Simple ways to improve well-being

| July 4, 2014

Most of the research into well-being concentrates on if and how it can be increased. Justin Cole is part of a team studying the effectiveness of self-help exercises as methods for improving well-being.

During the past few decades, psychologists have become increasingly interested in well-being (i.e. life satisfaction, happiness, and the experience of positive and negative emotions). There are numerous explanations for this psychological construct rising in popularity.

For instance, high well-being is considered to be a desirable outcome in and of itself. This has been demonstrated reliably in numerous international studies which have asserted that most people around the world report wanting to feel happier. Furthermore, high well-being has many indirect benefits. This includes well-being having a strong, positive and often predictive relationship with an array of beneficial life outcomes (i.e. related to employment, love and health), as well as desirable characteristics and behaviours (e.g. prosocial perspectives, sociability, adaptive coping, and positive perceptions of self and others).

To date, a predominant focus of the research on this topic has related to if and how well-being may be effectively improved, particularly by undertaking specific behavioural, cognitive and volitional activities. The activities utilised in research have been quite varied, for example visualising an optimistic future, writing gratitude lists, performing acts of kindness, interpreting negative experiences with a self-compassionate perspective, writing letters of forgiveness, and so forth.

Generally speaking, empirical data indicates that these methods appear promising; however, many of these techniques (and their underlying constructs) are still relatively new and require further validation.

In line with this research focus, Dr James Schuurmans-Stekhoven and I are currently undertaking a study on the effectiveness of brief self-help exercises as methods for improving well-being. Overall, their study has three stages in which participants are asked to:

1. complete an online questionnaire (this takes approximately 20-30 minutes);
2. regularly undertake an assigned brief self-help activity during a two-week timeframe; and
3. complete a final online questionnaire (this takes approximately 10-15 minutes).

A possible benefit of taking part in this research is that participants may learn practical methods of increasing their well-being. Coupled with this, participants may gain more insight into their own perspectives and attitudes toward themselves, other people and the world. In addition, involvement in this study will help further develop useful findings and conclusions on this important topic.

It should be noted that participation in this study is completely voluntary and participants may withdraw at any time. Additionally, all participant involvement will be treated as confidential.  Similarly, any unique/identifying information collected will be stored securely and excluded during data analysis/reporting so that all participants are anonymous.

If you, or someone you know, are interested in being a part of this research, then you can find an invite and the full study information here.