Perhaps, you hear the word “visualisation” and dismiss it as a childish fancy, or for a load of woo-woo. And I’ll be honest, for a long time, so did I. It’s only now that I understand the concept, as well as have experienced its power and seen its effect on the Cognitive Therapy clients I have worked with, that I recognise the infinite potential behind visualising and positive imagery techniques.
Our minds are an incredibly complex, powerful mystery but when harnessed correctly, it can help you to achieve in all areas of your life. And this tool isn’t just for the athletes, the gifted or famous. The process of visualisation is available to everyone.
You might not be aware, but you are already visualising on a daily basis. You visualise what you might wear in the morning, what route you will take for work, your evening meal. We visualise what our friends are doing, what our life might look like one day. Often, we visualise in a negative way, worrying about the future and imaging the worst case scenario. And you wonder why things go wrong, again and again. So it stands to reason that you can use the same technique to cultivate the positive outcomes you desire.
Intentional visualisation with a specific outcome in mind is not only a meditative experience, but can profoundly change your life. The ability to clearly and mindfully imagine what you want is one of the most beneficial practices you could adopt.
Visualisation, at its most simplest, is imaging that the thing we want to happen, has already happened. Visualisation works in two ways:
Firstly, when we really want something we spend a lot of mental energy thinking about all the possible outcomes, our preparation, our ability, circumstances outside of our control etc. It’s utterly exhausting. Visualisation techniques work by guiding you into a state of blissful relaxation, bypassing your negative thoughts and outdated beliefs. By imprinting the belief in your mind that what you want has already happened through visualisation, you can let go of all that excessive doubt and worry. From the space that is cleared up you can begin to focus on how to make it happen. Positive imagery enhances motivation, increases confidence and performance and primes you for success. Your energy will more more productive and positive meaning you realise your dreams quicker.
Secondly, research has shown how mental rehearsal can be as effective as performing the activity physically. You see, it can be difficult for the subconscious brain to know what is real and what is fantasy. Picturing a desired result being already actualised tricks the subconscious mind into believing that you have already achieved the outcome. Results from extensive observation of the brain shows that if you mentally rehearse an action, the same mental activity takes place as if you are actually physically doing the activity. So for instance, if I asked you to imagine all the detail, effort and movement of serving in tennis, the same activity in the brain would occur when you do physically serve. Mentally practising in this way prior to an event will actually enhance your performance.
‘I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without first having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head.’
Jack Nicklaus, Golf Pro
Each new thought, image or action creates a neural pathway in the brain. Every time you repeat that action the pathway is strengthened. In the same way, each time you visualise or covertly rehearse that action, the tennis serve, the public speech, the work presentation, you also strengthen the neural pathways related, making the details more precise and enhanced, just as if you had actually performed what you imagined.
You really are the creator of your own life, so how do you want to live it? Don’t be held back by fears, insecurities or doubts any longer! Next time, I’ll show you a simple technique on how to visualise for positive and lasting change. In the meantime, if you’re curious and want to try join us for a meditation at the following places next week as I guide you through a powerful visualisation practice.
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