New Year's Resolution (Part 2): Visualize It!

In yoga class the other day, the teacher made some announcements, one of which was about welcoming new faces into the existing yoga community as we enter the New Year. I personally love the start of the New Year because people set out to try new things and make changes. It is a time to reset, refresh and renew, and I’m looking forward to meeting some new friends on the mat. The teacher’s caveat, however, was that no matter how long these new faces persist in their new yoga practice, we should always aim to support and encourage growth among one another. Amen to that!

Annnnd, it’s also important to remember that as important as it is to feel immense, powerful, loving support and encouragement from those around us, it is equally as important to feel that support and motivation from within – to believe in oneself and one’s ability to succeed in any new endeavor. This is often the most challenging aspect of developing (and sticking with!) a goal like a New Year’s Resolution. Visualization is one of the most powerful tools you can use to, quite literally, keep your eye on the prize that is your resolution goal for 2017.

In our increasingly visual world, the power of visualization grows. Visualization is the act of creating a mental picture of something you want to achieve. The process occurs in the occipital lobe, which is located at the back of the brain and occupies approximately 20% of the brain’s total capacity. This part of the brain is firing constantly, and when one imagines, for example, a scene in which he/she is playing a baseball game, those parts of the brain involved in the imagined scene are activated. Feelings and movements involved with the game activate the motor and sensory parts of the cortex; memories of how the game was played as a child activate hippocampus in the limbic system; choices about whether or not to steal activate the prefrontal cortex; emotions associated with an imagined win activate the amygdala, etc. The process of visualization – for any goal you want to accomplish – activates your brain’s subconscious, causing it to generate creative ideas for the purpose of executing the visualized event.

There are a few key aspects to productive visualization:

  1. Find a quiet and distraction-free space.
  2. Imagine yourself in the first person, rather than third. That is, you are NOT seeing yourself doing the acting, but rather you are doing the acting.
  3. Imagine that you have already accomplished/attained what you want. Since the subconscious mind cannot distinguish between real and imagined, it will act on the images you create, having fired up other parts of the brain to prepare for this.
  4. Make time for visualization – consider it like a daily meditation – every day. The more time your brain spends running through this scenario, the more likely you will be to follow through.

Finally, creating a “vision board” further supports and enhances the practice of visualization. For me (an active, sensing learner), the creation of a vision board is crucial to my visualization process. A “vision board” is a visual representation of images, words, or drawings that relate to the goal toward which one is working. The act of creating this display/page/board further engages the brain’s sensory systems to reinforce the execution of the goal. A vision board is best placed in a spot you frequent – near your bed, at the kitchen sink, on the bathroom mirror – so that you are exposed to this visual reminder as often as possible, again triggering the brain’s subconscious.

Above all, visualization is most powerful when it is brought to focus daily. No matter how or where or when you may be able to take time to visualize, with or without a vision board, make it as often as possible. Your subconscious brain won’t know real from imagined, because seeing IS believing, and believing is what it takes.

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