Every one is a dreamer. We dream about all kinds of things night and day. We may dream at night but we can also "dream" or imagine what we will make for dinner, how we will deal with our cranky toddler during a meltdown (or co-worker...you fill in the blank), what we’ll do for exercise that day or even what we want for our future.
What I want to talk about today is imagery. You may hear it called by different names, visualization, dreaming, meditation, positive thinking, etc., but the idea is the same. Imagery allows us to create an experience before actually “experiencing” it. We can actually “see” ourselves performing a workout before we even change into our running shoes. What an incredible ability we possess!! The most amazing thing about this ability is that when we “dream” or “imagine” we can actually have an impact on our ability to physically carry out whatever we imagine. This type of visualization has been shown to help in managing pain and discomfort, improving positive outcomes for situations and even relieving stress through relaxation.
For today’s purposes, I’m going to use exercise as the example, but honestly you can use this same principle and practice for ANY situation you might be facing. (Avoiding sweets, making healthy food choices, career goals, social situations and more!)
I know, you’re supposed to be imagining, right? Work with me here, I promise it will help in a minute. Okay, all set? Now you can think. Ask yourself if there was ever a time in your past that you had a positive experience with exercise. Maybe you ran a really fast mile and felt really proud or just felt great after a hard workout or...something along those lines.
Okay, now that you have that memory or experience fresh in your mind, I want you to write as much information as you can remember about that positive experience. Include the entire experience. What were your thoughts and feelings? Were there specific sounds, smells, tastes and sights associated with the experience? Write them down! The more vivid the imagery, the more real it will feel and the more effective it will be. This whole process could take anywhere from 10 – 20 minutes. Remember, the more detail the better.
You can use visualization at any time, but it will be most helpful during times when you may not be feeling very motivated or down-right cranky about exercise or when you are feeling like you’re not good enough to try. The beauty of having this concrete in your mind now is that you can use your "exercise imagery" anytime and anywhere. You don't need your paper anymore, just your mind. Sure, it might be nice if you can go sit down in a quiet room for another 20 min. to think about your prepared imagery, but let's face it, those who have busy families can sometimes find it difficult to find a quiet spot in a moment of discouragement. So, start reviewing your imagery wherever you are! You know, when you're standing in front of the pantry and contemplating tearing into a bag of Oreos, walking past your gym bag or even mid-class when you're super tired and kind just want to sneak out the back. Whatever your situation may be, visualization could be the key to pushing past the negative moment and moving forward!
Consider recording your imagery to listen to daily in your car, before going to bed or upon rising. Using positive imagery/visualization can help you build a sense of control over your situation, build confidence and ultimately help you haul yourself off the couch, peel yourself away from your tech devices and get out there and get your sweat on!
You’ve got the tools. Try it. Experiment with it. Make it your own and get out there and DREAM! If you can wrangle your mind, you can do ANYTHING!