Bad news for dreamers ahead. New research has found that positive thinking and fantasizing about the future may actually lead to longer lasting feelings of sadness — even depression. The findings suggest that the kind of fantasies we turn to for a quick mood boost might ultimately cause more sadness in the long run. Related: Does Positive Thinking Really Work?
The research analyzed the results of four different studies looking at the power of a specific type of positive thinking, related to fantasies about a better future. The more extreme and lofty their fantasies were, the better they felt in the moment. But, over time, those who dreamed the biggest ended up having more apparent symptoms of depression. The researchers concluded that even when it comes to our indulging in fantasies, realism counts. Simply imagining yourself to be rich and famous will obviously make you feel good, but realizing you have no idea how to attain that fame might actually leave you dissatisfied, and in some cases, even crushed. Related: The Health Benefits Of Being An Optimist Vs. A Pessimist "We feel accomplished in the fantasized-about future, so we don't actually put in the work needed to achieve that future," lead study author Gabriele Oettingen, PhD, explained to Shape. What's better: entertaining fantasies that are somewhat within your grasp — or at least having actionable steps to go along with them. Dr. Oettingen and her fellow researchers developed a fantasy framework to help people think positively and realistically: "Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan," or WOOP. Following these steps, they say, will help you think through your dreams so that they become goals, and eventually, reality.
Click through to Shape for more advice on getting your healthiest mind and body. (Shape) Related: 25 Experts Reveal The Best Advice To Achieve Any Goal