The Fascinating Science Behind Visualisation

Visualisation isn’t a new concept; it’s been used by the likes of athletes for decades. However, with the advancement of spirituality in the West, visualisation has become increasingly associated with new-age mysticism. Whilst it can be a spiritual practice if you so choose it to be, the reality is that mental imaging has a stronger basis in science that you may realise.

A study by The Lerner Research Institute published in 2004 found that mental rehearsal had a physical impact on the body. The study measured two muscle movements, one in the little finger and another in the elbow. Participants were placed in groups and asked to mentally rehearse moving one of the above muscle groups or, in the case of the control group, nothing at all. After 12 weeks the group who visualised the movement of the muscles in the little finger noticed on average a 35% increase in muscle strength, whilst the group visualising the elbow muscle movement saw an increase of 13.5% in muscle strength.

Studies such as this one highlight the very real connection between our brain and our body. Scientists now believe they know why: when we visualise the movement of a part of our body, the hand or foot for example, we activate the area of our brain responsible for it – even though we are not actually moving at all. The reason for this derives from the brain’s inability to different between an image and real life.

This begs the question: if our mind is capable of influencing the way our body functions, can focused visualisation make a difference to our health, wellbeing and even our external environment? The answer, it seems, is yes. When we repeatedly send a clear image to our brain it not only strengthens its importance to us, but also makes us consciously and subconsciously seek out experiences that will bring the image into reality.

What’s more, visualisation is an easy technique to grasp; in fact, most of us do it daily already. Anytime our brain pictures something that is not directly in front of us we are visualising the image of it in our minds and deliberate mental rehearsal is no different.

To use visualisation to bring about a future result set aside 10-15 minutes when you know you won’t be disturbed. Bring to mind your dream future or scenario as clearly as possible and allow your body to feel the sensations the real event would inspire. Visualisation works best the clearer and more detailed you are so incorporating your senses, such as those of taste and sound, will allow you create a purer mental image. Repeat the mental image as often as you can, preferably daily. Of course visualisation will not lead to your dreams falling at your feet, but if you’re unhappy with any area of your life mental rehearsal might just be the perfect starting point to set those changes you need in motion.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/76109285@N02/28437994475″>Fogo Interior</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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