This study was conducted to see if a short course of positive thinking in individuals could increase their optimism. The positive thinking exercise involved imagining one’s best possible self (BPS), followed by positive mental imagery, or imagining the best for oneself. Positive thinkers were compared to control participants, who imagined a typical ordinary day in their life. Those who spent time thinking positively about their future had more optimistic expectations about their future.
The authors of this study define “optimism” as the tendency of a person to “believe that one will generally experience good outcomes in life.” Earlier studies have shown that those who are more optimistic report a better mood and have more positive thoughts. In general, they have a better sense of well-being. Studies are in progress to find methods to increase optimism in a person. This would not only improve the mood and well-being of individuals, but advanced future research into positive thinking. It would essentially establish a connection between “thinking positive” and “being positive.” This study aimed to see if a temporary intervention of positive thinking could change one’s mood and induce a more optimistic mindset.
* The experiment involved 31 males and 51 females, aged 21 to 50 years.
* The participants were randomly divided into two groups, the intervention group which thought positive thoughts, and the control group which thought neutral thoughts.
* The positive thinkers (44 participants) were asked to write about one of their best days, or best things, for 15 minutes. They then were instructed to imagine for five minutes a positive situation that was best for them. The participants in the control group (38 participants) were asked to imagine and write about one of their normal, ordinary days.
* Both before and after the test, the moods and state-of-mind of all the participants were assessed.
* Positive thinkers were influenced positively by the experiment, and showed more optimism for the future than the control thinkers did.
* The effects of positive thinking were consistent in participants who were either optimistic or pessimistic at the beginning of the study.
* The participants who were prone to negative thinking at the beginning showed the maximum benefit with this experiment, the largest reduction occurring in their “negative future thinking.”
The authors concede that this study is too short, and long-term effects of positive thinking on an individual’s optimism and well-being remain known. They suggest that further studies examine the effects of repeated sessions of positive thinking, imagining and writing, to assess their effects on optimism and outlook.
This study shows that a brief session of positive thinking and imagination stimulates optimistic expectations of the future, apart from inducing a positive mood temporarily. The authors maintain that optimism is, in general, a personal trait that an individual inherits or develops due to experiences during childhood. They add that actual positive outcomes in life may be necessary for an optimistic view of life, rather than just imagining positive outcomes. Researchers warn that too much optimism induced by positive thinking in already optimistic individuals might do more harm than good by increasing over-confidence and risky behavior.
For More Information:
Manipulating Optimism: Can Imagining a Best Possible Self be Used to Increase Positive Future Expectancies?
Publication Journal: The Journal of Positive Psychology, May 2010
By Madelon L. Peters; Ida K. Flink, et al.; The Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands, and the Örebro University, Örebro, Sweden