Posts Tagged ‘optimism’

One activity that has been suggested by researchers to improve your happiness has been to increase your gratitude. Another suggestion involves thinking about your life in the future and visualizing living it as “your best possible self.” Researchers point out that they are not referring to fantasies or dreams, but rather realistic and achievable visualizations.

Several studies provide support for this proposition. In one study people who wrote for 20 minutes a day about how they wanted their life to be in the future experienced increases in a positive mood compared to people who wrote about neutral topics. The results were replicated in longer studies as well, demonstrating that “visualizing your best possible self” over a period of time appears to be an effective technique for improving happiness.

Researchers say there are two explanations for the results.

First, they say the visualization fosters an optimistic mindset, which in turn creates a positive image of yourself and with it an enhanced sense of purpose and meaning. Second, writing down your dreams for the future helps you logically formulate the story you want to unfold.

In other words, to be happier, think about what you want to become, then write it down.


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Researchers think they have found the location of our optimistic view of the future deep within our brains.

In an article published in Nature magazine, co-authors, Elizabeth Phelps of New York University and Tali Sharot of University College London say that a small front part of the mid-brain (which is deep behind the eyes) activates when people are thinking optimistically about future events. The more optimistic the thoughts, the more activity in that area of the brain.

Researchers also say that same area of the brain seems to malfunction in people suffering with depression.

Fifteen people were given brain scans for the study while they were asked to think about “future possibilities.” When the participants thought about good events both the rostral anterior cingulate cortex and amygdala, which is involved in emotional responses including fear, were activated. But the correlation with optimism was biggest with the cingulate cortex.

The same study also found that people tended to think that happier events were closer in time and more vivid than the bad ones, even if they had no reason to believe it, according to Phelps.

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