The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression

The Journal of Positive Psychology

Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice

Volume 5, 2010 – Issue 5

The effectiveness of two online exercises intended to help individuals experience (1) self-compassion (n = 63) and (2) optimism (n = 55) were compared to a control intervention where participants wrote about an early memory (n = 70). A battery of tests was completed at 1 week following the exercise period, and at 1-, 3-, and 6-month follow-ups. Both active interventions resulted in significant increases in happiness observable at 6 months and significant decreases in depression sustained up to 3 months. The interventions were examined in relationship to dependency and self-criticism, both related to vulnerability to depression. Individuals high in self-criticism became happier at 1 week and at 1 month in the optimism condition in the repeated measures analysis. A sensitivity test using multi-level modeling failed to replicate this effect. More mature levels of dependence (connectedness) were related to improvements in mood up to 6 months in the self-compassion condition. This study suggests that different personality orientations may show greater gains from particular types of positive psychology interventions.
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Character strengths predict subjective well-being during adolescence

The Journal of Positive Psychology

Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice

Volume 6, 2011 – Issue 1: Special Issue on Positive Youth Psychology

 

Previous research indicates that several character strengths (e.g., gratitude, optimism, persistence, and self-regulation) correlate positively with measures of subjective well-being in adolescents. We examined whether character strengths predict future well-being. Adolescent high school students (N = 149) completed the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths for Youth and measures of subjective well-being (depression, happiness, life satisfaction) at several assessments from the fall of 9th grade through the spring of their 10th grade year. In analyses controlling for the effects of other strengths, other-directed strengths (e.g., kindness, teamwork) predicted fewer symptoms of depression. Transcendence strengths (e.g., meaning, love) predicted greater life satisfaction. Social support partially mediated the relationship between strengths and depression, but did not mediate the relationship between strengths and life satisfaction. These findings indicate that strengths that build connections to people and purposes larger than the self predict future well-being.

Strengths of character, orientations to happiness, and life satisfaction

The Journal of Positive Psychology

Dedicated to furthering research and promoting good practice

Volume 2, 2007 – Issue 3

Why are certain character strengths more associated with life satisfaction than others? A sample of US adults (N = 12,439) completed online surveys in English measuring character strengths, orientations to happiness (engagement, pleasure, and meaning), and life satisfaction, and a sample of Swiss adults (N = 445) completed paper-and-pencil versions of the same surveys in German. In both samples, the character strengths most highly linked to life satisfaction included love, hope, curiosity, and zest. Gratitude was among the most robust predictors of life satisfaction in the US sample, whereas perseverance was among the most robust predictors in the Swiss sample. In both samples, the strengths of character most associated with life satisfaction were associated with orientations to pleasure, to engagement, and to meaning, implying that the most fulfilling character strengths are those that make possible a full life.

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.