Contemporary theories of wellbeing have offered an alternative to traditional psychology by emphasizing strengths rather than weaknesses as a means of leveraging growth and improvement. The present study examined whether cost-effective strengths interventions through self-reflection on strengths versus weaknesses, without teaching or feedback, can bring positive outcomes and limit the negative effects that the first university examination period has on first-year students. One hundred and three students were randomly assigned to three conditions: focus on strengths, focus on weaknesses, or focus on neutral experiences. The students kept a weekly written record of their experiences. Participants completed self-report questionnaires examining psychological wellbeing, psychological distress, positive and negative affect, self-esteem, and optimistic and pessimistic views of the future at the beginning and at the end of the intervention. Results indicate that reflecting on strengths for a 5-week period prior to exams prevented the surfacing of negative emotions and distress, as well as a decline in wellbeing due to the impending examination period. The intervention also enhanced feelings of optimism about the future. Baseline levels of self-esteem and positive affect determined who would achieve the greatest improvement in mood by reflecting on strengths. In conclusion, the study findings suggest that awareness-of-strengths interventions elicit more desirable psychological outcomes than do interventions focused on weaknesses or on neutral events. The study also shows that cost-effective, easy-to-administer strengths interventions can produce positive outcomes. Implications for consulting are discussed.
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- Stress reduction
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences (miscellaneous)