How to use visualisations to create the life you want
by Hannah Moss
Welcome to the final post in my Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life blog series. The introductory post looked at 3 ways to become a positive thinker. I then dived into the practices of gratitude in How to shift your mindset by being more grateful and affirmations in Using morning affirmations to start your day with positivity.
The third and final tool is visualisations. By the end of this post you’ll have a good understanding of what visualisations are, the benefits of using them and how to incorporate them into your daily reality in order to create the life you want.
What are visualisations?
The Miriam Webster definition of visualisation is “the formation of mental visual images or the act or process of interpreting visual terms or of putting them into visible form.” A simpler, more accessible, definition from BetterUp is: “Visualization is the practice of imagining what you want to achieve in the future. As if it were true today.”
If you’ve read the previous post in this series, Using morning affirmations to start your day with positivity, you might notice how similar this sounds to affirmations. Both these practices encourage you to focus on something as if it’s already true.
“In effective personal leadership, visualization and affirmation techniques emerge naturally out of a foundation of well-thought-through purposes and principles that become the center of a person’s life.” – Stephen Covey
How do visualisations work?
When you focus your attention on what you want to attract into your life, you’re training your brain to respond as if that outcome were already true right now. According to John Kehoe, “The subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Your subconscious will act upon the images you create within, whether they reflect your current reality or not.”
So, again, we see the Law of Attraction at work here. Whatever you focus your attention on, you’ll literally attract into your reality. At some point in your life you’ve probably experienced the phenomenon of wanting to make a significant purchase, let’s say a Specialized mountain bike. You do lots of research and spend time looking up that particular brand of bike. Then, even after you’ve bought it, you keep seeing those bikes everywhere. This is because we see the things that we choose to focus on.
This selective attention process works for both the negative and positive. So, if we focus on negative thoughts and events, we’re more likely to attract negative events and experience uncomfortable emotions. Conversely, if we focus our attention on the positive, we’re more likely to attract positive experiences.
“When you visualize, then you materialize.” – Denis Waitley
The science behind visualisations
According to BetterHelp, “The actual science behind visualization relates to the neural patterns of your brain. As you continue to think and visualize the things that you want in your life, you create neural patterns the same way as if you had actually done that activity. This is why basketball players were able to increase the percentage of shots they made without ever shooting a basketball in practice. They were training their brain on how to succeed at shooting. The nervous system of your body is stimulated just by thinking about something, even if you have never taken part in the activity before.”
As we’ve seen before, your subconscious mind can’t actually tell the difference between what’s real and what’s not, so when you imagine a certain reality or emotion, your brain reacts as if it’s already true.
We can also look to cognitive behaviour theory for an additional explanation, which states that thought precedes action. The more you think about something, the more likely you are to take action towards it, thereby attracting it into your reality.
How are visualisations and mindfulness linked?
Mindfulness plays a key part in visualisations, because the more you can involve all your senses, the richer the visualisation will be. When you’re visualising what you want to attract into your life, i.e. what you want to experience, how you want to feel or the outcome of an event, try to create a full sensory experience by bringing all 5 senses into your visualisation, for example:
- Sight: What can you see around you? Where are you? Who are you with?
- Sound: What can you hear around you? What are people saying to you? What are you saying to them?
- Smell: Can you pick up any particular scents or aromas? What do they signify?
- Touch: What can you feel? Are there certain textures around you? How do they make you feel?
- Taste: Are there any tastes in your experience? What emotions or memories do they conjure for you?
Using mindfulness in this way is best suited to practising a formal visual meditation (more on this later), but it also helps to bring in the senses as much as possible whenever you’re using visualisations, even if on a more ad hoc basis.
“The key to effective visualization is to create the most detailed, clear and vivid picture to focus on as possible. The more vivid the visualization, the more likely, and quickly, you are to begin attracting the things that help you achieve what you want to get done.” – George St-Pierre
How to use visualisations
There are several ways you can introduce a visualisation practice into your life. Read through these options, try them out and choose the one you’re most attracted to or that best fits with your daily or weekly routine.
Morning visualisation practice
In the previous post, Using morning affirmations to start your day with positivity, we looked at the importance of starting your day with positive thoughts. Visualisations are a great way to do this, too. When you first wake up in the morning, before you even get out of bed, spend a few moments visualising how you want the day to go.
If you have an important event coming up, visualise yourself being there and the event going well. If it’s something you’re not looking forward to, imagine it being over, that it went better than you expected, and feeling good about yourself afterwards. Visualise yourself going through your day, having positive experiences and emotions. Focus on whatever feels important to you for that day and remember to bring in all the senses, including how you want to feel.
Of course, if you forget to do this when you first wake up, you can also incorporate this practice into an existing morning routine, such as making a cuppa or brushing your teeth. This way, it doesn’t even need to take any extra time; you’re simply using the time you already have in a more positive, productive way. Try it a few times and notice how it affects your day.
Using visualisations with affirmations
If you’re already working with affirmations, you can bring visualisation more strongly into this practice, too. As you repeat your affirmations and focus on the words you’re saying, try to imagine that what you’re saying is already true. See it in your mind’s eye and really feel how it feels.
You can even make embodied movements to help yourself visualise the affirmation. This could include opening your arms wide and looking up to the sky if you want to feel freer or more confident. You could be cradling a child in your arms if your affirmation is related to having a baby. Or you could be in an embrace with your partner if you want to attract a new relationship into your life.
Whatever it is you want to attract, you can use visualisations to create a stronger, deeper, more powerful and more embodied connection to it.
Visual meditation practice
One of the most powerful ways to use visualisations is in a visual meditation practice. You can either create your own journey, or listen to one of the many guided visual meditations available online.
One of my favourite apps for this is Insight Timer. It’s free and contains thousands of guided meditations and soundscapes. You can browse through the library using categories or search for any topic. There’s also a set of timer bells you can use for your own unguided meditation (which is how the app started out, hence its name). For a review of this and 3 other meditation apps, check out this article I wrote for Wildheart Media, Top 4 mindfulness apps: Which one is right for you?
If you’re creating your own visual meditation journey, try following these steps:
- Find a comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed. You can sit or lie down, as long as there’s no danger of falling asleep!
- Close your eyes and take your attention inwards, focusing on the breath for a few rounds.
- Now bring to mind the thing, experience, state or feeling you want to attract. Spend some time imagining yourself having this experience and seeing what your life would be like if it were already true.
- Remember to bring a mindful awareness to your visualisation by using all 5 senses. What can you see, hear, smell, touch and taste? What feelings and emotions are you experiencing?
- Once you’re ready to bring the practice to a close, take your attention back to your breath and your awareness back to where you’re sitting or lying down. Then, slowly open your eyes.
Your journey can be as short or as long as you like. Even if you only have 5 minutes, that’s plenty of time to immerse your mind in your visualisation and train your brain to focus on the positives. If you have 10 or 20 minutes, you can go even deeper and embed the visualisation more strongly.
Happy place meditation
When you sign up to my email list, you’ll get a free guided meditation to find your happy or safe place. This is based on a meditation I did a few years ago and the visualisation I created from it has stayed with me ever since.
I’ve found this a really powerful way to create a place in my mind’s eye that feels safe, nurturing and calm, where I can return to any time I need to find peace, comfort or relief from overwhelm. It’s the perfect place just for me and I have complete control over it. If there are other people or animals there with me, it’s only those I’ve chosen and I can make them leave again at any time.
The meditation takes about 10 minutes and follows a set process to guide you on your own journey. It encourages mindfulness by using all the senses and allows you to visualise whatever is right for you in that moment. You can use the meditation as many times as you like. You might create a different place each time, or you might always come back to the same place, perhaps tweaking it or adding new features every now and then.
If you’d like to experience this meditation for yourself, sign up to my email list and you’ll receive the link in your welcome email. If you’re already on my email list and have lost your welcome email or haven’t downloaded the file, get in touch and I’ll resend it to you.
“Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose.” — Bo Bennett
I’d love to know how you get on with your visualisations, so try out the options outlined above and leave a comment below to share your experiences.
How have you found this blog series? In case you missed any of the posts or would like to refresh your memory, here are the links again:
3 ways to become a positive thinker
How to shift your mindset by being more grateful
Using morning affirmations to start your day with positivity
How to use visualisations to create the life you want (this post)
If you’d like to find out more about working with me 1:1, why not book a FREE discovery call. We’ll journey deeper into the specific issues and challenges you’re facing right now, help you find the answers you need and develop strategies to keep you moving forward so you can create the life you want and deserve.
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