Does the Three Good Things Exercise Really Make People More Positive and Less Depressed? A study in Japan

Author Name SEKIZAWA Yoichi  (Senior Fellow, RIETI) /YOSHITAKE Naomi  (Ochanomizu University)
Creation Date/NO. January 2015 15-E-001
Research Project Research Project on Mental Health from the Perspective of Human Capital
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Objective: Seligman, Steen, Park, and Peterson (2005) reported that people who wrote down three good things (TGT) for a week exhibited significantly greater happiness and less depression. An online study was conducted to examine whether performing a similar exercise reduces depressive symptoms and increases positive affect (PA) in the Japanese population.

Methods: One thousand Japanese adults were randomly assigned to the TGT group or the control group. Participants in the TGT group were instructed to perform the TGT exercise at least twice a week for four weeks, whereas participants in the control group were told to record three past events.

Results: An increase in PA was observed in the TGT group at the post-test, but not at the one-month follow-up. There were no significant changes in depressive symptoms at the post-test or the one-month follow up in either group. Participants in the TGT group exhibited a significant increase in general trust at both the post-test and the one-month follow-up. A significant increase in this variable at the one-month follow-up was also observed in control participants.

Conclusion: Performing the TGT exercise increases PA, but this increase is temporary. The TGT exercise may be effective in enhancing general trust.

This is the English version of the Japanese Discussion Paper (13-J-073) with some additional information and changes.