Want to become more optimistic, happy and successful? It might sound too good to be true, but recent research suggests you can accomplish all three in just a few minutes a week. It just takes a little visualization…
A study in 2001 asked participants to visualize their best possible self for 4 consecutive days. Here’s an example of the instructions:
Imagine yourself in the future, after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of your life dreams, and of your own best potentials. In all of these cases you are identifying the best possible way that things might turn out in your life, in order to help guide your decisions now.
The researchers found that participants who followed these instructions showed an immediate boost in happiness that lasted at the 3 week follow-up. Participants also reported fewer ailments 5 months later. A subsequent study found visualizing your best possible self boosted positive mood and decreased negative mood to even a greater extent than expressing gratitude. Other studies have found increases in optimism, flow, relatedness, and decreases in dysfunctional cognitions.
Writing about one’s possible self has the added benefit of making it more likely that you’ll become more successful. As happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky said, imagining your best possible self is “likely to improve self-regulation because it allows an opportunity to learn about oneself, to illuminate and restructure one’s priorities, and to gain better insight into one’s motives and emotions.” Helping yourself understand exactly what it is you want is a great first step on the way to achieving your goals.
So take a few minutes a night, or once a week, to image your best possible self. Don’t necessarily picture the same thing every night. Think of yourself 1, 5 and 20 years from now. Think about your career, friends and family and romantic life. And don’t stop there. Also, imagine what you need to do to realize your best possible self and start acting!