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Hands Typing

Positive Affect Journaling 

Role: Co-Investigator 

Status: Completed 


Funding Sources: Penn State Social Sciences Research Institute (SSRI)



Positive affect journaling (PAJ) is an emotion-focused self-regulation intervention that has a history of positive outcomes among several medical populations. Importantly, PAJ may be adapted for Web-based dissemination to address a need for scalable, evidence-based psychosocial interventions among distressed patients.


Purpose. This study aimed to examine the impact of a 12-week Web-based PAJ intervention on psychological distress and quality of life in general medical patients.


Methods. 70 adult patients with various medical conditions and elevated anxiety symptoms were recruited from local clinics and randomly assigned to a Web-based PAJ intervention (n=35) or usual care (n=35). The PAJ intervention group completed Web-based PAJ sessions for 15 minutes on 3 days each week for 12 weeks. Psychological, interpersonal, and physical well-being were assessed via survey at baseline and at the end of months 1-3.


Results. Patients were moderately adherent to the intervention. PAJ was associated with decreased mental distress and increased well-being compared to baseline levels. Compared to usual care treatment, PAJ was associated with fewer depressive symptoms and anxiety after 1 month and greater resilience after the first and second month.


Conclusions. Web-based PAJ has potential to be an effective intervention for mitigating distress, increasing well-being, and even enhancing physical functioning among a broad range of medical populations. Further, it is possible for PAJ to be integrated into routine medical practice in order to improve quality of life.

To learn more about the study, check out our publication (2018) (PDF download) in JMIR Mental Health

In the media: I briefly talk about the benefits of PAJ in a news article exploring expressive writing as a stress coping method during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Want to try expressive writing for free? I recommend visiting the PandemicProject site for access to several expressive writing prompts. 


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