COULD a 15-minute exercise that doesn't involve sex, winning the Lotto or coffee and chocolate really be your passport to instant happiness?

University of the Sunshine Coast PhD researcher Paula Loveday believes it just might.

She has been investigating the mechanisms of the Best Possible Selves (BPS) activity, a positive psychology exercise which participants imagine their future life working out in the best possible way and writing about their vision.

So who was going to be selected to give the exercise a test?

The biggest "self-help", "positive psychology" and "happiness" cynic on the planet - or in the office anyway.

That would be me.

READ: What is your Best Possible Self?

Frankly, I think we are as a society far too self-absorbed and the world would be happier, never mind me, if we cared less about ourselves and focused more on others.

Imagine my surprise (actually shock and horror) when Ms Loveday's 15-minute test "worked" on me?

TAKE THE TEST: Researcher Paula Loveday is looking into happiness. Journalist Kathy Sundstrom (left) is put through happiness testing by Paula.
TAKE THE TEST: Researcher Paula Loveday is looking into happiness. Journalist Kathy Sundstrom (left) is put through happiness testing by Paula. Che Chapman

Trying to think about "my future self" and then write about her I thought would be impossible.

First we completed a pre-test where I answered all sorts of easy questions about myself.

"At the present time, I am energetically pursuing my goals" was one with a scale from one to eight.

As I didn't have any perceived goals, that was an easy one answer for "definitely false".

"At this time, I am meeting the goals that I have set for myself" was another.

Again, another (one) answer for definitely false.

Then I had to close my eyes and imagine the "me I'd like to be" and write about her.

I wrote two pages.

Spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, camping.
Spending time with friends and family, going to the beach, camping.

And then I did the same test again and there was progress. The "energetically pursuing my goals" had increased from one to two and the "I meeting the goals I have set for myself" went from one to five.

It's amazing how 15 minutes of visualising a woman I never wanted to know did improve my outlook.

Ms Loveday wasn't surprised by my result. They also weren't the iron-clad proof she needed her theory worked.

She is hoping to get about 200 people to complete the simple 15-minute online study and then test the results to see if the findings were more universal.

Her research supervisor, Associate Professor of Interactive Digital Media Christian Jones, said the study could answer some important questions around methods of boosting human happiness.

Being with God and having time with family is what makes me happy most often.
Being with God and having time with family is what makes me happy most often.

"We anticipate that the research will show people will experience a more positive mood, more creativity and a greater problem solving ability after writing about their best possible self," she said.

"Not too bad for 15 minutes of your time."

Not too bad indeed, but sadly I am not completely convinced.

I still think coffee and chocolate, never mind winning the Lotto or sex, would have had just as positive a result.

Can we test it?



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