5 Benefits We Can Reap from the Power of Visualization
“If you can see it and believe it, it is a lot easier to achieve it.” — Oprah
Growing up, my father always used to stand behind me while I played the piano, and would tell me to “feel” the music without touching the keys. Half-heartedly, I would sit and mimic the hand movements in the air, never understanding why he would make me use my mind instead of physically practicing. That was until one day, after many visualization sessions, I was able to play my most difficult piece almost perfectly on the first try.
Mental imagery has been a skill that has helped several influential people such as Oprah, Bill Gates, Jack Nicklaus, and Jim Carry achieve success. Jim Carry actually used to park on Mulholland drive every single night before he was famous, and wrote himself a check for $10 million that he kept in his wallet. He gave himself three years to achieve his dream of being an actor, and remarkably, was written a check for Dumb and Dumber equaling that amount three years later.
Visualization requires you to want something, perceive it, and believe in it. Over time, when you are working towards your goal, the process and energy you put into visualization will begin to shift your life in a positive direction. This does not mean every person who writes themselves a check will receive it in the future, but if you can both visualize something and accept it instead of reject it, you have a much greater chance of achievement.
Believing you have already achieved something can alter the mind in significant ways. For example, the Journal of Consulting Psychology released a study on visualization techniques. Two groups of job seeking individuals received traditional career counseling and interview coaching, but one group additionally received visualization techniques. After two months of training, 21 percent of those in the first group had found news jobs, compared to 66 percent of the group that used mental imagery.
Visualization may have better prepared those in the imagery group, and also their subconscious’ to believe they already had the job, causing a boost in confidence and mental preparedness for the interview.
The interesting thing about the mind is that it has a difficult time distinguishing between reality and imagination. Whether we have landed out dream job, or simply imagine landing our dream job, our body will stimulate the same neural networks, causing blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate to respond the same, making our visualizations appear more real than every before.
While visualization takes time to master, there are several ways to start benefiting from its affects immediately.
- Increase motivation
Motivational visualization involves imagining accomplishing your end goal and the feelings that accompany that success. Stimulate all your senses, and immerse yourself in a mental image so much that it appears real to you. By familiarizing yourself with feelings of achievement, you increase your motivation to reach your end goal and believe success is more plausible and realistic.
2. Define what you want
Learn to take your attention away from what you don’t want, and focus on what you wish to experience. Visualization allows us to remove all the emotion surrounding negativity, and instead, place our attention on actions that will enable us to achieve personal success. Once you define your goal, continue to practice visualization regularly. The more detailed your visualization, the closer your goal will appear to you.
3. Increase positive thoughts
Throughout the day, we have an ongoing internal dialogue with ourselves. Become aware of your thoughts, and choose them carefully — you want to be a friend to yourself, not a destructive enemy. By increasing positive thoughts today, you begin to invite positive outcomes into your life. You won’t begin to see changes the first day, but reinforcement it is similar to planting a seed. Immediately, you will feel happier, and over time, things will begin to shift in your life.
4. Optimize performance
One type of mental imagery that increases our performance is to visualize yourself in high-pressure situations. By mentally prepping for challenging circumstances, you can develop coping strategies and better respond to future anxieties. Jim Bauman, Ph.D., the consulting sport psychologist for USA Swimming says to label something close to you that will remind you to maintain a healthy perspective when times get faulty. For example, the letter “P” on your computer can remind you to take a perspective that focuses on your assets, and not on negative thoughts.
5. Reduce stress
Visualization is one of the best ways to get your mind back on track when you feel out of balance. Listening to slow music and visualizing your day helps to organize your thoughts, mentally prepare you, and reduce stress. Another stress relief technique — and my personal favorite — is to lie on your back and imagine all the stress in your body is warm lava concentrated at the top of your head. Then, slowly imagine it pouring down your ears, neck, shoulders, and entire body. You should actually feel a sensation roll down your body as you imagine the stress leaving your head. I use this to fall asleep, and I have never stayed awake past my shoulders.
Originally posted in The Huffington Post on February 12, 2015.
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