It was once thought that the brain was fixed in the way it functioned after childhood. Then they thought it was teenage years and now science is proving that people are now able to consciously change their brain functioning with proper attention and effort.
Dr Jeffery Schartz a leader in neuroplasticity and founder of NeuroLeadership field, has proved this theory through brains scans proving the efficiency of self-directed neuroplasticity which shows how OCD patients, stroke victims, musicians, athletics, have used this concept to change their brain for the better.
Take Leonardo DiCaprio, he received an Oscar nomination for his performance in Aviator which he suffered from OCD. DiCaprio engaged Dr Schartz to help him explore the intricacies of this illness for his performance. After finishing the film DiCaprio actually walked away with a mild case of the disease and reportedly took him a year to get back to normal.
This demonstrates to us to our brain has the same activity when it visualises (mentally rehearses) doing an action as it does when it is physically performing the action.
If Leo’s acting skills are still not convincing, take this Harvard Study; where Volunteers were asked to play a simple sequence of piano notes each day for five consecutive days. Their brains were scanned each day in the region connected to the finger muscles. Another set of volunteers were asked to imagine playing the notes instead, also having their brains scanned each day.
The top two rows in the image show the changes in the brain in those who played the notes. The middle two rows show the changes in those who simply imagined playing the notes. Compare this with the bottom two rows showing the brain regions of the control group, who didn’t play nor imagine playing, piano.
You can clearly see that the changes in the brain in those who imaged playing the piano are the same as in those who actually played the piano.
Ok, ok, so now you believe me! We actually can stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize something and when we actually do it.
But all fun aside, here are some more things you probably didn’t know about the mind, that could make all the difference to your visusalisation.
- Firstly, the Subconscious Mind can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. Harvard research proved this do creative visualisation ( and done properly), it is virtually the same effect on the neural pathways as doing the real thing! The mechanisms in your brain that forge these new paths can’t tell the difference between an imagined event or real one, so long as the visualised image is powerful enough!
- Did you know our mind thinks in pictures? If I was to say “think of an apple” you would see an apple! You wouldn’t see the letters A.P.P.L.E?
Our Subconscious Mind only speaks in pictures, symbols and emotions. So we ideally we need to engage all five senses, then it is more likely to create pathways that stick. Emotions basically signal us to say pay attention! This is important. Your neurons need to fire up in order to make a change. You need to act (or feel) as you already have your desire. The visual image must evoke some emotion or trigger you in a physical way. This changes our biochemistry.
(Also good to Remember – it goes both ways. A lot of people always think about what could go wrong. So we replay negative memories, therefore, we are strengthening these pathways and find it hard to change!) Ek!
- Now, If you have trouble visualising (envisioning the dream scene or deeply feel the feeling) there could be some internal work to be done. For example, if you are in a constant state of fear – inner resources are cut off such as creativity and imagination. They cannot find expression. You tend to go into a state of “paralysis”. If there is any fear or unresolved issue around this specific desire/visualisation, it’s probably best to get to the root cause of this. And believe it or not, a lot of people generally don’t realise they are in a state of fear because they have become so used to feeling the emotion. One way to tackle this is through a technique called Timeline Therapy®
- Another technique to use for effective visualisation is to brighten your image, intensifying the colour ( make sure the image is not in black and white), make the image crisp, focused, clear, increase the sound, bring closer to you to intensive the emotional feelings to magnify.
- And now the secret sauce to your visualisation…..drum roll, please…… You must associate and then disassociate from the image/picture/visualisation. [G10] Say what?!?! Associate is when you are part of that picture. It feels like you’re living in that moment smelling, hearing, touching. This is the engaging and exciting stage. You are experiencing all the positive emotions that come with it. Dissociate is stepping out of the picture and see your body in the image/visualisation. You must first associate and then dissociate – this is a critical step in achievable and less achievable goals!!!
- And finally, the best time to visual ( and probably the easiest given our busy lifestyles) is night time, just before you drift off to la la land. When you are about the go to sleep the mind enters a deep relaxation and becomes primed for the suggestion. Giddy Up!
And if you’re reading this wondering, what do I need to know about visualisation, how is this going to benefit me. Let me simplify it for you:
Health: More and more people are using visualisation to help facilities recoveries from illness and disease and evidence to support it works.. Also can assist with reducing and dealing with pain.
Sports: commonly used today by elite athletes in all sports to improve performance. A lot of coaches heavily focus on mental state (In their heads they win the competition before doing so in real life)
- Increase motivation
- Boost Mood
- Sparks inspiration
- Boosts confidence
- Inner peace
- Growth mindset
- Evidence proves it helps with
- Assists with creativity
- Increased focus
- Improved relationships
- Elimination of chronic stress, builds confidence, positivity, removes anxiety ( which essentially is a fear of the future)