Visualise illness becoming wellness (and the science of why it works)

image: iStock Photo

I’m often asked what the ‘right’ visualisation is for certain conditions. The truth is, there’s not ‘the’ right visualisation, just the one that’s right for you. So long as what you’re imagining is wellness, then you’re doing it right.

And before I go further, visualisation isn’t a substitute for healthy lifestyle or taking recommended medication. It’s something that we do in addition to these things, like how you don’t meditate instead of sleeping, but in addition to it.

There’s loads of ways to visualise wellness. Some people imaging cleaning diseased cells, picturing them in their mind’s eye becoming clean and healthy. Some people imagine their immune system destroying cancer cells. Some people focus on changing a disease colour into a colour that represent health for them. Some people create a symbol that represents how they feel. For example, one man suffering from depression and feeling ‘broken’, pictured his brokenness as broken mirror. He then visualised making it whole again.

In each case, a person begins with their awareness of what their condition is and then turns it into what they imagine wellness to be. Illness into wellness is the main strategy.

In time, people’s minds tend to go all the way to wellness and from then on they don’t even turn illness into wellness, but instead just ‘see’ wellness in their mind.

And they key is also repetition. Repetitively visualising wellness or illness into wellness. Most people do it for 10 minutes or so a day, some longer and some shorter, but that’s about a ballpark.

It seems to me that visualisation works because the brain doesn’t distinguish all that much between real and imaginary. When you picture something happening, much of the time the brain mobilises its natural resources as much as it can to deliver what you imagine. This is the basis behind the placebo effect. Believing a drug (when it’s a placebo) will relieve pain actually mobilises the brain’s natural resources to reduce pain. Here, the brain produces its own painkillers, known as endogenous opiates.

Through this process, or something similar, scientific studies have shown that visualisation has helped stroke patients regain movement, elite athletes and sportspeople to enhance their performances in specific areas, novices to learn new sporting skills. It’s helped people to increase physical strength when they imagine lifting objects, it’s supported the immune systems of women receiving treatment for breast cancer, and it’s even tricked people’s brains into thinking that they have eaten real food when they just imagined it. And right out of sci-fi, it’s even helped people turn lights on and off in their homes and pilots fly planes … with their minds.

Yes, you read that correctly. When you visualise somewhere in your body, this activates the region of the brain that processes that part. For example, if you visualise moving a finger, the finger region of your brain lights up. Researchers have connected the brain to a BCI – Brain Computer Interface – which effectively reads where your mental activity goes by noting which areas get activated. They can connect the other end to lights in the home or even to the navigation controls of an airplane, so that when a person focuses on their right hand, the BCI reads it as an instruction to veer the plane to the right, or turn on the light, depending on what the BCI is hooked up to.

It works because the brain isn’t distinguishing real from imaginary. This is the basis for using visualisation practices in our lives, whether to assist our healing or even to shape our lives.

It’s been said that if you imagine something and then believe it, you can achieve it. This is why I’ve included the science of how it works. 

It helps you to believe in yourself. Happy visualising.


  1. Linda McCaffery on February 15, 2021 at 5:41 pm

    Love this article. I am looking forward to trying the process.

    • David R. Hamilton PhD on March 4, 2021 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Linda. 🙂

  2. Jan on February 16, 2021 at 8:40 pm

    This is extremely helpful. I am using visualisation to manage A. FIB. As always, you are very clear with your vision. Much love and many blessings.

  3. Lin on October 7, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    Jan – wonder how you’re getting on with visualisation for Afib? I have this, love to chat – lin

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