Today’s world is fast-paced and incredibly overwhelming to many people.
More than ever, people are overstressed and the physical and mental ramifications of stress should not be understated.
Chronic stress can cause a whole host of both physical and psychological issues, and these can range from troublesome to even life-threatening.
Research shows more and more just how important it is to de-stress and find ways to relax.
It helps keep us calm, centered, and it also promotes overall psychological wellbeing. What many people currently do to de-stress, such as watch television, does not actually work to de-stress the mind; rather, it acts as a mental distraction, so the stress continues to pile up.
In addition to the commonly understood habits of practicing mindfulness, yoga, or meditation, visualization is another great way to instantly de-stress your mind and body.
We can’t remove ourselves from the pace of modern life, but we do need to find healthy ways to achieve some sort of balance, as so many of us our currently out of balance.
This is what is responsible for feelings of negativity, depression, anxiety, and more.
Learning how to let go of stress will allow you to better cope with modern life and can even provide relief from psychological stresses like anxiety and depression.
What is Visualization?
In short, visualization, also often called positive visualization is a take on meditation that involves focusing the mind and senses on a certain subject, smell, sight, or sound.
This is done as a means of clearing our mind, letting go of stress, and allowing ourselves the peace of being in the here and now.
This is often achieved through the mental visualization of something in nature or a simple idea.
For example, you might begin to think about a flower. Not only will you think about the way the flower looks, you will note the vibrancy of the color, the way the flower smells, the sounds you hear around you while viewing the flower, the warmth of the sun on your back or the feel of wind in your hair.
You can enhance your ability to get the most out of your visualizations by adding music, incense, and other elements that will further put your senses in the place you are trying to visualize in your mind.
Guided visualization is the same, in pretty much all aspects, as traditional positive visualization, except that is guided by someone else. This can be done in person, in the form of a class, or through a media like video or audio recording.
The end result is the same: you just have a voice that is guiding you along the way that will help you achieve the desired visualization.
Some people prefer this as it helps keep their mind “on track” with their visualizations better than practicing these techniques without the guide.
Whatever works best for you, these techniques are highly effective at reducing stress levels and enhancing our feelings of calm contentedness.
What Does It Do?
In short, visualization does a lot of things.
Physically, it has you practice breathing techniques which can reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Focused breathing and concentration will also lower blood pressure, as well as pulse and heart rate. As your stress levels are reduced, your body stops producing such high levels of so-called “stress hormones.”
More than that, it can be used to actually make us better athlete, artists, performers, managers, and more.
Research has shown that people who can do things like visualize themselves running through sports plays are actually working their brains in much the same way as if they were actually participating in the sport.
This works for any type of process and goal and not only helps to relax, it can increase focus as well as improve how one performs in said activities.
Where to Start
You might think this all sounds well and good, but be confused as to where to even start.
As with meditation, it is recommended that you start small. In this case, it would be simple visualizations for short sessions.
First try to spend just a few minutes visualizing something simple like one flower, leaf, or animal.
As you get more comfortable with these efforts, you can expand your thought process to include more of the outer environment of the flower and stay in this mindset for longer periods of time.
We all have things that “speak” to us in ways that we cannot necessarily verbalize. Take advantage of this and use it in your efforts of visualization.
You may have a soft spot for trees, flowers, squirrels, beaches, etc. Use these in your visualizations as it will be easier to grasp these images and they already provide some level of comfort to you, making them great options for specific things to focus on during the course of your visualizations.
Positive visualization, whether self-practiced or guided, is another great tool to add to our proverbial stress fighting arsenal.
Much research is showing the varied and positive benefits of being able to calm the mind through positive visualization.
Immersing oneself in the sights, sounds, smells, textures, of something natural or soothing, is a great way to clear your mind and let go of residual or excess stress.
These techniques bring about a mindset that is very similar to what we experience when we meditate.
The conscious interaction of the senses and our focused concentration on those senses can actually make it easier to achieve the peace of the now than we can with traditional meditation
Visualization immerses more than just the mind in the present sense.
In today’s stressful and go-go-go world, positive visualization or guided visualization are excellent ways to find calm in the middle of the proverbial storm and let go of your stress once and for all.
Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Fusion Model, where she has a number of Guided