There is no universal approach to building personal well-being, according to new study from Flinders University. The researchers have conducted the largest ever meta-analysis of well-being studies from around the world.
The analysis involved more than 400 clinical trials and over 50,000 participants. The individuals were divided into three main groups characterized by general good health, physical illness, or mental illness.
The results of the study indicate that while it is possible to build the well-being of all individuals, there is no single solution that fits everyone.
“During stressful and uncertain periods in our lives, pro-actively working on our mental health is crucial to help mitigate the risk of mental and physical illness,” said study co-author Joep Van Agteren of the SAHMRI Wellbeing and Resilience Centre.
“Our research suggests there are numerous psychological approaches people should experiment with to determine what works for them.”
Across all three groups, techniques such as meditation and conscious breathing, as well as practicing mindfulness, were found to be effective.
Positive psychological interventions, such as keeping a gratitude journal and performing small acts of kindness, were found to successfully build well-being when used simultaneously. However, these interventions were not found to be effective on their own.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) proved to be beneficial for many people with mental illness, while acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) was most useful for those in generally good health.
Study co-author Matthew Iasiello noted that all of the interventions share a common need for consistent and prolonged practice in order to successfully improve well-being.
“Just trying something once or twice isn’t enough to have a measurable impact. Regardless of what method people are trying out, they need to stick at it for weeks and months at a time for it to have a real effect,” said Iasiello.
Dr. Michael Kyrios is a clinical psychologist in the Órama Institute for Mental Health and Wellbeing at Flinders University. He said the study shows that in addition to seeking out professional help when distressed, there are many practical steps people can take to improve their well-being and prevent mental health problems.
“Implementing such interventions can be done safely for individuals on their own or in a group format, either in person or online,” said Dr. Kyrios. “It is therefore potentially a cost-effective addition to current referral pathways and treatment methods.”
According to the researchers, the results highlight the need for a change of tactics in how society cares for people’s well-being, whether they are living with a mental illness or not.
“We need to take everyone’s well-being seriously and ensure we’re taking the necessary steps to improve mental and physical health so we can prevent future complications for ourselves and keep healthcare costs down,” said Dr. Kyrios.
The study is published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.