The comparative efficacy of a mindfulness and gratitude intervention in alleviating depressive symptoms and the moderating role of gratitude as a trait
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The efficacy of two brief positive psychology interventions (PPIs) in reducing depressive symptoms was examined in an Internet-based randomized, controlled study. The aims of the study were to: (1) determine what elements of positive psychology could be used in addition to traditional clinical interventions; (2) assess the comparative efficacy of a mindfulness and gratitude intervention in alleviating depression; and (3) investigate the moderating role of trait gratitude. Hypothesized was that both the mindfulness and gratitude intervention would alleviate depressive symptoms. The mindfulness intervention was expected to be superior over the gratitude intervention. Moreover, it was hypothesized that trait gratitude would show a negative relationship with depressive symptoms. Finally, a moderating effect of trait gratitude was expected. A total of 217 adults was allocated to a gratitude, mindfulness, or control condition, and completed an online questionnaire measuring depressive symptoms pre- and post intervention. Trait gratitude was measured pre intervention only. Hypotheses about the efficacy of the mindfulness- and gratitude interventions were confirmed, although no intervention appeared superior. Depressive symptoms substantively decreased in all groups, including the control group. A negative relationship between trait gratitude and depressive symptoms also confirmed hypotheses. The hypothesis about the moderating role of trait gratitude was rejected. Although methodological issues warrant cautious interpretation, evidence for the efficacy of PPIs was found. Practitioners are encouraged to integrate PPIs into their clinical practice. Recommendations for future research include use of a formally diagnosed depressed sample with an equal gender distribution, and a more neutral control condition.