What if imagining a scenario made it easier to achieve?
Olympic athletes, business leaders, artists, and yogis alike have been using mental imagery and creative visualisation to rehearse their actions before they take them for decades. It’s helped them win medals, achieve increased mobility, and realise their goals.
The evidence supporting the power of visualisation has been growing ever since the book Creative Visualisation was published in 1978. It all stems from having a growth mindset that is not limited by previous experience, but influenced by the power of possibility.
How to do visualisation meditation can be daunting in the beginning. But it’s simpler than you might think, and in this article, I’m going to spell out a guided visualisation meditation you really cannot screw up.
The technique of creative visualisation meditation uses mental imagery to create a scenario in the subject’s mind and lets them “live the experience” through the power of imagination. The beauty of this technique is that chemically, the brain does not know the difference between imagined and real experience.
Neuroscience has demonstrated that the brain can reproduce mental imagery from all of the senses, including sights, sounds, tastes, smells, pressures, textures, temperatures, and movements.
Mirror neurons in the brain fire in empathy when someone tells a story – and it is the same when we implement a story ourselves, and is an incredibly accessible and useful tool to transform your brain chemistry from one of overwhelm and burnout to envisioning your future happiness and success.
We use it all the time watching scary movies and reading books – so why not harness that power to realise your dreams?
Learning how to do visualisation meditation can actually rewire your brain for success.
I recently wrote about the thing about burnout that might surprise you—which is that burnout doesn’t happen just because you’re going too hard at work, or you have too much on your plate.
The baddest burnout actually arises from a handful of unproductive lifestyle habits or routines that unnecessarily contribute to exhaustion, overstimulation, and distraction.
If you’re in the rut of burnout, listening to a guided visualisation meditation can hairpin-turn you back to peace. Specifically,
A simple visualisation meditation practice can ignite your sense of direction, calm, and confidence that can be pivotal for the day ahead. It can be the make-or-break difference you need that day in your success mindset and self-belief and can even rewire your brain for success.
I’m going to share one of my favourites with you today. It’s a guided visualisation meditation to get you into a mindset of success and happiness where you get to live that experience now—in order to invite more of it.
There is real science behind visualisation and a success mindset. Before we put it into practice, let’s dive into this question first: What is visualisation meditation and how does it work?
The Power Of Visualisation Meditation
Is visualisation meditation really a thing?
Usain Bolt, commonly considered the best sprinter of all time, is a testament to the power of visualisation meditation. He attributes visualizing his success, in part, to becoming the fastest man on the planet.
“I just visualised, and then executed my plan,” he said. Can something so simple actually make a difference?
Let me ask you something.
Have you ever felt like you’re being the best you can be? If you can say that you HAVE, at any point, felt like you’ve finally reached the point of whatever “success” means to you, did you feel fully in love with yourself and in balance with happiness … or were you rejecting it on some level, dismissing it as fleeting, or simply not able to immerse yourself in it due to the exhaustion (or even burnout) of everything you’d been through to get there?
It’s a myth that personal success represents some kind of perfect balancing act of “doing it all” and “having it all.’” Instead of being a balancing act, rewiring your brain for success is about finding harmony with the wins, and the losses.
There are…key areas — including depression, chronic pain, and anxiety — in which well-designed, well-run studies have shown benefits for patients engaging in a mindfulness meditation program, with effects similar to other existing treatments.
If you’re trying to change your external world, it’s essential to harmonize what you want “out there” to the internal dialogue and imagery you rehearse in your mind.
What I mean is this: If you spend your time worrying only about disaster scenarios of what could happen if things go wrong, you won’t readily accept when things go right. You can’t, because you haven’t practiced processing it.
The term for picturing disaster scenarios in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is “anxious projections.” When that happens, you’re in discord—the opposite of harmony—and discord can actually make us sabotage our own success.
So here’s where I point out something for those in the room who are resistant to the idea of visualisation because they think it’s too hard, too woo-woo, or “it’s not for them.”
Visualisation _IS_ for you. You already do it. You just do it on the wrong side! If you’re up for it, we can start to change that, starting now.
Everything is created twice, first in the mind, and then in reality.
The Neuroscience Behind Visualisation
Let’s Get Literal
In one model, you’re spending your time worrying and rehearsing disaster scenarios: What could happen if things go wrong?
In another model, you rehearse:
What if things go fantastically?
What if you realize your dream, your vision, your goal?
… And what if your aspirations go beyond what you can even imagine right now?
I call the practice of visualising a scenario with an abundance of joy, of achieving the best that you can be, a “literal rehearsal.” For instance, you envision giving a talk in front of hundreds of people and doing it really, really confidently. You deliver exactly what you set out to deliver.
This “embodied cognition” is the neuroscience behind visualization. It’s the “fake it ‘til you make it” of neuroscience! It is the science behind your ability to create new possibilities—your future—with the power of your imagination.
This principle works because the body cannot tell whether the brain has experienced something or whether it’s imagining it. The messages and chemicals going from the brain into the body are the same whether you’re visualising it, or whether you’re really experiencing it.
The more you imagine your vision the better your body gets at assimilating that experience in a real-world scenario. When we assimilate the experience, we become acclimated to it so that when it shows up in real life, we’re far less likely to sabotage it, reject it, ignore it, fear it, or feel unworthy of it.
We are masters of self-sabotage if a scenario shows up for us that doesn’t match with the reality we’ve believed in. Visualisation meditation works to up-level that reality and that potential reality.
It bears repeating: The more you visualise your imagined future, the better you get at living it and making it the reality you desire.
Scientific studies have shown the positive effects of creative visualization…[to] improve many facets of life, from athletic ability to cognitive performance, to self-esteem, to goal achievement.
How To Do Visualisation Meditation To Rewire Your Brain For Success In Three Easy Steps
A guided visualisation meditation
You can do this on your own, or you can follow a guided visualisation meditation like the transformative practice I am giving you right now, on the house! 😉
1. PICK A SCENARIO & GET RELAXED
Think of a future scenario that is impacting you now. Something you want to do well or feel better doing. Giving a presentation, pushing through a workout, asking for a raise, asking someone out—anything. Now close your eyes (not really NOW, now. You’re reading!).
Breathe and centre. Turn your focus and awareness to the breath.
Simply concentrate on breathing in, and breathing out, and relax.
Your face, your shoulders, your neck.
Your chest, your hips, your lower back.
Your legs. Feel your feet flat on the ground.
When you feel present in your body and you’re focusing your breath, making it calm, then create a picture of everything going amazingly well.
It’s all about the details! This next step is really key …
2. STEP THROUGH ALL FIVE SENSES |
If things were to go fantastically well, what would you see around you? You can see smiling faces, and the way that people are receiving what you have to give in that moment. Do you see bright colors, or the sunlight glistening through a window?
How do you feel in your body? Are you sitting tall? Is your breath easy, your body relaxed?
Are there any scents in the air? Perhaps your favorite perfume, or something culinary that reminds you of this dream, or if you’re outside in nature, can you smell fresh air and feel a sense of freedom?
It’s a good time to note that your scenario doesn’t have to be something you do. It can simply be a visualisation of a place that puts you into a joyful, inspired, or confident state of mind.
What can you touch? What do you hear?
Put each of your senses into play—and then it’s …
3. RINSE AND REPEAT
Practice makes perfect, remember? Stay in your visualisation, and find new things to explore. Visualising at least once a day is a good goal.
You can add some affirmations to it. Allow yourself to relax into a deeply calm, meditative state. Keep rehearsing with each sense.
If you can’t picture a scene, to begin with, or if you lose focus, don’t fret! Some people are more descriptive-types, and that’s okay! Just describe it in your mind. “This is happening; It’s wonderful. People are really receiving me well, and I feel great.” Talk yourself through the story of your best-case scenario.
It can be easier and often more enjoyable to begin a wellness practice (like visualisation) with the aid or company of someone else. I’ve recorded the Success Mindset Guided Visualisation Meditation for you for just that purpose.
This guided visualisation meditation is yours for free. If there’s one thing I ask, it’s that you try it out. I would love, love, love to hear how it is for you!
Be sure to share your thoughts on visualisation meditation in the comments, along with what your vision is, or something that you’re working on. I use what I learn about you to create content and provide services that are most helpful to you. Plus, I just love hearing what everyone’s up to!
As you practice visualising your success, you’ll start to see just how sacred your space and attention are. Replace some of your daily scrolling screen time with this visualisation meditation, and rather than sinking your way back to burnout, grow your mental and emotional stamina to drive directly toward what you want out of life.
Download my guided visualisation meditation and learn how to rewire your brain for success instantly
You’ll feel better in minutes. Seriously!
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Cat founded Nine Lives Yoga in 2012 and has since worked with over 25,000 clients across 11 countries from speaking to hosting retreats to diving deeper with clients through her coaching course. She lives in Brighton where she loves to go running over the South Downs with her dog, and paddleboard into the sunset.