How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves

The Journal of Positive Psychology

Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice

Volume 1, 2006 – Issue 2: Positive Emotions


A 4-week experimental study (N = 67) examined the motivational predictors and positive emotion outcomes of regularly practicing two mental exercises: counting one’s blessings (“gratitude”) and visualizing best possible selves (“BPS”). In a control exercise, participants attended to the details of their day. Undergraduates performed one of the three exercises during Session I and were asked to continue performing it at home until Session II (in 2 weeks) and again until Session III (in a further 2 weeks). Following previous theory and research, the practices of gratitude and BPS were expected to boost immediate positive affect, relative to the control condition. In addition, we hypothesized that continuing effortful performance of these exercises would be necessary to maintain the boosts (Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005aLyubomirsky, S, Sheldon, KM and Schkade, D. 2005a. Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9: 111131. [Crossref], [Web of Science ®][Google Scholar]). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111–131). Finally, initial self-concordant motivation to perform the exercise was expected to predict actual performance and to moderate the effects of performance on increased mood. Results generally supported these hypotheses, and suggested that the BPS exercise may be most beneficial for raising and maintaining positive mood. Implications of the results for understanding the critical factors involved in increasing and sustaining positive affect are discussed.

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