Some forms of “positive thinking” are not effective at combating depression and may even be a hindrance, a new psychological study has suggested.
Researchers from New York University, the University of Hamburg and the University of Virginia used questionnaires and daily diaries in four separate studies to measure symptoms in college students and children.
The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, found that people who imagined an ideal future were linked with more symptoms of depression in the future.
They also found that those who fantasised about an ideal future experienced fewer symptoms in the present.
Researcher Gabriele Oettingen wrote in the study:
The modern era is marked by a push for ever-positive thinking, and the self-help market fueled by a reliance on such positive thinking is a $9.6 billion industry that continues to grow.
Our findings raise questions of how costly this market may be for people’s long-term well-being and for society as a whole.