Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: effects of a two week intervention

J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2011 Sep;42(3):371-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jbtep.2011.02.012. Epub 2011 Mar 2.


Background and objectives: Optimism is a personality trait which has repeatedly been shown to correlate with, and predict psychological and physical well-being. The present study 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).

Methods: In order to minimize inter-individual differences in content of imagery, participants constructed their BPS according to 3 domains, namely a personal, relational, and professional domain. 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: 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.

Limitations: In order to test the effectiveness of our BPS imagery intervention we relied exclusively on self-report measures.

Conclusion: The present study confirmed that imagining a BPS enhances levels of optimism, independent of the mood effect.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagery, Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Male
  • Motivation
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology*
  • Neurotic Disorders / therapy*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personality*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Self Report