Using Positive Image Training to Regain Happiness

By Rideeta Raquib ’19

Figure 1. Positive imagery training can help reduce stress and decrease depressive symptoms.
Figure 1. Positive imagery training can help reduce stress and decrease depressive symptoms.

Emotion-related imagery training is a powerful tool for psychotherapy. Mental imagery can stimulate behavioral and physiological systems more effectively than verbal or informative stimulations. Imagery is less effective on patients diagnosed with generalized anxiety (GAD) because of the tendency to associate bright images with negative occurrences rather than generating positive images. Dr. Svetla Velikova and her team of researchers conducted a study to understand the effectiveness of self-guided positive imagery on the emotional state of the subjects’ well-being and the effects on their brain functions.

The cognitive imagery training was conducted for 12 weeks with 30 healthy participants free of medications and no previous experiences with mental training or psychotherapy. Participants learned imagery techniques from an instructor for two days and continued individual training at home. Some techniques included coping with past psycho-traumatic events and visualizing an alternative positive story, setting goals and visualizing the steps and goal as if they were already achieved, improving social interactions, and visualizing the next day positively. Psychological and EEG evaluations were given at baseline and after training concluded. A 20-item scale called the Center epidemiologic studies depression (CES-D), a Satisfaction with Life scale (SWL), a Meaning in Life questionnaire (MLQ), and General Self Efficacy scale were utilized. Furthermore, a paired-sample t-test was performed to compare the values of the tests done before and after the training to see if their results were significant.

Overall, about 22 participants had subthreshold depression according to the CES-D scale, but after the training, the depressive symptoms were reduced significantly. The subjects perceived themselves positively after 12 weeks and they were more satisfied with their own lives. The results from the tests and the subjects’ opinion demonstrated that the positive imagery training was significant. This technique can be fostered to the public in order to prevent any depressive symptoms in the future.



  1. S. Velikova, et al., Can the psycho-emotional state be optimized by regular use of positive imagery? Psychological and electroencephalographic study of self-guided training. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience (2017). doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2016.00664.
  2. Image retrieved  from:×472.jpg

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