Shaping ideal futures: Writing a letter to the future

24 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2023

See all articles by Michaéla Schippers

Michaéla Schippers

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Technology and Operations Management

Elisabeth M. de Jong

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

Diana Rus

University of Groningen - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology

Huib Rommers

Independent

Date Written: February 28, 2023

Abstract

The recent Covid-19 crisis and measures have created an extraordinary situation that has affected most people around the globe. Adapting to and coping with this unpredictable situation has proven challenging for many. Apart from the direct effects such as a loss of income, normalcy, and postponed healthcare, many people have experienced a loss of meaning in life, negatively affecting their mental health and well-being. This had led many people to experience a downward spiral of negative emotions, prompting immediate, survival-oriented behaviors and learned helplessness. An effective way to counteract this is to restore a sense of autonomy by writing about how to make the world a better place. This can be achieved by letting people reflect on an ideal world free of constraints, and contrasting this with the idea of the world that will come to pass if nothing changes. Prior research in the field of positive psychology has shown that brief interventions can help counteract many of the aforementioned negative consequences and even aid in developing a more positive future outlook that they act upon. In this paper, we highlight an intervention, that seems especially promising in this respect: Letters to the future. Writing about how and when one will contribute to this ideal future, is key in ensuring that this comes a step closer to becoming reality. Acting upon dreams and plans, can also have real-world positive consequences. In sum, based on positive psychology, goal-setting and life-crafting theory, we propose an intervention that offers ways to increase positive emotions, enhance social support, increase action repertoire and potentially kickstart societal change. As this intervention can be done online and is scalable, we propose to use the intervention on a wide scale to improve mental health and well-being worldwide, and at the same time make the world a better place.

Keywords: life crafting, future crafting, meaning in life, positive psychology intervention, covid-19 crisis, positive ripple effects

Suggested Citation

Schippers, Michaela and de Jong, Elisabeth and Rus, Diana and Rommers, Huib, Shaping ideal futures: Writing a letter to the future (February 28, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4372540 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4372540

Michaela Schippers (Contact Author)

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Department of Technology and Operations Management ( email )

RSM Erasmus University
PO Box 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam
Netherlands

Elisabeth De Jong

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
Room T08-21
3000 DR Rotterdam, 3000 DR
Netherlands

Diana Rus

University of Groningen - Department of Social and Organizational Psychology ( email )

Grote Kruisstraat 2/1
9700 AH Groningen
Netherlands

Huib Rommers

Independent ( email )

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