Only few studies have addressed the question of why positive psychology interventions are effective. One mechanism that has been proposed is positive emotions. The present study aimed at; (1) testing whether positive interventions are effective in eliciting positive emotions; (2) testing what positive emotions are elicited by common positive interventions; and (3) testing the impact of positive emotions on well-being.
In a randomized online intervention study, we compared the “three good things”-intervention (n = 70), and the “three funny things”-intervention (n = 57) with a placebo control condition (“early memories”; n = 54). Positive emotions were assessed daily during and after the week of the intervention. Additionally, well-being was assessed before, directly after, and one week after the intervention.
Participants in the intervention conditions reported increases in well-being compared to the placebo control condition. Further, results showed that a higher intensity and variability of positive emotions was observed in the intervention conditions than in the control condition. Finally, the increases in well-being in the intervention conditions were positively associated with the intensity and variability of positive emotions.
The present study provides empirical evidence that positive emotions play a central role in the effectiveness of positive interventions.