Mind visualization is a powerful psychological tool. It's about using our minds effectively to achieve our goals.
Techniques like this are good free aids from which we can all benefit.
In effect, they involve replacing inferior thoughts with better good thoughts.
(By way of contrast, meditation is more extreme because its goal is freedom from all compulsive thinking.)
Mind visualization is not just imaginary seeing. This technique involves using all the senses to program our brains for success.
In this section of our site we introduce the technique along with two other important, similar techniques for using our minds effectively, namely, Self-Talk and the Time-Line Technique.
Mind Visualization Exercise 1
Many people in different fields from athletics to sales have discovered for themselves how effective mind visualization can be.
You really can become what you think about most of the time.
As part of your daily morning ritual, we hope you'll include using your imagination effectively.
If you do, you'll be rehearsing your success. Lasting improvements in your habits and techniques only come from good improvements at the more fundamental levels.
You know about your body by sensing it, and mind visualization is using your imagination to sense exactly how you want your body to be.
For example, here's how to use the technique for weight loss:
Imagine in as much sensory detail as possible exactly how you want your body to be. Imagine yourself as already having achieved your ideal body. Imagine how good you'll look. Imagine all the health benefits.
Think of rewarding yourself by getting some new clothes to accentuate your new figure. Imagine your health care professional being astounded at your transformation! Imagine how much better you'll feel! Use this technique to think about how much easier it will be to stand up, walk, dance, and even run.
Think how much less work it will be to climb a flight of stairs. Think how much easier it will be to fit into an airplane or ballpark seat. Think how hot weather will automatically be more tolerable.
Here's an important tip about mind visualization: when a negative thought or image occurs to you, immediately replace it with a positive one. By using visualization to replace thoughts or images in this way, you'll change your surreality, self-concept, attitudes, and values. This is exactly how to become what you think about most of the time.
The best time to practice mind visualization is during your morning routine. Your mind should be relaxed and alert.
Sit comfortably and breathe deeply until you are relaxed. It will help if you close your eyes for the very few minutes mind visualization takes.
Imagine in as much detail as possible the outcome that you want. Imagine going though the day being healthy, exercising well, eating healthy, looking good, and feeling terrific.
Create an affirmative statement to repeat to yourself over and over, for example, "This program to achieve weight loss is working perfectly!"
Then do your best to feel exactly what it will be like to live with your ideal percentage of body fat and optimum health. Smile, and let yourself soak up benefits of your trim, revitalized body.
Skeptical? That's fine—but please try it for yourself! There's an interesting reason why this works: it's effective because our minds cannot tell the difference between something real and something vividly imagined.
This is why we get scared during nightmares: it may only be an imaginary person that is chasing us in a nightmare, but the fear we experience is real fear, isn't it?
In other words, we sometimes confuse reality with surreality, the world with our world. We say that people who are seriously mentally ill live in their own worlds, and we say it because it's true. Mind visualization enables us to use this fact to improve our lives.
(If this topic seriously interests you and you'd like to read more about it, we suggest Panayot Butchvarov's Being Qua Being. He explains how our minds create our worlds by enforcing primitive identity judgments.
However, be forewarned that it's not light reading.)
Mind Visualization Exercise 2
The philosopher Plato wrote that thinking "is, precisely, the inward dialogue carried on by the mind with itself without spoken sound" (Sophist 263e). We all think. We all talk inwardly to ourselves.
Some might think that what we say to ourselves isn't important. That's false. It's extremely important in terms of the quality of our lives.
The Buddha said, "With our thoughts we make the world" (from Dhammapada); I think he meant that we create the worlds we live in, our surrealities, by thinking (and not that we create reality by thinking).
Similarly, the Bible inspired the aphorism: "As a man thinketh in his heart so is he."
James Allen: "Suffering is always the effect of wrong thought."
Norman Vincent Peale: "Change your thoughts and you change your world."
We become what we most frequently say to ourselves. For example, if you repeatedly say to yourself "I don't like myself" or "I hate myself," your self-esteem will decrease; if you repeatedly say to yourself, "I like myself" or "I love myself," your self-esteem will increase.
The trick is to erase your old programming and replace it will new programming.
Please stop negative self-talk like: "I am unable to lose weight," "No diet and exercise program ever works for me," "Everything I eat just turns to fat," "Whenever I lose weight it's always just temporary," "If only I had better genes I could lose weight," and so on.
Replace it with self-talk like: "I always exercise when I need to exercise," "I always eat well," "I always set goals, make plans, and follow those plans to achieve my goals," "I enjoy eating and exercising well," "I am in control of my values and habits," and so on.
Shad Helmstetter: "Self-Talk is a way to override our past negative programming by erasing or replacing it with conscious, positive new directions" (from What To Say When You Talk To Your Self, which is the best book we have read on self-talk).
Use positive self-talk throughout the day; there's no need to limit it to your morning routine. Self-talk creates our self-concepts, which ground our attitudes, values, and habits. Improving the way you talk to yourself will improve your self-concept, which will positively affect your attitudes, values, and habits—and that will improve your results.
Mind Visualization Exercise 3
The Time-Line Technique
According to its co-founder Richard Bandler, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) is basically about "developing ways to teach people how to use their own brains . . . Anything can be changed" (from Using Your Brain For A Change).
Although it's a new field, some people have found it very useful. Since reality is best understood as impermanence, incessant flux, of course anything can be changed!
The time-line technique may be best thought of as an extension of goal setting and mind visualization. If you'd like to achieve permanent weight loss, we encourage you to explore changing your future and your past using the time-line technique.
Using the time-line technique will begin by discovering how your brain codes time spatially. Typically, if you are Anglo-European, your time line will be organized where the past, present, and future are all in front of you. Your memories are arranged like a string of pearls.
With practice, you'll be able to imagine floating up above your time line and floating back into the past or forward into the future. You'll be able to drop down and revisit the past or imagine the future, and then float back up above your time line again and return to the present.
Obviously, imagining yourself at a future time as being trim may, if it's congruent with your self-concept and the attitudes and values that come from your self-concept, help you to develop habits that will bring about that result.
It's a self-fulfilling prophecy.
It's apparently even possible to rebuild a defective past. For example, perhaps you didn't get fat as an adult; perhaps you have always been fat. It's possible to use the time-line technique to go back and have you grow up (in your mind) as a trim person, to create a new childhood for yourself (see Bandler and Grinder's Frogs Into Princes).
Furthermore, this is a technique that can work quickly. If it interests you, consider reading Time Line Therapy by Tad James & Wyatt Woodsmall. It's a book that will give you all you need to get started.
It's also possible to study NLP formally yourself or to hire an NLP therapist to help you. Two excellent introductory audio programs, available from Nightingale-Conant, are Anthony Robbins, Unlease The Power Within, and Charles Faulkner, et. al., NLP.
Isn't the thought of using these tools to help you achieve improved health exciting? These techniques and exercises are good free aids and can bring many benefits. Of course, you do need to combine them with healthy eating.
Web pages to help you further
In this the psychology section of our website we have the following pages: