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I am delighted to welcome today’s guest post from Ben Lumley, a blogger from the UK who writes about self development at 6aliens.com. You can connect with Ben on Twitter @benlumley6 or if you liked this article then why not subscribe to his RSS Feed?

The brain is a truly powerful thing to behold. Able to process billions of pieces of information, it makes the most sophisticated modern day computers look like a 1980 Casio calculator watch.

But many of us have trouble shutting of the negativity in our brains that leads to nerves and apprehension.

The self-doubt that resides inside us can have a detrimental effect on us at the most crucial of times. Imagine you are about to give a big presentation at work. The big important people will be there so you’re obviously keen to impress.

You’ve got your slides ready and you’ve practiced, but you’re still nervous and the feeling of “I hope I don’t stuff this up” is building inside of you. As you start, you begin to forget your slide order and you get your speech a bit muddled up. If only the ground would open up and swallow you.

This is a natural human response to a pressurised situation and whether you can relate to that experience directly or indirectly, you will know what that feeling is like. As the nerves build, your brain seems to shut down and you forget the information that you needed to know.

It’s not that you’re thick or stupid it’s simply that your brain is responding to a stressful situation by going in to survival mode. One way to combat this is a technique known as visualisation.

What is visualisation?

Visualisation is a technique that allows you to mentally rehearse something in your mind before you do it. It allows you to calmly and rationally go through the task you need to perform in fine detail exactly the way you want to.

It works by essentially tricking your brain into thinking that it has already experienced an event. You see your brain has real trouble distinguishing between reality and imagination which is why if you stress and worry about something then it usually turns out bad.

For example if your partner sends you a message saying that you need to talk, what do you do? Well if that’s all the message says, most of us go into panic mode assuming the worst and trying to think of all the possible things you could have done wrong.

This is natural because maybe in the past you’ve had messages like this that have resulted in a relationship ending. The thing is; your partner might want to talk to you about anything. What you’re having for dinner that night, if you want to go to a party on Saturday night, or what you’re going to watching on TV that night. But due to a past experience your brain instantly assumed the worse.

What visualisation does is allows you to experience something in your imagination in a calm and relaxed manner before you actually experience the event. By doing this, providing that you imagine it going really well, your brain doesn’t switch into panic mode expecting the worst because it thinks that you’ve already been here and last time it went really well. For me, it’s one of the best brain hacks around.

How it’s done?

What I’m going to do is take you through a basic visualisation exercise that can be adapted to pretty much any situation. It’s best done in a quiet and calm environment. It’s also best to sit to do the exercise, as if you’re laying down you may end up falling asleep half way through – it’s quite relaxing you see.

Is everyone sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Find a comfy place to sit. No need to worry about sitting in a particular position with one leg behind your head and one arm in the air. Just find a position that’s comfortable to you and remember to be mindful of your posture. Close your eyes and start by taking some calming deep breaths. Try to keep your eyes closed throughout the whole exercise.

Stretch

So that you can visualise your situation properly you need to be really physically relaxed. To do this; gently stretch some of the muscles in your body starting from your head working your way down to your toes. Don’t be afraid to stretch out your arms and legs at this point. Make sure after you stretch each body part that you allow it to relax before you move on to the next one.

Physically Relax

To really chill you out physically try to imagine a warm glowing light in the centre of your body. Allow this light to slowly grow and work through your whole body, relaxing you more and more as it travels through you. By the time you’ve done this, you’ll be relaxed and comfortable.

Mentally Calm

Before you can start to visualise, it helps to be mentally relaxed as well as physically. Take a moment to remember a time when you felt happy and successful. Try to bring yourself totally back to that memory. What did it feel like? What sights, sounds and smells were there? Spend a few minutes savouring that moment.

Rehearse

So far you’ve been doing things to help you become more relaxed, now the really practical bit. Imagine yourself in the situation you want to visualise. Imagine yourself calmly and confidently preparing for it beforehand. You walk in and get yourself ready. You feel confident and relaxed the whole time.

Today is your day and you’re going to be amazing. Imagine you in that situation giving it your absolute best, everything going exactly as you wanted it to. Imagine walking away afterwards with the biggest smile and feeling of satisfaction ever!

Slowly and gently bring yourself back awake, taking your time not to rush as this can leave you feeling lightheaded and cause you to tense up again.

And that’s it.

If you give this exercise a go you’ll notice that you finish it feeling really chilled out and relaxed. You can use this exercise just to calm you down and chill you out after a tough day.

You’ll be a lot calmer and more mentally prepared for what lies ahead as after you do some visualisation, the more relaxed you’ll become and the more you will feel confident about the situation that you need to face.

This is a great exercise to have a go at and I urge everyone reading this to have a try and let Jen know what you think in the comments.

So how’d you get on?

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