Why should you visualise?
Visualisation is a mental process that enables us to feel more prepared and confident about specific activities or life events. It’s a skill I use extensively with athletes preparing for high-pressure performances, surgeons preparing for complex operations, Special Forces operatives about to practice or conduct a dangerous mission, and musicians about to go out on stage. Visualisation is for anyone who wants to increase the quality of what they do and the confidence they do it with.
These are extreme examples, but the reason we should all take time to practice visualisation is that it can help us to perform everyday activities with more confidence, more focus, more positivity, more patience and more connection.
How does visualisation work?
You imagine going through an experience as accurately as possible in your mind. It primes exactly the same neural pathways in the brain as if you were actually doing it. Done well it even evokes the same feelings you would get in the real situation, which allows you to practice these emotions.
Sounds funny, but to get better at regulating our emotional reactions to certain situations or activities, we need to learn how to either accept these emotions or regulate them. For example, by training yourself to breathe deeply and relax whilst being in that situation. You can literally re-train how your mind and body respond to that situation.
How do I visualise?
Take time out to do this at the beginning of every day:
- Breathe - Start by focusing on your breathing - breathe deeply and rhythmically. Count in for five and out for five, and if your mind wanders just gently bring it back to your breath for two minutes.
- Relax - On every out-breath focus on relaxing your body. Start with your head and face, working your way all the way down to your toes, releasing any tension as you breathe out. Repeat this until your mind is calm and still.
- Visualise - Start to visualise your upcoming day in your head, living the key activities or moments in your mind one at a time. Imagine this as accurately as you can, as if you were there doing it. Notice any fluctuations in heart rate and mood while you imagine it, meeting them with a deep breath and relaxation. If you need to, go back over something and do it again until you do it the way you want to do it. Imagine living through each key part of your day relaxed, calm, positive, and confident.
Trust me when I say that doing this for 15 minutes can have a dramatic effect on how your day turns out, and the more you practice, the better you get.
If you want to get good at this, let the Calm app help you. As the most downloaded app in the world, Calm is brilliant for quietening your mind, but you’ll need to do the visualisation element on top of this.