At its simplest, visualisation is simply imagining something that isn’t actually there, in front of you.
Some people believe that they can’t visualise (I used to be one of them!), but the fact is we are all experts at visualisation, because we think and imagine in pictures.
Think of the New Zealand flag.
What shape is the flag? What colours are on the flag? What symbols? Is the flag still or is it wafting in the breeze?
Excellent! You’ve just been visualising.
Some people such as anxiety sufferers are better at visualisation than others. Anxiety sufferers use their imagination to create, future scenarios in which things go wrong.
When I work with an anxious or stressed person for the first time my initial goal is to help them into a relaxed state, because a stressed mind and body inhibits change for the better. In my experience, guided visualisation is one of the fastest ways to generate deep relaxation. For people who have ongoing stress, the sense of relief this relaxation brings, can be profound.
Guided visualisation involves me acting as a tour guide to take the person on an imaginary journey. The great thing about visualisation is that, unlike the real world where, say, that relaxing Greek islands holiday isn't possible right now, you can go wherever you want to, immediately.
When using guided visualization for relaxation I usually suggest that the person create a detailed mental image of a safe, calm and peaceful setting or environment. This 'safe and special place' could be an imaginary place, or be a real place that they love to go to. People often choose to imagine themselves walking on empty beaches by the sea, or in the mountains, or by a stream, or sitting in their own gardens. Some people relax through a physical activity, such as playing football or squash, dancing, cycling or walking in the park, and so they might visualise themselves enjoying that activity.
The more senses you engage when engaging in visualisation, the more real, richer and vivid the experience you'll have. I encourage my clients to see the colours; hear the sounds; feel the textures and smell the smells of the place.
Here’s a suggested approach to visualisation that you might like to practice.
1) Find a private, safe, calm space and make yourself comfortable.
2) Take a few slow and deep breaths to centre your attention and calm yourself. This prepares you to move into a state of relaxation in which you are more likely to visualise effectively.
3) Close your eyes. We tend to imagine and visualise better if we are not distracted by what we are looking at in real life.
4) Imagine yourself in a 'safe and special place', where everything is as you would ideally have it. Some people visualize a beach, a mountain, a forest, or a being in a favourite room sitting on a favourite chair.
5) Imagine yourself becoming calmer and more and more relaxed. Alternatively, imagine yourself smiling, feeling happy and having a good time.
6) Involve all the senses. Focus on the different sensory attributes present in your scene so as to make it more vivid in your mind. For instance, if you are imagining the beach, spend some time vividly imagining the warmth of the sun on your skin, the smell of the ocean, seaweed and salt spray, and the sound of the waves, wind and seagulls. The more you can invoke your senses, the more vivid the entire image and experience will become.
7) Perhaps add details, movement, depth and contrast. Vividness comes from these details, and our eyes are attracted to movement. By adding depth and contrast your visualisation becomes much fuller and 3-D.
8) Remain within your scene, touring its various sensory aspects for five to ten minutes or until you feel you have achieved the desired depth and period of relaxation.
9) While relaxed, assure yourself that you can return to this place whenever you want or need to relax.
10) Open your eyes again, have a stretch, and re-engage with the room around you.
To find out more about how guided visualisation can help you remove the limitations that are holding you back and lead you towards a life without them, simply schedule a complimentary 30 minute consultation with me.
Tony Yuile is hired by people seeking help to perform at their best in one or more areas of their lives. He is a Personal Performance Coach & hypnosis professional based in Wellington NZ, where he specialises in helping people perform under pressure, reduce anxiety and manage stress. Tony’s solution focused approach to coaching uses a range of techniques drawn from the fields of co-active coaching, hypnosis and neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Contact Tony today to discuss how he can help you, or if you think Tony could help someone you know, you might like to encourage them to get in touch with him.
This article contains the personal views and opinions of the author, which may change over time. It is intended to be for information only and does not constitute medical advice. For medical and health advice, always consult a qualified medical professional.