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Imagining a "Best Possible Self" to Generate Optimism

10 Oct

Because optimism is a personality trait shown to correlate strongly with psychological and physical well-being, researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands, investigated whether optimism can be increased by imagining a “Best Possible Self” (BPS).
Effects were compared to a control group in which participants imagined their daily activities (DA).  In order to minimize inter-individual differences in content of imagery, participants constructed their BPS according to 3 domains:  personal, relational, and professional.  All participants were instructed to practice their imagery exercise for 5 min per day over a period of two weeks.  Effects on optimism and mood were measured after one session, after one week and after two weeks.

Results indicated that BPS imagery led to significantly larger increases in optimism as compared to DA imagery, after one session and over a two week period. Effects on optimism remained after controlling for possible mediation by the change in positive mood.

One limitation of this study is that it relies exclusively on self-report measures. However, that said, the results suggest that imagining a "Best Possible Self" enhances levels of optimism, independent of the mood effect.

Citation:  Meevissen YM, Peters ML, Alberts HJ. Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: effects of a two week intervention. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;42 (3):pages 371-8. Epub 2011 Mar 2. 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