The content analysis of the focus group discussion to evaluate
a positive psychology intervention (the three good things exercise)
identified four principal themes:
a. Theme1: Identifying positives when things are hectic
indicates that the three good things exercise helped academics
to find positives in a day when their work did not go as well as
expected. Therefore, the positive psychology intervention was
useful and practical in assisting participants to find positives no
matter how small or big in terms of importance and this made them
b. Theme 2: The positive consequences of the three good
things represents how this exercise changed academics’ awareness/
perception of the events. Initially it was easy for them to write about
their negative experiences of a day, but the exercise helped them
to stop and think about how to find positive things in their day.
Seligman, Rashid and Peterson (2005) found that the three good
things exercise can help people to finish their day by shifting from
the negative aspect of event to a positive and enjoyable memory of
the event and that seems to have occurred with this group.
c. Theme 3: The negative aspects of practicing the three good
things specifies some problems that academics experienced during
the five day positive psychology intervention. For example finding a
third good thing has been identified as a hard part of this task for all
academics. The intervention was quite new for all the participants
and it was only a five-day exercise; it can therefore be argued that,
if the length of the intervention was longer they could possibly
cope better and improved at doing it. Academics also found that
identifying the reasons behind good events was problematic. It
could be hard to attribute the good things to internal or external
sources. These difficulties might be related to cultural differences
as the three good things exercise is very American with its focus
on positivity, very representative of a culture that tells you, “Have
a nice day” all the time and that this enforced positivity might
seem a little strange to British audience as indeed it did. Some of
the participants found it difficult to identify more than one positive
thing and mentioned that it was not what they normally did.
However, the group did adjust to the demands of the exercise quite
quickly suggesting that it was not a big issue.
d. Theme 4: Persistence of the exercise revealed that some
academics are devoted to continue the exercise in the future as it
helped them to think positively and made them aware that there are
some positive things in their daily lives that needed to be identified.
Similarly, Sheldon and Lyubomirsky (2007) found participants’
self-reports of continued practice of positive activities after the
intervention period can predict sustained increases in positive
affect at a two week follow-up (Layous & Lyubomirsky, 2011).
Conversely some academics thought it was a good exercise for
them but they preferred to do when they need it, for example when
they feel stressed, not as a regular exercise. Research suggests that
increasing positive emotions during a stressful time is regarded as
an adaptive coping strategy (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2000, 2004;
cited in Layous & Lyubomirsky, 2011). The participants were not
asked to continue their exercise after the post assessment. It is
therefore not clear whether any of them continued the exercise
between post-assessment and the two week follow-up. However, as
the sample size was quite small, it is not significant whether they
continue their exercise or not.