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Research Journal Article on Positive Psychology

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Research Journal article

Positive Psychology is the study of positive emotion, positive character, and positive institutions. Positive psychologists have enhanced our understanding of how, why, and under what conditions positive emotions, positive character, and the institutions that enable them flourish. This article examines whether mildly depressed individuals can become lastingly happier, and presents results from a happiness intervention that was tested with a randomized, placebo controlled design.

Certain psychological interventions are said to increase individual happiness. Happiness is defined by Seligman as positive emotion and pleasure (the pleasant life), engagement (the engaged life) and meaning (the meaningful life). Recent research has suggested that people differ according to the type of life that they pursue. It is said that the people who are most satisfied are those who orient their lives around all three, with a particular focus on engagement and meaning.

In order to measure depression, this study used the Center for Epidemiological Studies-Depression Scale (CES-D) symptom survey. In order to examine week-by-week changes in happiness a new measure was created and used, the Steen Happiness Index (SHI). The SHI contains 20 items and allows participants to read a series of statements and pick one from each group that describes them at that moment. Each item on the SHI reflects the three kinds of happy lives (the pleasant life, the engaged life and the meaningful life).

Participants were recruited via the internet, where they were given the intervention and data was collected. Five happiness exercises and one placebo control exercise was developed. One of the exercises focused on building gratitude, two focused on increasing awareness of what is most positive about oneself, and two focused on identifying strengths of character. Participants were then followed for six months, and had their symptoms of depression and happiness measured along the way.

In the placebo control exercise: (early memories) participants were asked to write about their earliest memories every night for one week. In the gratitude visit exercise, participants were given one week to write a letter and deliver this letter of gratitude to someone who they have not properly thanked for something that they have done for them. Three good things in life consisted of participants writing down three good things that went well each day, and write and explanation for each good thing. You at your best exercise had participants write about a time when they were at their best and then reflect on the particular personal strengths that were displayed in the story. Using signature strengths in a new way asked participants to take an inventory of character strengths online in which they received feedback about their top five strengths. They were then asked to use these top strengths in a new and different way every day for a week. Lastly, identifying signature strengths was similar to the previous exercise. However, participants were not asked to use their strengths in new and different ways, they just had to use them more often throughout the week.

It was found that the exercises using signature strengths in a new way and three good things increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for the six months they were practiced. The exercise gratitude visit caused large positive changes for one month of the intervention. The two other exercises assigned



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