Here are 5 tips that can be used to help you get the most out of your visualizations, whether you’re applying them to heal your body, to change your life, or to improve your sports performance.
Believe in yourself
This is why I write about and teach the science behind the mind-body connection. If you understand that you’re always affecting your body with your mind, and that the brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imaginary, you realise that your mind is not some floaty, ethereal, thing that only interprets life events, but something that actually causes changes in the body. This way, you develop faith in yourself, that what you imagine, hope for, or intend, does have effects.
You can only do it right
This is something I say every time I guide people through a visualization process. Many people think they can’t visualise because they think everyone else sees in high definition (HD). Trust me, they don’t. But it’s the thought that they do that makes us think we’re doing it wrong. Actually, most people just get a vague set of images. What matters most is your intention and that you’re not thinking that you’re doing it wrong. I like the word, ‘imagine’ rather than visualise, because we all imagine in our own way. When I imagine, I have images in my mind’s eye but they are rarely that clear. For me, it’s more a feeling and sensing thing.
This can be easier said than done, but a regular practice of relaxing goes a long way to reducing stress in the body, which can only be a good thing. Meditation is great, as is yoga. Physical exercise is also a good way of relaxing. Eating a good diet can also help, one free of stimulants and high amounts of sugar and saturated fat.
I often suggest that people add a tiny bit of humour to their visualizations. This helps get around the worry that it might not work. When we worry, we activate brain areas associated with fear and anxiety. So if we inject a little lightness into the visualization, we retain our concentration on what we’re imagining and we might even help wire our brain networks away from the worry centres so that optimism and hope are born instead of worry. I encourage people to create a ‘victory dance’ to end their visualization. Basically, you do a silly dance of victory after you finish, and you have to do it until you find yourself smiling. This helps wire lightness into the brain.
The 3 R’s – Repetition-Repetition-Repetition
Research shows that we change brain structure through repetition of imagining movements. Brain scans of people playing piano versus people imagining playing it showed the same degree of changes in the same areas of the brain. But to get the changes required repetition of the movements – real or imaginary. When we stop doing the work, the brain regions shrink again. This is why consistency is key. You don’t become Olympic champion by going to the gym once. It’s important to do consistent visualization practice to get the best results.