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Can Tools to Imagine Positive Future Events Make Us More Optimistic?

14 Oct

Researchers from the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, took a first step in identifying a cognitive marker for optimism that could provide a modifiable target for innovative interventions to promote optimism, which research has already shown can benefit general well-being and mental and physical health.
They hypothesized that the ability to generate vivid positive mental imagery of the future would be associated with an optimistic disposition.

A community sample of 237 participants completed a survey comprising measures of mental imagery and optimism, along with socio-demographic information.

Vividness of positive future imagery was significantly associated with optimism, even when adjusting for socio-demographic factors and everyday imagery use.
The researchers conclude that an ability to generate vivid mental imagery of positive future events may provide a modifiable cognitive marker of optimism.  And therefore strategies that boost positive future imagery could provide a target for treatment innovations to promote optimism, with implications for mental health and even physical well-being.

Citation: Blackwell SE, Rius-Ottenheim N, Schulte-van Maaren YW, Carlier IV, Middelkoop VD, Zitman FG, Spinhoven P, Holmes EA, Giltay EJ. Optimism and mental imagery: a possible cognitive marker to promote well-being? Psychiatry Research. 2013 Mar 30;206(1):56-61. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award