What Time Travel Means for Your Future Happiness

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No spoilers for Avengers: Endgame here, but as a culture, we are all thinking a lot about time travel these days. If you could go backward, what would you change? If you could see far forward, what would you do now?


Some psychologists are asking these questions more literally than you'd think. New research from the University of California, Los Angeles, has been looking into the relationship between your present self and the self you'll be in the future. It's not as sci-fi as it sounds. People are notoriously bad at planning about the future, in part because we don't think of our future selves as ourselves at all. It's part of why we make decisions with short-term gains or relief but long-tern detrimental consequences.

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Anyone can train themselves out of that, however, and the UCLA team says that if you can, it's bound to make you happier. It doesn't even rely on anything complicated: You just have to believe that you'll stay basically the same in the future. "The more people initially predicted that they would remain the same — whether predicting less decline or less improvement across a number of core traits — the more satisfied they typically were with their lives 10 years later," said lead author Joseph Reiff in a press release.


This is in contrast to believing that you'll be better off in a decade. It's not quite the same as setting yourself a low bar or forgoing personal growth, but rather believing in your own inherent value and its persistence through the years. You already know your best future self, in other words — and you're both making your life better right now.