What do actor Jim Carrey, three-time Olympic gold medalists Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, and media sensation Oprah Winfrey have in common? Besides being rich and famous, they use visualization to help them achieve their goals. Visualization is often used for increasing success in athletic feats, careers, public speaking, and business ventures.
As you learned in Lark DPP, visualization can also improve success in achieving health goals. You can use visualization to lose weight, increase your physical activity, and make better health choices. This is when you can use visualization effectively for better health, why visualization works, and how to do it.
When to Use Visualization
You can use visualization any time you are chasing a goal whose success depends on the actions you take. You can use it:
To get your mindset ready for success – visualize yourself walking into the doctor’s office and finding out that your blood glucose levels are lower.
To increase motivation – visualize yourself buying a cute outfit that is a size smaller than you currently wear.
To change your mindset – visualize yourself biting into a crunchy apple and feeling so proud that you did not choose apple pie.
To make the process easier – visualize yourself choosing water instead of soda from the vending machine at work.
You can visualize the process – say, walking at lunchtime most weekdays – or the outcome – say, losing 10 lb. over the next 6 months.
Why Visualization Works
As you learned in Lark, visualization helps align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind. You are in full control of your conscious mind. That is where your thoughts occur. Your subconscious mind reflects what your conscious mind tells it and almost automatically directs your actions. Using visualization, you can open communication between your conscious and subconscious minds and better control what your subconscious mind tells you to do.
When you use process visualization, you visualization what you are going to do to reach your goals. Once the time comes, you are more likely to do it because of your “practice runs” in your mind. 23-time Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps may visualize the smooth dive into the pool and a perfectly executed flip-turn in his next race as part of the process of winning another goal.
You might similarly visualize waking up, putting on your sweatsuit and sneakers, and going out the front door to take a brisk walk. If you visualize it enough, it can become ingrained in your mind. You might wake up and automatically, or at least naturally, get dressed and start walking just as you had visualized.
Visualization can also help you break down larger goals into smaller steps to reach your goals. Oprah may have wanted to break out of poverty and make a difference in the world, but she did not expect it to happen all at once. That would have been too vague and likely unattainable. More likely, she visualized each job interview, each business negotiation, and each investment.
Likewise, your overall goal in Lark DPP may be to lower risk for type 2 diabetes, but that goal may be too abstract and daunting. You can help yourself out by visualizing instead more concrete steps, such as saying, “No, thank you,” when your work colleagues offer you doughnuts on Friday morning.
Give It a Try
…Or several, because the more you visualize, the more deeply ingrained your thoughts may be. These steps can help you visualize.
Consider writing out your goal or desired outcome.
Go to a quiet and comfortable spot. Take some seconds to relax and breathe deeply.
Imagine what you will do (process visualization) or the final result (outcome visualization) in detail. Include any actions or emotions surrounding the situation, as well as the environment.
Visualize for 5 to 10 minutes.
Repeat daily or twice daily. Before sleeping and after waking are good times to visualize.
Visualization is personal, so do what works for you. Also, it can take practice. You may find your attention wandering at first, but do not get frustrated or discouraged. Instead, just try again when you are ready.
If you are looking for another tool in your toolbox for ways to achieve your health goals, visualization may be just the thing. It enables you to break down goals, take little steps to achieve great things, and plan to succeed. Lark is right with you!