It’s time for an intervention!
Here in Vietnam, we’re back in a Covid lockdown, no longer teaching with the school closed, and family far away. So, I began exploring fun, positive things to lift my spirits. I discovered BPS—the “best possible self” intervention, and I tried it.
Today, I feel great!
The “best possible self” intervention is a scientifically proven exercise that increases your mood and view of your future. You simply imagine your best possible self in the future and write it down: Where are you? Who is with you? What are you doing? Think about family, work, finances, health, faith, adventures—anything that you want part of your life. And, since you’re the author, you get to make everything come out right!
I highlighted the science behind the idea. BPS has been measured in multiple studies by researchers Johannes Bodo Heekerens and Michael Eid of Freie University in Berlin. “The researchers conducted a meta-analysis of 34 studies (out of a possible 249) selected because they required a written best-possible-self exercise and not merely a visualization… The studies included 2,627 subjects, about three quarters of them female. The result was a small but measurable increase in positive affect and optimism.”
Heekerens and Eid also created a study using 188 of their psychology students. The researchers found the BPS exercise improved positive effects and positive expectations, and reduced goal ambivalence, both right after the exercise and up to a week later.
The Simple Method
The exercise can be exhilarating, and it isn’t difficult.
First, you find a space where you will be undisturbed and give yourself some time. Choose a time in the future—next month, next year, ten years down the road. Visualize yourself in that future time where things have gone exactly as you’d planned and dreamed. Make it realistic. Picture your family, work, faith walk, relationships, finances… everything you hold dear to you. Explore your experience 360-degrees. What do you see? Who are you with? How are you feeling?
Visualization is great. But if you really want it to stick with you, write it down! Write fast, don’t be concerned with beautiful writing. This is for you, no one else. As you write and review it, you’ll most likely feel a positive mood change. Will it last forever? No, of course not. The studies showed a week is possible. But, I’d suggest reading your BPS regularly to renew the feeling. Perhaps make it a habit to begin your week with a full BPS. In addition, you can do variations of the BPS, focusing on visualizing and writing your best possible self focusing on specific goals you may have.
I expect to be retired from teaching by 2025 (perhaps earlier). So, I’ve done a BPS for that big jump into an “unknown” (but not unplanned) future.
My best possible self: 2025
I’m “retired,” but as busy, productive and happy as I’ve ever been. Living closer to family, I have better and deeper relationships with people related to by blood or marriage. I’m invested deeply in their lives, and they in mine. I’m meeting a variety of interesting people, but my faith community is my foundation, and together we’re showing love by helping others. We are also following God’s command to take care of all of his creation by encouraging earth care.
I’m writing several blog posts each week, as well as writing novels at a good pace, at least one per year and perhaps more. I’m helping writers create their dream projects, and I’m helping people plan for a healthy and happy and fulfilled retirement.
I’m physically as active as possible, getting back into swimming and biking, but also walking daily with my wife. My wife and I have found many unexpected things we love to do together, to share in “adventures.” Even though our interests are often different, we’ve made it a point to come up with stuff to do together as well.
Financially, we have “minimalist” instincts in that we don’t feel a need to waste money on needless things. Everyone would define “needless” differently, of course. But we spend our money on our “needs” and pleasurable and achievable “wants.” My wife and I have divergent ideas on what may fit that “minimalist” tag, but they aren’t usually expensive… For me, it’s books and some technology; for her, it’s a variety of things. We both like to travel, both for family and for experience, so we are traveling to one new place each year.
For my next BPS, I might focus only on health issues and weight control over the next month. Or, I may focus on visualizing my writing future after one year. Perhaps I’ll do a BPS on relationships in my life. I think it would be helpful to review these “letters to myself” regularly, and rewrite as I feel the need.
I’m pumped up just re-reading this first BPS! I encourage you to try it. Visualize and write your first BPS this week. We work out for fitness. Shouldn’t we also “work out” for positive mental health?