Do you visualise? Do you visualise your future? Now for some of you, this may seem a bit ‘woo’ but bear with me. What if I said you are already visualising your future extremely effectively? Perhaps you are feeling anxious about the future (and as I write this at 7am on Friday the 24th June 2016, the day we voted out of Europe, we are all a little anxious) and so you start to think about what you are afraid of…then you think a bit more and suddenly you are envisioning the worst case scenario! That is visualising, we all do it and we do it all the time.
Each time we visualise something we prepare our brain for it, we practice and we set up the fight/flight survival response. So, if we visualise the worst, we prepare ourselves for fear and program our brain in that way. Not ideal, right?
What if…what if we turned those negative ‘what if’s’ into positive ones? What if we imagined our lives going right instead of going wrong? What if we saw ourselves relaxed, happy, successful? What then? There is a lot of evidence and research, particularly in the field of sports psychology, which demonstrates athletic performance can be improved just by imagining yourself doing the actions perfectly. If that is the cases then why then would we want to rehearse things going wrong?
Convinced yet? I hope so. Now, how to visualise more effectively. Before you say you can’t, remember you are almost certainly doing it anyway but to prove how easy it is I would like you to do something…imagine someone you love. Done it? That’s all visualisation is, a way of creating a picture in your mind.
How to visualise
Now we can visualise, what should we visualise? Ideally picture yourself doing whatever it is, say, giving an exceptional presentation or working your ideal day, moment by moment, exactly the way you’d like it to go. I would also advocate using your senses too, so think about the tastes, smells, feelings as well as what you see; it gives a richer ‘memory’ to work from.
If you are struggling to imagine what you want you can create a vision board with pictures and quotes that help you build up the image in your mind or trigger you to visualise your ideal moment/day/future.
You need to practice this often to help cement it in your brain so that next time you get a ‘what if’ moment you can counter it with picturing what you want to happen. The calmer you are the easier it is to visualise so it may not work in the very stressful moments but you can retrospectively visualise…so perhaps an interview didn’t go as well as you’d like; visualise the next one going brilliantly when you are feeling a little calmer.
Like many things, it may not change any anxious behaviour overnight but you can be sure you are heading in a helpful direction rather than spiralling into negative thoughts and behaviours.