Visualization is a powerful tool to have for relaxation, fighting anxiety, fighting fears, fighting anger, fighting grief….. You get the picture. It’s good for fighting any negative emotion. It’s powerful. And it’s yours for the taking. You just have to practice and commit to doing it.
There was a study done in England that looked at visualization. It involved a large group of people who were all scared to death of public speaking. They brought this group together and one-by-one they had to get up and give a speech in front of a group of raters. The judges had no idea what the study was about or what was going to be done to the participants. They just knew they were there to give them a grade. Well, of course they all did horribly. They were scared to death of speaking in public!
After that first speech they were broken into 3 groups. Group 1 was given a book about public speaking and that was it. Best of luck to ya folks! Group 2 was given the book, but they were also told to practice. Practice, practice, practice. Group 3 was given the book, told to practice, practice, practice, but they were also taught to visualize. They were told to visualize themselves giving the speech and to practice that everyday.
Well, they came back to the same group of judges and gave their speech again. How do you think they did?
Group 1 – Stinko. No improvement. Poor group 1.
Group 2 – Real improvement. They did significantly better than they did the first time.
Group 3 – Wow! They blew everyone else waaaaay out of the water. They were vastly improved.
That’s the power of visualization. Researchers believe that when you visualize, you’re actually tricking your brain into thinking that you’ve done whatever you’re visualizing. So group 3 had “given” that speech lots of times before they had to literally get up and do it. Amazing. The brain is just darned amazing.
What does this mean for you and me? It means if something scares us like confronting someone about something or driving in traffic or going on a date, we can practice it over and over through visualization. Pretty cool.
How do we do this? It’s easy. Just get comfortable either sitting or laying down (just be careful you don’t fall asleep).
Start with 3 deep relaxing breaths
Follow this with the PMR if you feel any tension in your body
We’ll start with a beach example, but you can make this whatever you want – it’s your story:
- Close your eyes
- See yourself standing on an empty beach. Really try to see it.
- You are so happy to be there
- See the blue sky overhead
- Feel the warm sand on your feet
- Feel the sunshine as it soaks into your skin. Really imagine you are there.
- See the ocean.
- Hear the waves
- Hear the birds overhead
- Remind yourself how happy you are to be there
- Tell yourself you are calm and happy
- Walk to the water and wade in as far as you are comfortable
- Feel the cool water
- Enjoy the water
- You are happy and calm
- Walk up to the spot where you put down a towel and lay down
- Feel the warm sand
- Feel the warm sun
- Close your eyes (in the visualization – your should already be closed) and relax
- Hear the sounds
- Tell yourself you are so happy and relaxed
- Really see yourself there.
- Really feel yourself there
- Be at the beach.
- When you are ready, come back
- Take 3 deep relaxing breaths and open your eyes
That’s it. That’s visualization. It’s not daydreaming because you are very intentional. You are seeing the sights and hearing the sounds as you tell yourself you are happy and relaxed.
Pick a happy place for you. It could be the beach or a mountain meadow. I’ve even heard of people constructing a room that is their safe, happy place. They decorate it and make it the way they want. That is there safe zone. Nothing can hurt them there.
Practice visualizing your happy place for a week or until you feel really good at it. Then try visualizing yourself doing something that makes you nervous. Let’s say for example it’s going up to someone you don’t know and talking to them. You might start visualizing yourself smiling at them and they react in a friendly way. Then you can work yourself up to talking to them. You can even work on asking them if they want to hang out. The important thing is that you stay calm and relaxed throughout the entire visualization. If you start to get nervous, back up and see something calming. Don’t rush. You can always return to your safe place.
Visualization can be as powerful as you want it. Or it can be a huge waste of your time. It really depends on you and how much you invest into it. There is science to back up the fact that it works. You just have to try it and keep practicing it until just thinking about your happy place relaxes you. It’s amazing. Try it!