Positive interventions have previously been shown to have a positive effect on those involved in these types of activities. This investigation hypothesized that performing kind acts and noting gratitude would have a positive effect on happiness as measured by self-esteem. Further, it was predicted that differences would be observed based on several factors: experimental condition, gender, and religious commitment. Participants (N=30) from a large, northeastern, urban university participated in an experiment in which positive interventions were performed daily for one week. Pre-test and post-test measures of happiness were obtained. The findings confirmed an increase in happiness following both interventions. However, the differences predicted based on the factors investigated were not observed.
Keywords: kind acts, gratitude, happiness, well-being, gender, religion, self-esteem
Along with life and liberty, the pursuit of happiness is among the most fundamental ideals in American society. The men who founded the United States of America in the late 18th century listed these three values as “unalienable rights” for the citizens of the new nation they created. In a recent study looking at the pursuit of happiness, Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade stated, “If it is meaningful and important to pursue happiness, then it is crucial to find out how this can be accomplished” (2005, p. 126). In later work, Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2006) observed that little research has been done to uncover the exact methods in which happiness increases. The views offered in these prior projects are vital to the current investigation because there is evidence that even though happiness is pursued, happiness is not accomplished by the majority of Americans. A Harris Poll, recently published by Harris Interactive (2013), revealed that only 33% of Americans are very happy. This infers that over 200,000,000 Americans may be able to attain greater happiness. Sin and Lyubomirsky (2009) reported that people in individualist cultures (of which the United States is a clear example) benefit more from positive psychological interventions. Therefore, the current research aims to increase the knowledge base about the most efficient methods to increase happiness for a population that can substantially benefit from the information.
Previous work has shown that performing positive activities, such as acts of kindness and the noting of gratitude, can positively affect well-being. Buchanan and Bardi (2010) found support for increases in life satisfaction and well-being from performing acts of kindness. Emmons and McCollough (2003) identified increases in positive affect and decreases in negative affect through gratitude listing. However, clear evidence in support of greater beneficence in one of these methods over the other does not exist. In aiming to obtain this “crucial” evidence, the current study compares the changes in happiness related to these two...