It might sound whimsical, but visualization – vividly picturing a positive outcome to a situation – has proven effects, especially for those struggling with self-belief. Visualization can allow you to “watch” yourself completing tasks that may initially feel impossible.
For example, let’s say you’re having a rough go and are tempted to give up on your marathon dreams. Visualize (or picture) yourself flying over the finish line, hugging your partner and collecting your medal. The more detail you can add, the more possible it feels.
It can benefit skill development, too. Even without physically carrying out a task, if we go through it step by step in our minds, our neurons actually modify their structure. This supplements our physical practice, without the additional fatigue and can make potentially complex movements (think: playing the piano, wiring a plug or knitting) feel more automatic, as well as reducing anxiety through familiarization.
Visualization might even make you stronger – your muscles, that is, not just your mind. A recent study asked participants to practice calf raises, leg presses, benches and triceps extensions for four weeks. For the next four, half of them were told to replace every other workout with a visualization session, in which they mentally rehearsed their reps. By the end, both groups had made similar gains.
It’s not all about work targets and gym gains. Visualization has wider implications for wellbeing. In another study, hospital patients experienced a reduction in anxiety and depression when using ‘guided imagery’ techniques to visualize a peaceful scene. Other studies have also shown this to aid pain management.
Remember To Think Small
Manifesting million-dollar business deals and eight-pack abs is unlikely to work. Therapists do say it’s smarter to mentally rehearse small actions for the best benefits and achievable therapeutic outcomes. These “rehearsals” could be something you visualize like, what will you do if you’re called to speak at a meeting? Or how will you avoid overeating at the restaurant tonight? Visualizing successes can trick our minds into believing we’re on track to achieve our goal, and that we can relax.
The mind is a powerful tool and the more you can tune in, the more success you’ll have it as you become a healthier you!