What would your super power be?

According to research, mental time travel can improve our happiness and wellbeing


What would your super power be?

Imagine, for a moment, that you could have a super power. Just one. What would you choose? Invisibility? Mind reading? Teleporting?

The most wanted super power in Britain, according to a YouGov survey released this week, is time travel, with more than a quarter of adults wishing they could control time. This was followed by invisibility, being able to fly, mind reading and, the least popular, teleportation.

We’re clearly a nation intrigued by the idea of time travel, just look at Doctor Who, Mr Benn or Bernard’s Watch. When I was younger I spent a large proportion of my maths classes wondering how I could get my hands on Bernard’s magical time-controlling watch. A quick straw poll of my friends suggests I wasn't the only one.

Perhaps, though, our obsession with time travel isn’t too far off the mark. Research has found that mental time travel — thinking about and rehearsing events in our mind — can increase happiness and reduce anxiety. Participants in the mental time travel (MTT) study were asked to carry out positive projections (after a job interview, the boss will call me to tell me I have got the job), negative projections (my hairdresser will ruin my hair tomorrow, the day before my friend’s wedding), or neutral projections (I'll wake up tomorrow and clean my teeth at 9am), daily for two weeks. Those who did positive MTT became significantly happier. Interestingly, positive and negative MTT didn’t affect anxiety, but neutral MTT significantly decreased it. Researchers suggest that mentally preparing ourselves for the day can reduce stress. 

So this week I am going to try both positive and neutral mental time travel. ‘I will buy a lottery ticket and win £1 million’ (worth a try). ‘Tomorrow I will eat my lunch at 1pm’ (slightly more realistic.) What do you think? Can mental time travel really affect our mental wellbeing?