Strength-Based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression
The impact of nine strengths-based positive interventions on well-being and depression was examined in an Internet-based randomized placebo-controlled study. The aims of the study were to: (1) replicate findings on the effectiveness of the gratitude visit, three good things, and using character strengths interventions; (2) test variants of interventions (noting three good things for 2 weeks; combining the gratitude visit and three good things interventions; and noting three funny things for a week); and (3) test the effectiveness of the counting kindness, gift of time, and another door opens-interventions in an online setting. A total of 622 adults subjected themselves to one of the nine interventions or to a placebo control exercise (early memories) and thereafter estimated their degrees of happiness and depression at five times (pre- and post-test, 1-, 3-,
and 6 months follow-up). Eight of the nine interventions increased happiness; depression was decreased in all groups, including the placebo control group. We conclude that happiness can be enhanced through some “strengths-based” interventions. Possible mechanisms for the effectiveness of the interventions are discussed.
KeywordsPositive psychology Well-being Positive interventions Character strengths
The preparation of the manuscript has been facilitated by a research grant of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF; No. 132512), and the Suzanne and Hans Biäsch Foundation for Research in Applied Psychology. The authors wish to thank Katharina Klohe and Frank A. Rodden for proofreading the manuscript.
- Coyne, I., & Bartram, D. (2006). ITC guidelines on computer-based and internet-delivered testing. International Journal of Testing, 6. doi: 10.1207/s15327574ijt0602_3.
- Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (in press). The good character at work: An initial study on the contribution of character strengths in identifying healthy and unhealthy work-related behavior and experience patterns. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health. doi: 10.1007/s00420-012-0736-x.
- Güsewell, A., & Ruch, W. (2012). Are only emotional strengths emotional? Character strengths and disposition to positive emotions. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 4, 218–239. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2012.01070.x.
- Hautzinger, M., & Bailer, M. (1993). Allgemeine Depressionsskala (ADS) [General Depression Scale]. Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
- IWG. (2006). Personal Wellbeing Index. Melbourne: International Wellbeing Group. Australian Centre on Quality of Life, Deakin University.Google Scholar
- McGhee, P. E. (2010). Humor as a survival training for a stressed-out world: The 7 humor habits program. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.Google Scholar
- Mitchell, J., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Klein, B. (2010). Positive psychology and the internet: A mental health opportunity. Electronic Journal of Applied Psychology, 6(2), 30–41.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C., Park, N., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005a). Assessment of character strengths. In G. P. Koocher, J. C. Norcross, & S. S. Hill III (Eds.), Psychologists’ desk reference (2nd ed., pp. 93–98). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. Washington, DC: APA.Google Scholar
- Proyer, R. T., Gander, W., Wyss, T., & Ruch, W. (2011). The relation of character strengths to past, present, and future life satisfaction among German-speaking women. Applied Psychology: Health and Well Being. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-0854.2011.01060.x.
- Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Buschor, C. (in press). A preliminary study on strengths-based interventions: The effectiveness of a program targeting curiosity, gratitude, hope, humor, and zest for enhancing life satisfaction. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9331-9.
- Rashid, T., & Anjum, A. (2008). Positive psychotherapy for young adults and children. In J. R. Z. Abela & B. L. Hankin (Eds.), Handbook of depression in children and adolescents (pp. 250–287). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W. (1993). Exhilaration and humor. In M. Lewis & J. M. Haviland (Eds.), The handbook of emotions (pp. 605–616). New York, NY: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W. (2008). Psychology of humor. In V. Raskin (Ed.), The primer of humor research (pp. 17–100). Berlin, Germany: de Gruyter.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W. (2009). Amusement. In D. Sander & K. Scherer (Eds.), The Oxford companion to the affective sciences (pp. 27–28). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Ruch, W., Proyer, R. T., Harzer, C., Park, N., Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2010a). Adaptation and validation of the German version of the Values in Action Inventory of Strengths (VIA-IS) and the development of a peer-rating form. Journal of Individual Differences, 31, 138–149. doi: 10.1027/1614-0001/a000022.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Ruch, W., Rodden, F. A., & Proyer, R. T. (2011). Humor and other positive interventions in medical and therapeutic settings. In B. Kirkcaldy (Ed.), The art and science of health care: Psychology and human factors for practitioners (pp. 277–294). Göttingen, Germany: Hogrefe.Google Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2002). Authentic happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Seligman, M. E. P. (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
- Senf, K., & Liau, A. (in press). The effects of positive interventions on happiness and depressive symptoms, with an examination of personality as a moderator. Journal of Happiness Studies. doi: 10.1007/s10902-012-9344-4.