Back in football season, I saw a playoff game where a field goal would have won the game for that team. An ordinary field goal that the kicker had made many times. It wasn’t like it was longer than what he was used to or had never done before. Basically it was a run of the mill play for him. However, he did not make it this time. And it wasn’t because of a block from another player. In other words, it was not missed due to any physical reason. It was only missed because of his own thoughts. Our thoughts can help us or hurt us. It’s our choice.
One way we can utilize our thoughts to our benefit is through visualization. This is the technique where we mentally visualize something that we want. To continue with the sports theme, athletes have been using visualization for years. In the 1980s, Russians studied Olympic athletes who mentally rehearsed (aka, visualized) their sport. They found that the performance of those that included visualization exceeded those that did not include visualization as part of their practice.
Various other studies have compared three groups of people: those that lift weights, those that visualize lifting weights and those that do neither. Of course, the weight lifters increased strength and the couch potatoes didn’t. But the astonishing finding is that the visualizers also increased their muscle strength. Actual muscle strength can be increased by only visualizing lifting weights. By only visualizing it!
Further studies have shown that the autonomic nervous system is triggered by mental visualizations of the athletes’ sporting activities which then led to increased physical performance. In other words, to the body, it doesn’t matter if it is real or imagined. You’ve probably experienced this yourself: Ever wake up from a nightmare with an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, or sweating? It certainly wasn’t from your body physically moving. It was only from your mind!
Professional athletes today are using imagery as opposed to visualization because it also has been found that using all the senses – not just visual – boost performance. They say the more they can see, hear, touch, taste, and smell the event, the more it improves their performance. And the research shows that it only takes a few minutes a day to have an effect.
You are probably saying at this point, ‘Fascinating, but I’m not an athlete so what’s this got to do with me?’ The point is that this research with athletes has proven the power of visualization and imagery to help us achieve things in the physical. This is incredibly amazing and powerful data that can be extended from physical conditioning of our bodies to any physical object, event, or circumstance that we want.
How to Visualize
First of all, visualizing is not difficult. Egos usually tell us, we aren’t able to do it. But, it’s just not practiced. It’s not something most of us do regularly so we think it is a tough task. The more we practice it though, the easier – and more fun! – it becomes.
Imagine something, anything you can dream up. Not as you think it should be or as others would want it to be. (Nobody will judge you because this is all you. You don’t have to tell a soul what you are imagining.) It can be what you believe is a far-fetched dream or something more plausible to you. The subject could be anything from physical conditioning, health, relationship, a material object, feeling more meaning and purpose, to helping others. When your ego comes in and offers negativity (‘that could never happen’ or ’that’s dumb’, etc.), gently dismiss it. If it persists, then you know it is time to end the session.
For only 5-10 minutes every day or so, see, feel, taste, smell, and hear the details of your dream. Be in it, rather than watching it like a movie. Here’s some random examples:
A new car: See the car. See the color of it inside and out. Smell that new car smell. Hear the sound of the engine. The feel of the seat as you sit down. Hear the friend talking to you who is in the car with you, etc.
Running a mile or 10 miles or a marathon: See yourself in your workout clothes. Imagine your route and every detail you know about it. See where you cross a street, pass a particular building. Feel your breathing becoming more labored and imagine taking a deep, helpful breath. Smell your sweat (ha!). See yourself finishing the route and feel the feeling of being so proud of yourself.
Getting the idea of this? Note that we’re not trying to fix something in our visualizations. For example, we’re not taking a relationship with problems and working to find solutions. We’re not trying to solve a problem of the world. Visualization time should be pure enjoyment and fun!
We also visualize what we want so that these things do not feel so foreign or unlikely. It helps us get used to the idea of them. The more we visualize and feel them in our minds, the more they will seem likely to us to happen in physical reality. Remember, our minds do not know if we are just imagining something or doing it in the physical. So the more we imagine something, the more it will seem like the next logical step in “real” life. It will not be an out-of-the-blue, crazy idea, because you have been feeling like you were already doing it.
Be careful not to then feel bad in your “real” life when you look at what is or isn’t, compared to what you visualized. Be patient with the manifestation of your desires; all in divine time. Turning your focus to appreciation of the things you currently do have in your life is an excellent way to stop the frustration of seeing what is lacking. When you do start to see the desires manifesting, then acknowledge and be appreciative of them, as well.
Try it out and see what manifests for you!