There are countless studies to support the powerful influence of our imaginations over our immune systems, hormones, energy levels, and how we perceive the world. Expectations, or what we imagine for ourselves in our lives, influence the opportunities we recognise (or fail to), how we relate to others, and the actions we take. So… how we use our imaginations is very important!
Anyone who thinks they don’t have much of an imagination… nonsense! We all do it, all the time. One of the key ways in which we imagine is through mental visualisations. As an example, everyone gets anxious at some time or another, and anxiety is the result of pure imagination. For example, if you’re anxious about a future event, you’re imagining it in a certain way. How are you doing it? If you find out, you can change it, and get different results. Sound good? Good!
Heres a quick exercise to get the ball rolling – if nothing else, I hope it gets you curious to learn more and experiment a little with your imagination.
1/ Think of a word that can be your symbol for accessing a great ‘feelgood’ state in just a moment. Perhaps something like energy, focus, fresh, or ‘orange blossom’.
2/ Close your eyes, think about a time in your life you have felt fantastic. Really get into it. Visualise it. Notice what you visualise and how you do it. Can you see yourself in the picture, or are you looking through your own eyes? It is black and white, or colour? Moving, or still? Big or small? One big picture, or lots of little ones? Play around with them to get the feeling even greater – perhaps make the picture even bigger, brighter, sharper, put some favourite music in there. Whatever you like! When you get yourself feeling good – see your ‘word’ written over the picture, and hear yourself saying it to yourself in your mind. You might like to also “anchor” the feeling by pushing your thumb and a finger tip together (this associates the feeling to the touch). Do this a few times for a few different memories where you have felt excited, confident, or just fantastic.
3/ Now think about something you feel anxious about. How are you visualising it this time? Notice how its different. How are you making yourself anxious? Are you saying something to yourself in a negative, dreary way? Is the picture dark and blurry? Start playing with it! Get that imagination going. Make it brighter, see yourself as confident, comfortable. Whatever it takes! Hear yourself say that word again, push those fingers together, and let that associated good feeling flood into the anxious picture.
As you practice this, you’ll notice the unique things you do to evoke certain feelings. It may be that you feel more comfortable when you are visualising as if through your own eyes, but vulnerable if visualising yourself from the outside. Maybe you visualise people from your past who were critical, when you are feeling fragile. Perhaps you visualise lots of little disorganised pictures when feeling overwhelmed with a task. Put them all in order, followed by a single picture of the end goal, and see how much better it feels!