Great news! You can improve your golf swing or putting skills while sitting in a comfy chair in your living room by simply imagining the perfect putt or swing. It seems impossible, but evidence shows that merely visualizing what we want can help make it a reality. “Psychologists have known for decades that the images you create in your mind can have a potent effect on your body; now researchers are proving it,” said Traci Stein, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, in a Health.com article about ways visualization can improve your health.
Visualization, using imagery to change our mind, thoughts or emotions, impacts the brain’s cognitive processes: motor control, attention, perception, planning and memory. During visualization, we can train our brain for actual performance.
Many athletes employ this technique. Like golfer Tiger Woods, experienced athletes use vivid, highly detailed internal images of the entire performance, engaging their senses in their mental rehearsal. World champion golfer Jack Nicklaus said: “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”
This process works in other areas of our lives besides improving athletic skills. Mental practice is a powerful tool as seeing things in our minds can help us achieve what we want in our life. Research results emphasize the strength of the mind-body connection, the link between thoughts and behaviors.
Could this powerful tool promote healing? During human drug trials, pharmaceutical companies divide their test subjects into two groups. One group receives the drug while the other gets a placebo, usually sugar pills or saline solution. Both groups follow a protocol, and then the results are evaluated.
Surprisingly, people who received the placebo showed improvements in their condition. This result occurs in various diseases, from the common cold to cancers. The placebo effect is significant proof that the subconscious mind controls the processes of the body.
Visualization is a technique anyone can use to help foster healing. Positive mental images physically affect the body. Numerous studies have supported the benefits of visualization, usually in conjunction with other therapies, for treating a variety of conditions like asthma, anxiety and fibromyalgia.
This practice is helpful for relaxation and healing for many physical and mental health issues. “Visualization activates the same neural networks that actual task performance does, which can strengthen the connection between brain and body,” explains neuroscientist Stephen Kosslyn, Ph.D., author of Top Brain, Bottom Brain, in the same Health.com article.
Repetitive use of positive visualization encourages the mind and body to work together to nurture the body’s healing process. Positive attitude and visualization connect with better sleep, less inflammation, and lower blood pressure and stress levels.
Visualization treats physical health issues, including a cerebral hemorrhage commonly referred to as a stroke. A blood clot in a brain artery that provides oxygen and nutrients becomes blocked, and the tissue dies, often resulting in weakness or even paralysis of the affected arm or leg.
However, visualizing moving the affected limb causes blood to flow to the distressed area. Even if paralysis occurred, creating that mental image increases blood flow enough to diminish tissue death, which is a prominent display of this powerful technique.
A study published in the Journal of Oncology states that using visualization during cancer treatment achieves relaxation, relieves symptoms and stimulates healing responses in the body. Visualization helps patients tolerate procedures and treatments. Cancer patients are better able to cope with some side effects caused by chemotherapy. Visualization lowers anxiety before radiation therapy and significantly reduced patients’ pain levels.
Additionally, research proves that visualization reduces stress, blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1C levels, an indication of blood sugar. It strengthens immune cell activity and speeds up healing from fractures and burns. Visualizing improves medical procedures like ventilator weaning, biopsy and dialysis.
Validations consistently promote this method’s effectiveness, demonstrating its positive impact on health, wellness, attitude, behavioral change and peak performance. Visualization improves many facets of life, from athletic ability to cognitive performance, self-esteem and goal achievement.
Mental practice boosts confidence, enhances mood and positively affects the performance of cognitive and physical tasks. Treatment of anxiety, depression and other emotional issues and quitting bad habits, such as smoking, can immensely impact self-esteem and personal relationships.
The mind is powerful; use it to paint wonderful mental pictures that could be the key to living a healthier and happier life.
Advocates suggest creating a detailed plan of what one desires and then repetitively visualizing that utilizing all the senses.
Remember: where the mind goes, the body follows.
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