A meta-analytic review of 29 studies has concluded that it is possible to increase optimism. The best method? Taking time out to imagine your best possible future self. When repeated daily, this exercise has been found to increase optimism and decrease pessimism, with benefits gradually increasing over time.
Give it a go…
1. Spend 5-10 minutes imagining your ideal future. Imagine that everything has turned out as well as you could possibly conceive. You have worked hard and managed to realise all your life goals, fulfilling your potential in each and every area of your life.
2. Now write down the goals your best possible future self has achieved – personal, professional and relational. You can include anything and everything from running your first marathon to de-cluttering your home.
3. Spend 10 minutes or so merging these goals into an autobiographical story, like a diary. Try to imagine, in as much detail as possible, how you got to this point, avoiding the temptation to self-censor. You won’t need to repeat these first three steps again, unless you decide that you would like to make significant changes to your vision of your best possible self, or feel that you would benefit from refreshing the exercise.
4. Each day from now on, take 5 minutes to envisage your best possible future self, and the life you are leading, in as much detail as possible (e.g. if you have landed your dream job, imagine where it is, who you are working with and exactly what you are doing). Try to engage your senses and emotions so that you can truly imagine what it will be like to live this future life.
Research indicates that optimism levels will continue to increase for at least two weeks if you practise this visualisation exercise daily. You may continue to repeat the exercise daily for as long as you wish, or choose to scale back your practise. Continuing to spend, say, 5 minutes a week envisioning your best possible self may actually help you to maintain a more optimistic outlook long-term.