Dispositional optimism has been related to positive physical and mental health outcomes, increased positive mood ratings and cognitions about the future. In order to determine the causal relation between optimism and mood and cognitions optimism should be manipulated experimentally. The current study tested the effects of a best-possible-self mental imagery exercise on affect and mood ratings and dysfunctional cognitions following a sad mood induction in undergraduate students (N=40). Participants in the experimental condition wrote about their best possible self in the future for 15. min and engaged in a mental imagery task about their best possible self in the future for 5. min in order to experimentally induce optimism. Participants in the control condition wrote about a typical day for 15. min and engaged in mental imagery about a typical day for 5. min. We assessed affect, mood and dysfunctional cognitions before and after the experimental manipulation. Participants in the experimental condition had higher positive mood ratings and higher positive affect compared to participants in the control condition. Participants in the control condition reported decreased dysfunctional cognitions whereas dysfunctional cognitions in the experimental group remained unchanged. Future studies should replicate these findings in clinical groups with more profound levels of negative affect and dysfunctional cognitions. © 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd.