I read a great post over at The Fast Lane about visualization. Steve did a nice job discussing the power of visualization. This post inspired me to write a post I have been thinking about for some time now.
First, I like to use the term imagery instead of visualization because it encompasses all the senses not just vision. When doing imagery it is so important to make it as vivid as possible - using all of your senses. Steve mentioned in his article that "the mind cannot tell the difference between an actual, ‘real-life’ event and a vividly imagined one." This is absolutely true.
Through PET scans of the brain, researchers have shown that the same parts of the cerebral cortex are activated when we imagine something as when we actually experience it. Thus, visual imagery activates the optic cortex in the same manner that an external visual stimulus would. Vivid imagery can stimulate the cerebral cortex, which then relays a message to the lower brain centers, including the limbic system - which is our emotional center and is involved in the formation of memories. The message is then carried to the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system, thereby affecting many bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and the release of neurotransmitters.
How cool is that?! Your mental images truly affect your body! If you still aren't convinced, I have an experiment for you. Try this...
Imagine yourself standing in your kitchen. Make this image as vivid as you can... make it as if you were really there right now. Now imagine that you have a beautiful ripe lemon on the cutting board in front of you. Notice the bright yellow color. Pick the lemon up and feel the bumpy texture of the skin. Give it a little squeeze to feel that it is perfectly ripe. Now imagine putting the lemon back down on the cutting board. Pick up the knife and cut the lemon in half. As you cut notice the beads of lemon juice rolling down on to the cutting board. You can immediately smell the strong lemon scent. Now cut a small slice of the lemon. Pick up this juicy slice of lemon and imagine taking a nice big bite of this slice.
If you are like most people, this little experiment in imagery produced a physical response - you probably noticed a puckering and salivation in your mouth. This is an example of how powerful your imagination can be... with a simple little imagery experiment you produced a physical response in your body because your brain reacted as if the image was real! I don't know about you, but I think that is incredibly cool!
So, what does this all mean? I suggest that you pay attention to the images that run through your mind during the day. Notice what types of images you generate - begin to replace negative images with positive ones. You can also begin to design the images that will help you accomplish your goals. Each day imagine yourself accomplishing the goals you want. Imagine the life you want... make it as vivid as possible and include all of your senses. You can do this in the mornings before you get out of bed, or in the shower, or at night before you drift off to sleep. It is important to do this frequently and to make it very vivid!
If you are interested in using the power of imagery to sculpt your life, please see the guided imagery exercises that I have produced - they are available as mp3 downloads. You can also hire me as your coach. Imagery is a specialty of mine and I can help you create powerful imagery exercises to help you create the life you want.
Please post a comment describing your response to the imagery experiment!
I am in the process of finding informationi about guided imagery for my oncology patients as a way of alleviating anxiety and promoting rest as well as to divert attention from pain and nausea. I look forward to reading your blogs for more insight.