Aim: Imagining and writing about a best possible self (BPS) has been shown to increase wellbeing, positive emotions and optimism, while alleviating depressive symptoms. The current study advances this research by testing context effects in the delivery of BPS on levels of stress and mood in a sample of Irish college students.
Method: 100 college students were randomised to the BPS interventions (n = 50), or to a placebo control condition, consisting of writing about their Typical Day (n= 50). In addition, each group was randomised to receive an enhanced (e.g. warm, caring) researcher-client interaction or a limited (e.g. formal, cold) interaction.
Stress was measured using the Perceived Stress Scale, Systolic and diastolic blood pressure were measured using a digital blood pressure monitor, and mood was assessed using the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS). Evaluation of the interaction was assessed using the Consultation and Emotional Empathy scale (CARE).
Results: Participants in both the intervention and the control group had significant increases in positive mood and decreases in perceived stress, systolic blood pressure and negative mood. However, there was no significant difference between the BPS and the control group. In addition, these effects were not maintained at the two week follow-up. The way in which these interventions are delivered can influence their effectiveness.Conclusion: Further research should include a no-treatment control group and include qualitative analysis to further understand the experience of these activities.