Wishing to unplug your mind from the outside world? Contrary to conventional wisdom, you don’t need to spend thousands on a spa retreat or a vacation. What you need is visualization. Through visualization or visual thinking, the mind creates a powerful image that will help you achieve deep relaxation. Scientific research reveals that the power of thought can help you manage stress more efficiently and motivate you to pursue your personal goals.
In simple words, visualization is the act of creating a strong, detailed mental image. This could be anything: a paradisiac beach, the beautiful countryside, or a future version of yourself achieving your dreams. Many people believe that visualization can condition our minds to achieve personal success. By focusing on their deepest desires, high-achievers, develop the confidence to make their ambitions come true.
It isn’t a super-power. They’re simply activating their creative subconscious to start generating creative ideas and reprogramming their brains to perceive valuable resources. That’s why, if you visualize yourself winning a sports match or excelling at an academic test, you will have more chances of making the visualization come true.
And, although many testimonies and research reaffirm the relationship between visual thinking and personal accomplishments, the perks of creative visualization practice don’t end there. In fact, visualization has the power to help us get internal quietness and deep relaxation whenever we need it most.
Why relaxing your mind is important
Stress is a natural mental and physical reaction to life experiences. Everyone deals with stress from time to time. Work, personal relationships, illness, and many other challenging situations trigger stress. For many, a small dose of stress can push them to reach their full potential. Yet, high-stress levels can seriously affect our mental and physical health.
Stress can cause racing thoughts, constant worrying, lack of focus, and difficulty making decisions. People dealing with constant stress feel overwhelmed, irritable, anxious, and burnt out. Successfully managing stress is one of the keys to preserving our wellbeing. Luckily, there are hundreds of techniques for stress relief and relaxation. Visualization is one of them.
Visualization to achieve success in all areas of life
You can apply visualization to relax and excel in any aspects of your personal and professional life. In the world of competitive sports, for example, athletes do not only need outstanding physical skills, but also a strong mental game. The majority of coaches agree that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical. This is why so many athletes train themselves in visualization or mental imagery alongside their physical training routines.
Athletes start the routine by visualizing a good day. In their visualizations, they wake up with a positive state of mind, prepare for the competition, and perform exactly how they desire — fully exploring their physical capacities and claiming victory. The positive visualization has many benefits, among them relaxation and the ideal mindset to excel in the respective discipline.
It’s not just athletes. More and more people attribute the benefits of meditation and their success to visualization. What’s more, their effective visual thinking is helping them to put a stop to one of the factors that jeopardize human beings’ success and makes relaxation even harder: stress.
Where to start with visual thinking for relaxation: 5 Visualization techniques
Staying still and conjuring a mental image out of nowhere is not as easy as it might sound. And so, visualization beginners can feel quite overwhelmed and lost at first. A good way to start the journey of visualization is to go somewhere quiet and private where you won’t feel disrupted. Once there, close your eyes and project the object or place with as much detail as possible. Add emotion, feeling, sensation, and senses to your vision. If you are feeling stuck, here are some simple techniques to aid your visualization.
1. Calm beach scene technique
This technique is normally used when you are on a plane and there’s no chance of getting off. Your mind might start wandering and going through all possible negative scenarios. The best thing to do is to visualize yourself on a beautiful beach; lying on the white sand, looking at a clear blue sky and gently lapping waves. Imagine that your body is in touch with the sand; your fingers touch the sand and feel its warmth and texture. Breath in time with the rolling waves and let go of any tension.
2. Double-paned window technique
Sometimes, when we want to take a good nap or sleep, there is something holding us up. Anxious thoughts begin to flow, preventing us from taking that well-deserved rest. Luckily, there is a special technique to help us relax when we are feeling stressed out about the future or our daily responsibilities. This is the double-paned window technique and it starts by visualizing lots of people chatting loudly outside your open window. Instead of exploding and shouting at them, you take control. You simply close your window and notice how the noise ceases.
3. Blue light technique
Light visualizations are popular relaxation techniques, especially useful when we are about to tackle an important and complex task or when we need to decompress after finishing them. The first step is to visualize yourself surrounded by a glowing orb of intense, blue light. You will then breathe in the light and allow it to fill your whole head. Visualize any tensions or anxieties leaving your body as black smoke; they dissolve entirely in the light that is around you. With each breath you take, allow your body to slowly be filled with the blue, healing light until everything is cleansed.
4. Stop sign technique
More often than not, we allow negative thoughts to disrupt our lives. When a problem arises, a rush of toxic thoughts fill our minds, becoming a major source of stress and anxiety. This simple creative visualization technique is ideal when we need to put an end to draining thoughts. We initiate by visualizing a big, red stop sign on an empty street with a clear blue sky overhead. Then, we focus on the stop sign and repeat the word “stop”.
5. Favorite color technique
This technique is specially designed for these young meditators that seek to have fun and relax. You start by thinking about a color that makes you feel comfortable, peaceful and relaxed. Once you have chosen that color, all you need to do is breathe it in; blow it throughout your body. Allow the color to go down your throat, down your neck and chest, down your stomach and so on until your body is completely filled with the color, making you relaxed and in control.
Health benefits of relaxation with visual thinking
Aside from relaxation and stress management, creative visualization has many health benefits in the long term that derive from the initial relaxation state we reach while focusing on a particular image and after we conclude our visual thinking sessions. These benefits are not just temporary; they can last and have significant positive effects on our bodies and improve our personal health with time.
Blood pressure and hypertension control
High blood pressure doubles the chances of suffering a stroke or heart attack. For this reason, it is important to keep our blood pressure in check. Although scientists have yet to prove that visualization through meditation can significantly lower blood pressure, an abundance of studies has linked the relaxation response that comes with visualization with the regulation of blood pressure and hypertension control. This happens because visualization has the potential to influence the activity in the sympathetic nervous system — known to narrow the blood vessels in response to stress.
Mood regulation and control of emotions
When we reach a deep state of relaxation, we gain greater clarity of mind, stability, and, consequently, control our moods and emotions. This is called “emotional intelligence”, the capacity to understand and express our emotions wisely. With a maximized emotional intelligence, people learn to approach problems and other upsetting situations from different perspectives, becoming immune to them.
Concentration and focus
The adult human mind is capable of maintaining focus for 20 minutes only. When we are under a lot of stress, our ability to concentrate decreases even more, impeding us from seeing the solution to problems and seeing beyond. Through visual thinking, we can shut down our fight-or-flight response, activating its nemesis: the relaxation response. The relaxation response is the personal ability to encourage our bodies to release chemicals and brain signals that make our muscles and organs slow down and increase blood flow to the brain. This way, our minds will focus on a set task or thought, pouring all the energy needed to complete it.
Visualization for a personal transformation and clear mind
It is not a secret that there is no healthy body without a healthy mind. When we experience calmness, inner quiet, and peace during and after a mindfulness session of visualization, we are a step closer to improving our health. Although visualization is all about constructing a meaningful mental image, this helps practice help blocking negative and conflicting thoughts that run wild inside our minds. By eradicating such thoughts, we are able to become more aware of the present moment and enjoy the world that surrounds us, helping us to understand ourselves better.
Professor of clinical psychology and former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Center, Mark Williams, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. “An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.” Professor Williams adds: “Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realize that thoughts are simply ‘mental events’ that do not have to control us.”
Visualization is a matter of mental rehearsal; the more you practice and focus to produce a mental image or thought, the easier is to become more mindful and achieve the relaxation response. The resulting state of relaxation helps our mind to settle down, quieting our racing thoughts and ruling out any negativity. As a result, a calmer mind will reflect the feeling of wellness in the body, unlocking the many health benefits mentioned above.