Visualisation is the process of actively making pictures in your mind to create the outcome you desire. Visualisation and mental imagery are like mental movies. At the most simple level, you may close your eyes and imagine your home, or the face of a particular friend. This is how we use it every day in so many ways – in fact, in everything we do. Prayer is a form of mental imagery. The use of visual imagery can also be used in a very positive way to generate a picture of what you want in your life. You can use visualisation to create strong, positive mental images, which in turn reinforce a positive attitude.
Visualisation is a form of mental rehearsal. A person who is visualising can actually see himself completing specific actions (like going to a disability hearing and blitzing all the questions!). Whenever we want to do anything, the areas of our brain for planning and movement are involved, followed by activation of the motor areas that carry out the action. The brain prepares the body milliseconds before it is about to begin an action. It formulates a motor program based on movements in the frontal and prefrontal cortex. Then onto the motor cortex where the movements are carried out. As you visualise, you can create the same process.
Research has demonstrated that the brain is stimulated in much the same way by actual performance and virtual or visualised performance. It follows that the more you visualise a situation, the more real it will feel to you and this, in turn, will reinforce your belief.
More than 100 studies have shown the benefits of visualisation as an effective performance enhancing technique. In one study, between 72% and 97% of elite track and field athletes used imagery to improve performance, while in some other sports it was used by 100% of athletes. Other studies have shown that professional sports players make significantly greater use of imagery, focusing, relaxation and other mental skills than novices. So why not do it the way the champions do it? In one study, basketballers were separated into three groups. One group practised free throws, the second group used only mental visualisation with no physical practice, and the third group had the practice time off altogether. Not surprisingly, the third group got worse. However, the physical training group and the visualisation group improved equally. Imagine the benefit if you did both the mental and physical training.
Put simplistically, the more you visualise the more you practise.
How to visualise
Make the situation as vivid as possible in your mind. Be specific when you imagine the activity and use colour and as many senses as possible – smell, touch, sound. The more real your visualisation, the greater the stimulation of your brain. The more you enhance a situation in your mind, the more powerful it becomes. Powerful imagery will help propel you to where you want to go.
Visualisation is done by closing your eyes and concentrating on the point between your eyebrows directly above the nose. This is the prefrontal cortex area and is also known as the third eye, sixth chakra or Christ consciousness. What is interesting about this point is that it has been used for thousands of years for meditation and prayer, before humans even knew what the prefrontal cortex was.
Build some active processes into your visualisations. For example, if you want to get rid of some old emotions don’t just see the emotions getting smaller and smaller in your mind but go through the actions of making them smaller or throwing them away with your hands so that you engage your body in the action.
Engage all your senses. Visualise the touching, smelling, hearing and tasting as well as the seeing. The more senses you engage the more of the mind you tap into. Create visualisations by using all of your senses. If you’re creating a picture of success, feel the success. Napoleon Hill wrote in his classic Think and Grow Rich, “feel the feeling of success.” Use all your senses as you imagine how it feels to achieve your visualisation.
Visualisation can also be used by creating a strong negative association in your mind with a behaviour you want to eliminate. If you are trying to give up junk foods, you can associate them with being nauseated, vomiting and having stomach cramps. If you can, make the picture vivid enough that it creates a real sensation and the sheer thought of eating that food is enough to turn your stomach. Similarly, you can associate some foods with positive sensations and feel good about eating those foods, even without actually eating them. Do this with healthy, nutritious foods.
Once you have harnessed the power of visualisation, you can use it for almost anything. The more you use it, the more powerfully you’ll imprint the desired outcome in your mind and the more likely you are to actually achieve what you want. This, of course, goes hand in hand with actual preparation for the activity.
Visualisation can be used to prepare for any situation where you may come under extra pressure or need a positive outcome. The first part of the visualisation is to create a positive picture of the success of an event, such as imagining your friends and family coming up to you after your hearing and saying, “Congratulations, that was excellent.” The second part is to mentally rehearse the event in your mind. See yourself walking to the front of the room with a confident smile and body language, taking centre stage, and answering any and all questions perfectly. It is best to run through your major points in your mind. It should only take a few minutes the first time and then when you have done it several times, it will become easier.