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"My Best Self": Efficacy and underlying mechanisms of a Positive Psychology Intervention

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Positive Psychology Interventions are valuable resources to promote wellbeing (Bolier et al., 2013). Within this framework, the Best Possible Self (BPS) intervention seems to be a promising approach (Loveday et al., 2016). This is a positive intervention that asks individuals to imagine themselves in the best possible future (King, 2001). Although there are many individual published studies about its efficacy, it is still unknown what the overall efficacy of this intervention is. In addition, research on the mechanisms which lie beneath the efficacy of this positive activity is scarce. Therefore, the aim of this dissertation is twofold: to explore the overall efficacy of the BPS, and to analyze the role of the mechanisms that can influence its efficacy. Concretely, the role of the temporal focus will be examined. Subsequently, this dissertation has the following specific objectives: 1) To review the overall efficacy of the BPS intervention based on the existing evidence, and to explore the role of the possible moderator variables related to the intervention implementation. 2) To contribute to a more accurate measurement of SWB considering the temporal frame. 3) To design and develop two temporal variants of the original BPS (Best Past Self and Best Present Self), applied through ICTs. 4) To analyze the efficacy of the three temporal versions of BPS, applied through ICTs, to increase wellbeing. 5) To analyze the possible underlying mechanisms that lie beneath their effectiveness, through qualitative analyses of the texts. This dissertation contains five studies (organized in four papers) and two additional chapters aimed at addressing the previously mentioned objectives. Chapter 1 described a general introduction of the main topics of this dissertation, including the main characteristics and effects of PPIs and the BPS intervention. In addition, the role of possible factors that can influence the efficacy of these interventions was briefly exposed, as well as the impact that ICTs can have in the field of PPIs. Chapter 2 consists of a systematic review and meta-analysis on the efficacy of the BPS compared with controls, which include the general efficacy levels of the intervention as well as the analyses of possible moderator variables. Chapter 3 is aimed at describing the Spanish validation of a scale that measures life satisfaction along the lifespan. In addition, exploring the temporal aspects of SWB and its relationship with sociodemographic variables and the affective components of SWB. Chapter 4 includes two randomized controlled trials (Study 1 and Study 2) in which the efficacy of the temporal variations of the BPS implemented through ICTs were compared with a control condition. Chapter 5 includes a mixed method design in which a qualitative analysis of the texts included in Study 1 was carried out and combined with quantitative data about the efficacy of the intervention on positive affect. Finally, Chapter 6 presents a general discussion that includes a summary of the main conclusions outlined by the results obtained in the previous publications, as well as the limitations and future directions of this dissertation.
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... and d = .657) [13]. However, analyses of moderators (i.e., length, dosage, delivery method, etcetera) did not show significant results in this review. ...
... This study is part of a larger project on the mechanisms that underlie the efficacy of the BPS intervention [13], in which the role of temporality was explored. A randomized controlled trial with three experimental conditions (the original BPS and two temporal variations: past best self or BPAS and present best self or BPRES) showed that temporal focus did not affect the ability of the intervention to increase positive affect as no statistically significant differences emerged among conditions. ...
... The initial sample consisted of 84 participants who were part of a larger study [13]. Their age ranged from 18 to 40 years old (M = 20.23, ...
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Background The Best Possible Self is a Positive Psychology Intervention which asks participants to write down about themselves in their best possible future. Previous studies have shown its efficacy to enhance wellbeing, but the mechanisms that underlie its efficacy are still unknown. Objective The aim of this study was to analyze the content of the essays of the BPS intervention and to examine how this content was related to the efficacy of the intervention to increase positive affect. Method Participants (N = 78) were randomized to either the Best Possible Self condition, or one of two variants of the intervention: one’s best self in the present, and one’s best self in the past. Qualitative analyses of the texts were carried out to explore the main themes and features of the essays. Then, a mixed-methods approach with quantitative and qualitative data was followed, in order to analyze the relationship between the content of the texts and the change in positive affect produced by the interventions. Results Significant differences between conditions were found in the content of the compositions. Regression analyses showed that different variables predicted the change in positive affect depending on the condition. Mediation analyses also found differences among conditions. Conclusions These findings suggest that these interventions respond to different underlying mechanisms which influence their efficacy. This study contributed to a better understanding of how Positive Psychology Interventions work, and how to increment their efficacy.
... The BPS intervention has demonstrated itself as a valuable positive psychological intervention with increases to positive affect and optimism (Carrillo et al., 2019) and decreasing negative affect (Enrique et al., 2018) across a non-clinical population. It can be considered one of the stronger happiness interventions due to its support in research and the positive experiences people can infer Running Head: Cultural Dimensions and Best Possible Self 6 from the intervention (Vega, 2018). Its application has been adopted by health professions and as it is accessible, can be administered to general and clinical populations and is free from cost of trained professionals. ...
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The Best Possible Self activity is defined as a future-oriented positive psychological intervention and has been shown to be effective in increasing subjective wellbeing. However, it is not known whether the effectiveness of the Best Possible Self activity varies across cultures, particularly between those with more individualist and collectivist values. This study aimed to explore whether there was a difference in subjective wellbeing between individualist and collectivist samples. A quasi-experimental design was conducted in which participants (N=109) were tasked with writing about their best possible self through an online questionnaire. The main outcome measures were subjective wellbeing, as measured by positive affect, negative affect, optimism, pessimism, and life satisfaction. It was hypothesized that subjective wellbeing would increase for all participants, but greater increases would be observed in individualistic participants, due to self-oriented nature of the activity0. Results exhibited that participants did significantly increase their wellbeing levels across the study, though the effects on components of subjective wellbeing revealed some cultural differences. Individualistic participants reported a statistically significant increase in positive affect. In collectivist participants, reductions in negative affect and pessimism were observed. This provides further insight into the relationship between cultural dimensions and the Best Possible Self activity.
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The best possible self (BPS), defined as a future-oriented Positive Psychology Intervention (PPI), has shown to be effective to increase wellbeing levels in previous studies. However, it is unknown if the future frame is an essential constituent for the efficacy of this exercise. This work was aimed at exploring the role of the temporal focus in the efficacy of the BPS intervention. Two randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were carried out, in which participants (N = 112 and N = 107) were randomized to writing about their past, present or future best self, or about the activities carried out during the last 24 h (control condition). The main outcome measure was positive affect, and other measures related to wellbeing were also included (satisfaction with life, happiness, optimism, self-efficacy and self-satisfaction). It was hypothesized that all three experimental conditions would be equally effective to increase wellbeing and that they would produce larger benefits than the control condition. Results of both RCTs showed that all conditions significantly increased their wellbeing levels, which could imply that varying the temporality of the BPS does not affect the efficacy of the intervention. However, no statistically significant differences were found between the experimental and control conditions. Implications of these results will be discussed. This study contributes to the research on the mechanisms that influence the effectiveness of a widely used PPI.
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