Do self-administered positive psychology exercises work in persons in recovery from problematic substance use? An online randomized survey
Publication date: Available online 8 January 2019
Source: Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment
Author(s): Bettina B. Hoeppner, Melissa R. Schick, Hannah Carlon, Susanne S. Hoeppner
Quality of life and psychological well-being are increasingly being recognized as important factors in and outcomes of substance use treatment. Very little empirical evidence exists, however, to indicate if and how positive psychological outcomes could be targeted within treatment. Using a randomized survey administered online, we examined 5 brief, self-administered happiness exercises, and tested if completion of these exercises resulted in increases in in-the-moment happiness compared to 2 control exercises. Participants were n = 531 adults describing themselves as seeking or being in recovery from problematic substance use, who were recruited online from recovery-focused websites. Participants rated in-the-moment happiness immediately pre- and post-completing randomized text-entry-based exercises. Results indicate that in-the-moment happiness increased in participants randomized to happiness exercises while it decreased in controls (F(1, 444) = 9.94, p = 0.0017). Greatest pre-post increases in happiness were observed for the “Reliving Happy Moments” exercise (gav = 0.15), followed by “Savoring” (gav = 0.09) and “Rose, Thorn, Bud” (gav = 0.07). Our modified “3 Good Things” exercises performed relatively poorly (gav = 0.02). The control exercise “3 Hard Things” resulted in the greatest negative pre-post difference (gav = −0.10). Exercises took on average 4 ± 4 min to complete and most participants (93%) felt they could complete them as part of their daily routine. Effectiveness, ease of use, and positive views of the tested brief, self-administered positive psychology exercises render them promising tools to bolster happiness during treatment, which may have utility in supporting long-term recovery. Observed decreases in happiness in response to the “3 Hard Things” exercise underscore the importance of offsetting the challenges of recovery with positive experiences.
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