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Visualisation

Visualisation is a variation on traditional meditation / relaxation. 

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When used as a relaxation technique e.g. to deal with anxiety or help with insomnia, visualisation involves imagining a scene in which you feel safe and at peace, free to let go of all tension and anxiety.

Visualisation techniques can also be used effectively to create an outcome e.g. to see the results of a change you want to make or a goal you would like to achieve.

How can it help me?

Change begins with a goal. It could be managing being HIV+, losing weight, starting a new college course, quitting smoking or starting a business.

Big or small, goals give us purpose keep us focused.

First, have a definite, clear, practical ideal; a goal, an objective. Second, have the necessary means to achieve your ends: knowledge, materials, and methods, finance (if necessary). Third, adjust all your means to that end - Aristotle

Unfortunately, many of us remain stuck at the goal stage. We start out with good intentions and perhaps a plan, but then we can’t seem to make it happen.

There are many reasons that this occurs — being busy with work, impatience, fear etc. before we can believe in a goal, we first must have an idea of what it looks like - we must see it before we can believe it.

This is where visualisation comes in, which is simply a technique for creating a mental image of a future event. When we visualise our change or outcome we begin to see the possibility of achieving it. 

Studies show that visualisation also increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. Muhammad Ali used visualisation extensively in order to improve his performance and create the right mind set for his fights.

If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it - then I can achieve it. - Muhammad Ali

According to research using brain imagery visualisation works because the neurons in our brain interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.

When we visualise an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to ‘perform’ the movement.

This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result as if we had actually done it.

How do I do it?

There many types of visualisation methods –depending on what you are using them for.

One method is outcome visualisation and involves imagining yourself implementing a change / achieving your goal.

For example, if your goal is to run in a charity fun run, see yourself crossing the finish line in the time you would like to achieve. What does it feel like to pass under the finishing banner with the cool air on your overheated body? See who is there to greet you as you finish and hear them cheering you on. Start by finding a quite time and place, use breathing techniques to relax, close your eyes and then try and create as much sensory detail as possible within your mind.


Another type of visualisation is process visualisation which involves imagining each of the actions necessary to achieve the change or outcome you want.

The focus of this method is completing each of the steps you need to implement a change / achieve your goal, but not on the overall goal itself. 
Taking the charity fun run example - in your mind, break the course into sections and visualise how you will run each part:

  • before the race, visualise yourself running well — legs strong, arms relaxed, breathing controlled
  • your pace and gait during the race
  • when you hit ‘the wall’ that point in the race where your body wants to stop,  visualise what you must do to break through it

Again, start by finding a quite time and place, use breathing techniques to relax, close your eyes and then try and create as much sensory detail as possible within your mind.

You may never take part in a charity fun run. However, you can use the same principles to achieve any goal — create a vivid mental picture of yourself succeeding, imagine what you must do during each step of the process and, just like a runner pushing through ‘the wall’, use positive mental imagery to stay focused and motivated when you experience obstacles or setbacks.

These 2 methods are particularly effective when combined together.

Visualisation does not guarantee success - It also does not replace hard work and practice. But when combined with effort (and a strong support network), it is a powerful way to achieve positive, behavioural change and create the life you desire. 

Visualisation resources

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What's in this resource?

  • Utilising Visualisation (.pdf)

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  • Visualisation Overview (.pdf)

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  • Visualisation And Breathing (.pdf)

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  • Visualisation (.pdf)

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  • Visualisation Natural Calm (.pdf)

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  • Visualisation And Meditation Techniques (.pdf)

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