When you take a minute to think about life, all we really want and need is to be happy and healthy. Happiness and good health, although equally important to us, may seem like independent goals. But studies have shown that caring for our psychological wellbeing while also employing a positive outlook on our lives, can lead to significant improvements in our physical wellbeing.
“Our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health.”— Kostadin Kushlev, professor at Georgetown University’s Department of Psychology
Researchers from the University of Virginia and the University of British Columbia gathered a sample of 155 adults between the ages of 25 and 75. With this group of people, they divided them into two groups: wait-list control condition and a 12-week positive psychological intervention which focused on three different sources of happiness: “Core Self”, “Experiential Self”, and “Social Self”.
The “Core Self” (weeks 1-3) addressed individuals’ personal values, strengths, and goals. The “Experiential Self” phase (weeks 4-9) looked at emotion regulation and mindfulness, and also provided participants with a means of spotting maladaptive ways of thinking. The final phase, the “Social Self” (weeks 10-12), taught participants about gratitude, how to elicit positive interactions, and engage more with their community.
These phases were spread across different modules taught by either a trained clinician or completed individually using an online platform.
The results were conclusive, to say the least.
The participants who placed in the intervention noted increasing levels of subjective wellbeing or general happiness over the course of the 12-week program. The same group also reported having fewer sick days than the control participants throughout the program and even three months after it ended.
Kushlev noted that these results have shone a light on the potential of introducing intervention programs to environments such as campuses “…to help increase happiness and promote better mental health among students.”