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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Enhancing the Effects of Happiness-Boosting Activities: The Role of Autonomy Support in an Experimental Longitudinal Intervention

  • Author(s): Della Porta, Matthew David
  • Advisor(s): Lyubomirsky, Sonja
  • et al.

Previous studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of positive activities to enhance well–being (see Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009, for a meta-analysis), but an inexpensive, standardized approach to optimizing the success of such activities has yet to be developed. A 6–week randomized experimental longitudinal study tested the effect of supporting the basic human need of autonomy (Deci & Ryan, 2000) on the efficacy of practicing a happiness–boosting activity (doing acts of kindness). A novel autonomy support manipulation involving weekly electronic messages was developed for this purpose. As predicted, performing acts of kindness while receiving autonomy support was more effective than performing this strategy without autonomy support or focusing on one’s academic work (with or without autonomy support). Also, intrinsic motivation was found to underlie the success of autonomously supported acts of kindness. The benefits of providing autonomy–supportive environments when administering positive interventions in applied settings are discussed.

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