Strength-Based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression

Abstract

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.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    Signature strengths are those strengths that are typical for a person and that truly represent the strengths-constitution of a person; they are pursued on the basis of intrinsic motivation. It is assumed that people typically possess between three and seven signature strengths (Peterson and Seligman 2004).

  2. 2.

    Results were highly similar if dropouts were computed on the basis of those participants who were assigned to an intervention group.

  3. 3.

    Overall repeated measurement analyses of variance with gender as independent variable and happiness or depressive symptoms as dependents variables yielded no interaction effect between gender and time (AHI: F[4, 2480] = 0.58, p = 68; CES-D: F[4, 2480] = 0.31, p = .87). Therefore, we did not control for gender or exclude the males from the placebo control group in comparisons with groups that consisted only of female participants.

  4. 4.

    Comparing the number of participants who improved from above to below the cutoff in each group separately with the placebo control group via a Chi-square test yielded seven out of nine comparisons significant (exceptions were IG2, and IG7).

  5. 5.

    Comparing the participants who conducted the interventions only for one week (n = 133) to those who indicated on every follow-up that they continued with the intervention before each follow-up (n = 202).

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Fabian Gander.

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Gander, F., Proyer, R.T., Ruch, W. et al. Strength-Based Positive Interventions: Further Evidence for Their Potential in Enhancing Well-Being and Alleviating Depression. J Happiness Stud 14, 1241–1259 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10902-012-9380-0

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Keywords

  • Positive psychology
  • Well-being
  • Positive interventions
  • Character strengths