Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Jonathan Rottenberg

Keywords

Affect, Anxiety, Comorbidity, Intervention, Resilience, Savoring

Abstract

A growing literature suggests that experiencing positive emotions provides psychological benefits (e.g., Coifman et al. 2007), and interventions increasing positive emotions may reduce depression risk (Geschwind et al., 2011). The present study tested whether reminiscence, a method of positive emotion savoring (Quoidbach et al., 2010), can mitigate depression risk by increasing positive emotions in an unselected sample and a subsample of at-risk anxious individuals. Female participants (n=336) were randomized to a reminiscence or control condition and asked to complete daily mental imagery exercises focusing on a positive memory (reminiscence) or a neutral laboratory memory (control) for one week. As expected, reminiscence exercises produced immediate positive emotion increases compared to control exercises. Contrary to prediction, reminiscence participants did not report higher positive affect or lower depression symptoms at the end of the study week or one month follow up period compared to controls. Future studies in treatment-seeking samples are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn about the long term affective benefits of reminiscence in at-risk or clinical populations. Findings in the anxious subsample revealed no greater benefit of reminiscence versus neutral mental imagery for those with high anxiety. However, across both conditions, anxiety was a strong predictor of positive emotional functioning, with high anxiety predicting low positive emotions even after accounting for depression symptoms. These findings add to prior work suggesting anxiety can blunt positive emotional functioning, and warrant future studies to further elucidate the impact of anxiety on positive emotional functioning and the potential utility of intervening on positive emotions in anxious individuals.

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