Can visualisation help overcome performance anxiety and other outcomes and goals such as weight loss?
Visualisation is super interesting to me. When I first started hearing about people in sport, I found it so interesting that people pictured the results of events that hadn’t occurred yet. Additionally, not just any effect, favourable outcomes, I’m talking about winning the game, beating their personal best in their chosen field of interest. Playing out every moment from when they run out onto the field to when the game is over, they can hear the crowd cheer and chant after winning.
Sounds crazy, right? Let’s take a step back for a minute as I have a question for you.
Have you ever heard of the term the Law of Attraction?
The idea behind the law of attraction is like that of visualisation. You visualise an image, a picture in your head of what you would like to bring into your life. It is essential to be consistent with your visualisation, with the premise that you will attract the very thing you have been thinking about into your life.
Is it just me, or am I getting a few eye rolls right now? Before you become too skeptical to think about it, you may already do this without even realising it.
What if we turn the concept around to when you think about something negative instead of positive, or you believe that something is bound to go wrong in life as this is a scenario that you have experienced in the past, you cling to the vision, it doesn’t go away and yep before you know it, that thing happens again. Sound familiar?
I have definitely been guilty of thinking this way, particularly when it comes to my running practice. I tend to pigeonhole myself into specific criteria’s ground running for some reason. First, I can’t run because I get asthma, yet low, and behold, when I eventually started running consistently, my asthma subsided. My next obstacle was around running 5km, and I found a million excuses like I can’t fit that in, I don’t have the time, why do people even run? Yet, I have changed the dialogue and the pictures in my head and instead thought about the best-case scenario and pictured how I would look and feel after completing the goal. I’ve decided that I don’t have anything to lose. Instead, I have a whole lot to gain through feelings of achievement and a sense of excitement when I’ve made it happen.
If you can use visualisation to push yourself to further your sporting prowess, what else could it be useful?
We are living in highly stressful times since the Covid-19 pandemic; many feel frustrated and anxious due to their inability to ‘fix’ or change the situation. We are working differently with many of us now have to work from home, we are losing the intimate connection that we have had previously saw our colleagues at work every day and socially in hanging out with our family and friends on the weekends due to continual lockdowns These changes have opened us up to a lot of emotional upheavals. I’m sure for many self-doubts and, dare I say it, weight gain. What if we could turn that self-doubt and emotional rollercoaster around by using visualisation?
Start by visualising each challenge, then picture yourself succeeding in each situation, just the same as an elite athlete would do before a game. Believe it or not, some research suggests that the brain cannot distinguish between something imagined and something real, which is why this practice is so successful.
Let’s look at a scenario where a big presentation is coming up for work. You must conduct the meeting and present via a Zoom call. You are nervous about the technology, you haven’t worked this way before, and you are anxious about something going wrong. Suppose you go into the meeting worried and stressed. In that case, something is bound to happen that will not meet your expectations yet. Go into the meeting with the intention that you will nail the presentation. You will get a different outcome. By simply spending days building up to the exhibition, picturing yourself in front of your clients and colleagues looking and feeling confident, the presentation going off without a hitch, and everyone is engaged with you and the content of your display throughout the entire meeting. You are lightening the emotional load regardless of the actual outcome.
Visualisation can also be a potent tool for weight loss. Picturing yourself how you would like to look and feel after losing weight can be a fantastic motivator. Again, you can use different scenarios in your efforts. For example, suppose you meet some friends for dinner and are keen on pizza. In that case, you could imagine yourself saying no thank you. I am not a pizza person and ordered a salad instead. You can picture yourself in your workout clothes, having just finished a charity run or hike. The possibilities are endless. Creative visualisation harnesses the energy of your imagination to manifest what you desire. By visualising your perfect weight, you are sending out a powerful intention into the universe that you are ready to be that weight.
Visualisation can be tricky when you start the practice, as it doesn’t necessarily come naturally. Once again, everyone is different. Following are some steps that may help when starting.
Set your intention: What you want to achieve or what goal you are looking to reach?
Choose a safe place: Find your space, somewhere that is relaxing and not stressful, cluttered, or noisy and somewhere that preferably you will not be interrupted. This will increase the technique’s success and the benefits that you receive.
Sit or lie in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and start imagining your goal in pictures. Think about where you are, connect to what is around you, and see, hear, and smell. Once again, the more you incorporate all your senses into the experience, the more effective the technique. Take some deep breaths and relax into the image. Other thoughts will inevitably come in and intrude on your time. This is normal and will lessen the more you practice. When different ideas get in the way, acknowledge the thought, and then let it go, then go back to your practice.
Finally, practice makes permanent, for visualisation to take effect, align your actions to enable you to conform to the picture. You need to practice every day for a long enough time that it becomes second nature to you and is incorporated into your daily routine. Those who have practiced visualisation regularly know that stressors and overwhelm can come into our lives at any given time, yet to see any transformation and feel as if you are taking back your power, this practice may genuinely be life-changing. Therefore, it is more than worth the effort.
Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition