Positive interventions: An emotion regulation perspective

Psychol Bull. 2015 May;141(3):655-93. doi: 10.1037/a0038648. Epub 2015 Jan 26.


The rapid growth of the literature on positive interventions to increase "happiness" has suggested the need for an overarching conceptual framework to integrate the many and apparently disparate findings. In this review, we used the process model of emotion regulation (Gross, 1998) to organize the existing literature on positive interventions and to advance theory by clarifying the mechanisms underlying their effectiveness. We have proposed that positive emotions can be increased both in the short- and longer-term through 5 families of emotion regulation strategies (i.e., situation selection, situation modification, attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation), showing how these emotion regulation strategies can be applied before, during, and after positive emotional events. Regarding short-term increases in positive emotions, our review found that attentional deployment, cognitive change, and response modulation strategies have received the most empirical support, whereas more work is needed to establish the effectiveness of situation selection and situation modification strategies. Regarding longer-term increases in positive emotions, strategies such as situation selection during an event and attentional deployment before, during, and after an event have received strong empirical support and are at the center of many positive interventions. However, more work is needed to establish the specific benefits of the other strategies, especially situation modification. We argue that our emotion regulation framework clarifies existing interventions and points the way for new interventions that might be used to increase positive emotions in both nonclinical and clinical populations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Self-Control / psychology*