components of subjective well-being ranged from r = .09–.13 (η2 = .01–.02) for the 2 months intervention period. These effects were maintained until the 1-month follow-up. Enjoyment and interest regarding the exercise as indicators of perceived person-intervention-fit moderated the effect; participants of the happiness interventions who perceived a better fit showed greater increases in subjective well-being. These findings confirm previous research on these interventions and encourage further studies on online interventions, especially regarding possibilities to increase participants’ motivation and reduce dropout attrition.
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The present research examined the predictive and nomological validity of a narrative method for assessing goals. College students (N = 337, 158 women, M age = 19.08) from a large, public university wrote short narratives about their best possible selves in the future, imagining that they had realized all of their life dreams. Narratives were coded in terms of the number of statements reflecting each of fourteen types of goals. Intercoder reliability was strong. With regard to predictive validity, intrinsic goals, particularly spiritual and intimacy goals were positively related to well-being. Extrinsic goals, power goals in particular, tended to be negatively related to well-being. With regard to nomological validity, the spiritual goals-well-being relationship was mediated by frequency of religious service attendance and self-report measures of religiosity. Interestingly, intrinsic goals were negatively related to life satisfaction. Results are discussed in the context of self-determination theory and the internalization of extrinsic motivations.
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Defining hope as a cognitive set that is composed of a reciprocally derived sense of successful (1) agency (goal-directed determination) and (2) pathways (planning of ways to meet goals), an individual-differences measure is developed. Studies with college students and patients demonstrate acceptable internal consistency and test–retest reliability, and the factor structure identifies the agency and pathways components of the Hope Scale. Convergent and discriminant validity are documented, along with evidence suggesting that Hope Scale scores augmented the prediction of goal-related activities and coping strategies beyond other self-report measures. Construct validational support is provided in regard to predicted goal-setting behaviors; moreover, the hypothesized goal appraisal processes that accompany the various levels of hope are corroborated.
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Previous research indicates that performing positive activities boosts happiness. The present studies examined whether neuroticism would moderate the sustainability of the effects of positive activities on happiness. Study 1 showed that the effects of counting blessings/kindness daily for seven days lasted a week after participants stopped performing the activity, but only for low-neuroticism individuals (who reported increased happiness) and not high-neuroticism individuals. However, a week post-intervention, gratitude-/kindness-listing participants were more likely to choose an amusing rather than a sad film, regardless of neuroticism differences. This suggests that behavioral choice is more sensitive to positive intervention effects than self-reported happiness. In Study 2, high-neuroticism individuals who occasionally visualized and wrote about their best possible selves over three weeks were happier than their counterparts in the control condition. The present research illustrates that although neuroticism moderates the sustainability of positive intervention effects, encouraging continuance of positive activities may produce more lasting effects.