Meditation Visualization

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Visualization meditation

At one point or another, everyone has recited some version of the quote “Life is a journey, not a destination” in their minds. In today’s always-on-the-go society, that mindset can get lost along the way. Many of us get tangled in webs of stress and anxiety, loss of focus, and sleepless nights. While becoming more in tune with our bodies and minds is no easy feat, meditation can help — and techniques such as visualization can help us achieve the health and wellness benefits we are seeking.Try for free

Visualization, on its own, involves picturing in your mind the outcome of something before it’s happened, whether that’s a task or opportunity at hand — such as getting on stage to speak before a large audience — or a sport about to be played. Visualization gained popularity in the 1980s when the Russians began using the technique to excel in sports following the 1984 Olympics.

Today, notable athletes such as Michael Phelps also employ visualization as part of their winning strategy. “For months before a race, Michael gets into a relaxed state. He mentally rehearses for two hours a day in the pool. He sees himself winning. He smells the air, tastes the water, hears the sounds, sees the clock,” Phelps’ Olympic swimming coach Bob Bowman said in a 2016 interview with Forbes.

Visualization and visualization meditation are not quite interchangeable. Rather, they intersect at times and both rely on your imagination. For example, in order to achieve success à la Phelps, you would be employing pure visualization. Your mind does the heavy lifting while allowing your body to relax, and begins picturing an experience before acting on it in real life. This eases performance anxiety through familiarity.

In a visualization meditation, on the other hand, the brain uses the same imaginative mechanics, but it instead focuses on an image of something or someone, that is conjured as the object of focus.

What is the science behind visualization working? Well, the brain is a fan of visual stimuli. During the exercise, your amygdala — the tiny structure in the center of the brain responsible for the fight or flight response — has trouble distinguishing between something that is simply being seen during a visualization meditation session and something that is actually happening in real time.

One type of visualization meditation is meditation for compassion, a.k.a. loving-kindness, where you focus on one particular person you have in mind or several people, depending on the exercise, and direct kindness toward yourself and them.

From professional athletes and dancers to everyday humans, research shows that visualization has impacted physical performance in a variety of circumstances. In a Loyola Mary mount University study, dancers were able to improve their jumping height by looking at imagery and imagining their “whole body is a spring.” Another study focused on everyday people found that, while people who went to the gym increased their muscle strength by 30 percent, those who simply visualized their workouts increased theirs by 13.5 percent — nearly half as much.

Ultimately, your body and mind are a whole, and training the mind will have strong effects on what your body can achieve.

The benefits of visualization are plentiful, and whether you are an athlete or artist trying to improve performance, an executive getting over a fear of public speaking or an everyday human trying to achieve your goals, visualization is an effective tool for all walks of life and all types of goals.

  • Improved performance. As Michael Phelps’ coach mentioned, visualizing every aspect of a winning streak (down to the nitty gritty details) has helped the Olympic gold medalist win time and time again.
  • Increased focus. Visualizing specific details associated with the bigger picture in your mind require you to work out those brain muscles and focus.
  • Decreased levels of stress and anxiety. No matter your profession, playing all outcomes of a big event in your head before it happens in real life will help the event feel more familiar and decrease the levels of stress and anxiety associated with it.
  • Insomnia relief. Imagining yourself in a state of deep relaxation and losing yourself in the textures, sounds and smells of said place will help you get into that deep state in real life.
  • Boosted immunity. Your mind and immune system are connected. By visualizing and keeping yourself in top shape through nutrition, sleep and decreased levels of stress, your immune system will become stronger.
  • Alleviated migraines and chronic pain. Visualization can help transform the brain and form new networks (a process called neurocysticercosis). Practicing the technique can form new connections within the brain that help alleviate migraines and chronic pain.
  • Decreased depression. Picture yourself past the hurdles of depression, at the point where you feel happy and healthy. Seeing your strength reflected within your visualization gives you a picture to go back to when the going gets rough.
  • Boosted confidence. Picturing yourself achieving the goals you want to achieve makes them become more tangible — and in turn you start believing in your ability to get there.

If you are looking to try a visualization meditation, a loving-kindness exercise may be a great place to start. Find yourself in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Think of someone for whom you harbor positive feelings and/or love. Imagine them sending love your way and take a moment to bask in it. You can picture the love as a bright, white light around your chest and heart, and growing throughout your body. Now, reverse the roles and imagine yourself sending love to that person. You can visualize this love as the white light flowing from your body and into the other person. Do your best to imagine the light reaching this person. Visualize the person’s face smiling and their posture becoming relaxed.

After you have completed this exercise with someone you feel positively about, you can try the same practice while thinking about an acquaintance who you don’t know very well, and then finally about a person you may have challenging feelings about.

If you’re having a difficult time with visualization, take a step back and think about an old friend or a place that you really enjoy going to. Thinking about something or someone you like is an image that your mind naturally embraces, details and all, without too much effort. Your mind may wander away into other thoughts, but be patient with yourself and guide your focus back with a light, gentle quality, avoiding self-judgment.

Refresh with this 3-minute visualization meditation

This Headspace guided visualization meditation helps you to maginine a steady stream of sunshine flowing down into the body, bringing with it a sense of warmth space and ease. It’s almost as though it just flushes out any tension from the body. Any discomfort just melting away dissolving in the sunlight.

Try a three minute mini visualization

The Headspace app offers short guided visualization meditation exercises such as this 5-minute relaxing Light Visualization meditation, as well as courses and packs that include training in visualizations on everything from Letting Go of Stress and Finding Focus to Relationships, Handling Sadness, and Growing Your Creativity.

Ultimately, in a visualization meditation practice, you are replacing the focus on the breath with a focus on a mental image. When your mind wanders, come back to that mental image. It might not be perfect on the first try, but it will improve with each practice — and the Headspace app is there to help you every step of the way.

Check out the 10-day beginner’s course on the essentials of meditation — available for free in the Headspace app. From there, once you gain more experience and confidence, you can explore the whole library of meditations and exercises, covering everything from sleep, compassion, and sports to anger, stress, focus, and more. Get started now!

Sign up for Headspace for free, and start reaping the benefits of guided visualization meditation.

What Is Visualization Meditation And What Are the Benefits?

When we’re children, our imaginations run rampant as we envision ourselves in a variety of exciting scenarios. From acquiring magical powers to pretending to be like our favorite adults, using our imagination is an important part of developing our creativity and nurturing our minds. As we grow up, however, we begin to use these creative muscles less and less, but imagination can be a useful tool for adults as well.

As we grow up, we often scrap imagination because we don’t need it for most of our adult responsibilities. Plus, it’s often considered to be a childish behavior. However, experts are discovering that using our imagination in our adulthood can be beneficial to reaching our goals and manifesting what we want in life.

Visualization is actively used by a host of successful people, including athletes, entertainers, and business moguls. While you can simply visualize reaching your goals, the most effective way to use this technique is to practice visualization meditation. This is a simple, step-by-step process you can do almost anywhere and anytime. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how it works and how it can benefit you.

Moving Toward the Future

When you think of the challenges that lie ahead of you, you may have a vague idea of where you want to go with your life. If that’s the case, you’re more likely to stumble into anything that comes along without exerting much control over what happens to you.

Visualization, on the other hand, allows you to see the future you want in vivid terms. You not only know what you want, but you also know how to achieve it. Combined with SMART goals, visualization can move you steadily toward the future you want to create.

In 1981, George Drona wrote about SMART goals, an acronym that would come to be used by corporations, governments, and individuals alike when planning for the future. Here’s what it stands for:

  • Specific – Goals need to be specific. Otherwise, you know neither how to achieve them, nor when you’ve been successful.
  • Measurable – With goals you can measure, you know when you’re falling short of the mark and when you’re moving toward it. In the end, if the goal isn’t measurable, you’ll only have a vague notion of whether or not you achieved it.
  • Assignable – You have to be able to assign a goal, so someone (or a team) is responsible for making it happen. If someone or something is outside your control, it’s not a goal. It’s a hope, and you have no power to make it happen.
  • Realistic – If a goal isn’t realistic, what’s the point? You need to set goals that are possible to achieve.
  • Time-related – Your goals need a deadline, or they may never get completed at all.

Goals are extremely helpful in nearly every aspect of life. It’s important to note, however, that a goal is not a visualization, but rather something you can visualize. For visualization to work, you need to find your own unique vision.

Your vision comes from within you. You don’t impose it on yourself by making a to-do list or thinking about what you should do. Instead, it comes from your personal worldview and your inner desires. What do you want your life to look like? If you’re not sure about your unique vision, trust that it’s there within you. All you have to do is uncover it or reveal it to yourself. One way to do this is through visualization meditation.

What Is Visualization Meditation?

Visualization meditation combines the practice of meditation with the technique of visualization. In meditation, you sharpen your focus through a mental exercise, such as controlled breathing or repeating a mantra. It’s a practice based on calm reflection.

Visualization is a technique that allows you to experience the feelings associated with achieving a future goal. It’s similar to guided imagery because it’s rooted in visual images and other sensory experiences. This technique has been used effectively by public figures and private individuals who simply want to improve their lives. Through much research, scientists have found that visualization can even improve health issues like cancer symptoms and depression.

In visualization meditation, you simply combine these two practices, visualizing something positive while you meditate.

How to Visualize Through Meditation

If you want to try visualization meditation, you’ll need to give yourself some time to stop and reflect on your life. You can do a quick visualization meditation in a few minutes, or you can take a bit longer to connect with your inner self on a deeper level.

Want To Learn The Benefits Of Visualization Meditation?

When people first use this method, they often find it difficult to stay focused for very long. They’re quickly distracted by random thoughts or their environment. That said, persistence pays off. Eventually, you’ll develop a greater ability to benefit from this technique. The following steps can help you visualize during meditation.

Focus Through Mental Exercise

When you want to meditate, you can use a focusing exercise. Deep, controlled breathing helps keep you calm and alert. Plus, it gives you something to focus on other than your problems. Alternatively, you can look directly at an object and focus on that. Whatever focus you create will carry you through the next steps of the visualization process.

Focus on One Area of Your Life

If you’re using visualization meditation to make big changes, don’t try to fix everything in your life all at once. Instead, focus on just one aspect. For example, you might focus on your career, your relationships, or your financial situation.

Imagine the Best that Could Happen

Your task during the meditation is to imagine the very best that could happen. Not only that, but you need to imagine it clearly, distinctly, and in great detail. Visualize where you see yourself and what you want. (This is ultimately what you want to manifest over time.)

Allow Negative Thoughts to Pass

Let your worries, fears, and arguments pass by without dwelling on them. You can’t stop thoughts from coming, but you can ignore them. Like clouds, let them drift by and pay no attention when they appear. Focus on positive thoughts instead.

Meditate on a Mid-Range Goal

Think of a time in the not-too-distant future when you’ll have had a chance to make progress toward your goal. Ideally, what do you want to achieve by that time? What steps are you taking in your imagined future to move toward that goal?

Imagine Your Life When that Goal Comes True

Next, imagine what your life will be like when you achieve your SMART goal. Visualize the specifics of it. What sights will you see? What else will you experience? How will you feel emotionally?

Step Back and Enjoy the View

Now, gain some perspective by imagining that you’re watching yourself experience the good feelings and exciting sensations associated with achieving your goal. Enjoy the moment, knowing you’ve already taken an important step toward making your dream come true.

Come Back to Center to Choose Immediate Steps Toward Your Goal

The last step of the meditation is to think about the concrete steps you’ll take in the coming day, week, or month to move toward making your goal a reality. Make these short-term SMART goals, and dwell on their ability to guide you toward success. As you close your visualization meditation, relax into your physical self, feeling the sensations that are present in your environment.

Move Toward Your Goal Every Day

Although the meditation itself is over, you can continue to benefit from the insights it gave you. You can’t go about your life in a constant state of intense meditative focus, but you can reflect regularly on your goals and the actions you take toward those goals. Better yet, take small but consistent actions every day.

What Are the Benefits of Visualization Meditation?

Meditation on its own has many health benefits, such as reducing high blood pressure, lowering the heart rate, and calming the mind. In addition, visualization can help you move toward success surely and steadily. What about visualization meditation? What can you gain from the combination?

Increased Positivity

As you practice this technique, you’ll naturally develop a more positive outlook. You’ll learn to let go of the negative self-talk that may have been holding you back for years. You’ll also develop the habit of problem-solving and gain a more positive, success-oriented outlook.

Better Goals Held in Mind

Because visualization meditation requires you to focus on your goals, those goals will become more real and immediate to you. Once you’ve focused on them intently for a while, they’ll stay with you and inform the choices you make every day.

The calming element of meditation helps you prepare for the challenges you’ll meet while working toward your goals. Also, when you meet those goals, you’ll be ready to enjoy the pleasant and exciting feelings that will accompany that success.

Some people go through life unable to focus, but the ability to focus isn’t necessarily something you have or lack. Instead, it’s something you can develop, build, and improve over time. Flex that muscle enough, and you’ll find your focus is as strong as you need it to be when it really counts.

Increased Motivation and Energy

Meditation sessions usually bring increased energy. As your body relaxes and takes in fresh air, you’ll become more physically energetic. You’ll also become more mentally energized. Plus, your motivation will increase more and more as you continue your practice.

How to Get Started

Meditation is one of the most simple exercises to try because it requires no tools outside of your body, your focus, and your mind. If you’re ready to start your visualization meditation journey, you’ll find a few tips below.

Find a Quiet, Distraction-Free Place to Meditate

After a little practice, you may be able to meditate anywhere, but those who are new to meditation are more likely to succeed in a quiet environment with limited distractions. Put your phone on do-not-disturb, settle in, and start meditating.

Practice Your Visualization Every Chance You Get

Imagination is like a muscle that needs to be worked out. Even after you’re done meditating and visualizing, you should continue trying to build these mental images whenever you have a chance. Whether you’re imagining your workout before you lift weights or you’re picturing a great day at work, try visualizing every aspect of your life to get more practice.

Be As Realistic As Possible in Your Goals

There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, and you should always try to expect the best from yourself. However, there’s wisdom and happiness in knowing your limits and only working toward goals you can achieve. When you set unrealistic goals, you set yourself up for failure, which can be detrimental to your mental health as well as your future goal-setting attempts. Make sure to set goals you’re capable of reaching.

What If You Can’t Find the Positive?

Sometimes, people who try to meditate have a hard time finding anything positive to imagine. Even if they find something to visualize, they may feel disconnected from the images they see. Should you have trouble visualizing or seeing yourself as successful, a counselor can help you discover things that might be keeping you from seeing the good in your current and future life.

If you’re looking for affordable, convenient online therapy, you can easily connect with a licensed mental health counselor at Better Help. Meditation visualization is just one technique your counselor can teach you to improve your life. To get a better idea of what you can expect from Better Help counselors, here are some reviews from people experiencing a range of life’s challenges.

Counselor Reviews

“Rachael is OUTSTANDING. This is my first experience with counseling/therapy and she’s made it something I didn’t realize I would enjoy so much. I always feel more confident and planned out after we talk. She helps me build realistic goals and checkpoints to help me get there. I never have to feel embarrassed about what I say (or if I’m crying the whole time!). She feels like my smartest, most helpful friend who gives the very best advice by aiding me in finding my own solutions. 10/10 would recommend!”

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