Cognitive Therapy and Research

, Volume 41, Issue 3, pp 350–361 | Cite as

Of Passions and Positive Spontaneous Thoughts

Original Article


Despite the abundance of research on negative intrusive thoughts, far less is known about their positive counterparts. In two studies, we explored how positive spontaneous thoughts are related to people’s favorite activities (i.e., their passions, Vallerand et al. in J Pers Soc Psychol 85(4):756–767. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.85.4.756, 2003), and how passions and associated thoughts contribute to mental health. In Study 1, 170 participants reported on the valence and frequency of the spontaneous thoughts they tend to have about several activities. Harmonious and obsessive passion both predicted more frequent spontaneous thoughts, but only harmonious passion predicted thought positivity. In Study 2, 232 participants completed measures pertaining to physical activity, spontaneous thoughts, and mental health. As predicted, positivity of spontaneous thoughts about physical activity predicted frequency of physical activity. Further, positivity of spontaneous thoughts about physical activity mediated the relationship between harmonious passion and indices of mental well-being.


Positive emotions Positive spontaneous thoughts Passions Well-being 



Portions of this paper have been presented at conferences. We wish to thank Cara Arizmendi, Ann Firestine, and Patty Van Cappellen for collecting some of the data presented herein, and the members of the UNC Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Laboratory for offering thoughtful comments on an earlier version of the manuscript.


This research was supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to the first author (DGE-1144081) and by the following National Institutes of Health grants awarded to the second author: R01NR012899, R01CA170128, and R01AT007884. R01NR012899 is supported by the NIH Common Fund, which is managed by the NIH Office of the Director/Office of Strategic Communication.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Elise L. Rice and Barbara L. Fredrickson declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Animal Rights

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA

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