Did you love to let your imagination run wild as a child? It turns out that using your imagination as a child was not only fun, but it was also an important part of your brain’s development. Maybe it’s time to revisit daydreaming….except now that you’re an adult, we’ll call it visualization! Visualization is a process of forming a mental image in your mind. In other words, it’s using your imagination to create a picture in your mind and it can be a really powerful tool to help you take action or break actions in your life.
Did you know that to your brain, experiencing a vivid image in your mind is almost as powerful as if that experience happened in real life? According to Psychology Today, “Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions.” Your thoughts can affect your subconscious mind just as much as your actions. Your mind can literally help you create the life you desire. How amazing is that? By visualizing an action over and over in your mind, you can reinforce and strengthen that action. If you can use visualization to reinforce an action, why not try the opposite and use it to break a pattern or bad habit?
If you have a bad habit that you want to crush, here are three ways that visualization can help:
1. Know the source, or trigger, of your habit and visualize a different outcome.
Figuring out the trigger that causes you to launch into your bad habit is key. Habits are often unconscious, so you need to be aware of what happens just before the behavior that you want to change. For example, maybe you notice that every time you’re bored you find yourself on the couch with a bag of chips.
Try this: Visualize yourself sitting on the couch feeling bored. Now imagine yourself taking a different action. What could you do instead?
Choose a new habit to implement any time you feel bored, such as calling a friend, picking up a good book or pulling out your art supplies. Spend some time visualizing yourself doing this new habit. Imagine how you’ll feel when you are devouring that new book instead of devouring junk food that you know you’ll regret. Soak up all of those positive feelings!
2. Visualize yourself dissolving the emotions that lead to your bad habit.
Now that you know what your trigger is, ask yourself how it makes you feel. Do you feel bored? Lonely? Angry? Frustrated? Your bad habit is essentially a way of trying to make you feel better. Now imagine if you could use your thoughts to feel better without taking any action at all.
For example, let’s say you’ve been feeling overwhelmed and overworked at the office. Every time your boss comes in with a stack of papers, you immediately feel annoyed and resentful. To cope, you find yourself wasting time on Facebook instead of tackling your stack of paperwork.
Try this: Visualize yourself sitting at your desk, with a pile of papers in front of you. Notice how you feel. Are you stressed out? Anxious? Resentful? Angry? How would you like to feel instead?
Imagine your overwhelm dissolving and your anger melting away. Imagine a feeling of calm and peace flowing through you. Now imagine a new feeling beginning to grow within you. Do you feel inspired? Confident? Creative? Determined? Give yourself a few minutes to allow this new positive emotion to really sink in.
3. Use visualization to write a new story for yourself.
What would your life look like if your trigger and your bad habit didn’t exist at all? In this final example, we’re going to use visualization to reinforce the new habits you want to create in your life by repeating them over and over in your mind.
Try this: Take a few moments to think about what kind of habits or routines you would love to build in your life. Choose one habit to focus on during your visualization. Try to paint a vivid picture of yourself taking action. Engage all of your senses and make it as real as possible: What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What are you wearing? Is anyone with you? How do you feel?
Repeat this visualization often until the image becomes clearer and clearer in your mind. This will support you as you build this habit into your daily life. All three of these methods of using visualization can be amazing in helping you ditch bad habits and create new positive habits. Choose one method to try, or feel free to experiment with all three.
The key to using visualization effectively is repetition. Just like you would need to practice playing a sport or an instrument to get better, you need to practice visualization as well. At first, you might struggle to use your imagination or stay focused, but over time your visualizations will become stronger, clearer and more vibrant, and that is when the magic happens! After all, as Napoleon Hill famously said,
“What the mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
So find a quiet spot, and let your imagination soar!