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Study Links Long-Term Happiness to Consistent Positive Habits

Study Links Long-Term Happiness to Consistent Positive Habits
Jamie Haleva
Community User2 months ago
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We all know mental well-being is a pressing issue for many groups today, but it's especially notable among university students.

With large numbers of students struggling, it takes a toll on well-being services to deal with the high demand, which can be both expensive and time-consuming.1

In an attempt to deal with this ongoing issue, many universities have begun to offer positive psychology courses that teach students how to be happy.

The goal of these psychology courses is to empower students to strengthen and maintain their own mental health by practicing evidence-based techniques that have been proven to improve subjective well-being. 1

These interventions can improve well-being but importantly, also increase resilience, making it easier for individuals to cope with life’s challenges. 1

A recent review of 27 different happiness courses revealed that 85% confirmed students do report positive effects on their well-being after taking the course.1

However, what hasn’t been studied are the long-term effects—do these students stay happy long-term after learning positive strategies, and if so, what are they doing to maintain their happiness?

A recent study aimed to answer these questions by evaluating if the effects of a positive psychology course endured after a couple of years for students. Let’s see what they found.

The Study

A study titled "Long-term analysis of a psychoeducational course on university students’ mental well-being" looked at the Science of Happiness course offered at the University of Bristol, England. This course covers the nature of happiness and to what extent biology and environment play a role in the individual experience. 1

The course considers the role of genes, cognitive biases, distorted reasoning, brain mechanisms, problem-solving, and the importance of social connection. 1 

The course gives a comprehensive conceptual background combined with practical tips to help students form positive habits and coping strategies.

The goal of the study was to determine if the positive effects of this course are long-lasting. To evaluate this, researchers gave follow-up assessments to students who took the course one to two years later (depending on the class).

228 students responded to the follow-up survey.

The Results

When the students first took the course, they showed improved well-being and reduced levels of anxiety and loneliness. After a couple of years, many students who had taken the course did not continue to show the originally reported benefits at follow-up.

However, 115 of the students (51% of the group) who had continued to practice the recommended activities taught during the course maintained their increased mental well-being long-term. 1 

Some of these activities include writing letters of gratitude to others, meditation, exercise, journaling, and practicing kindness.

The students who reported that they continued to use ‘happiness hacks’ after the course was over showed a significant increase in well-being from pre-course to long-term follow-up, whereas those who didn’t showed no change over time. 1 

So, what does this mean?

Researchers suggest that a major factor in sustaining the benefits of a positive psychology course long-term is consistency. These results align with other long-term studies of healthy lifestyle behaviors like dieting and physical exercise.

The results of these different kinds of studies all support the idea that changing your habits can result in sustained positive psychological outcomes. 1

Take Home Message

There you have it. Students who continued to practice positive psychology activities and happiness hacks after their course were the ones who maintained improved well-being long-term.

Just like with eating healthier or going to the gym, getting results is all about consistency and incorporating positive habits into your routine. So, if you want to be happier, try taking a course on happiness and sticking with the strategies you’re taught, you’ll be happy you did.

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  1. Hobbs, C., Jelbert, S., Santos, L.R. et al.Long-term analysis of a psychoeducational course on university students’ mental well-being. High Educ (2024).
Jamie Haleva
Community User
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A Rutgers University Honors graduate, Jamie grew up on the Jersey shore and double majored in Comparative Literature and Anthropology in college. Jamie is an experienced writer in the health and wellness, biotech, and eCommerce fields. She loves writing with a purpose and has even written for the Department of Justice.

Jamie became drawn to exercise during her time in university and began to notice the physical and mental benefits of moving your body daily. Today, Jamie enjoys Pilates, light weight training, and going on long walks in nature daily.

Jamie is also passionate about eating right and prioritizing gut health and immunity. She is always trying the next innovation in health and wellness. When she’s not writing articles, Jamie enjoys reading, playing guitar, and finding dogs to play with.