When you think about losing weight, achieving an athletic goal, or becoming healthier, you probably don’t immediately think of visualization. But the practice of visualization can help you in all these areas and more.
And while visualization might seem like something that belongs in the more metaphysical realms of health and happiness, there is a lot of biological and psychological science behind it, too—especially when it comes to physical performance, training, and sport.
Because the real power in visualization lies in its ability to build confidence, improve skills, and help you get yourself into the best possible mindset for the task at hand (whether that’s facing down a deadlift, a handspring, a marathon, or a cold tub full of ice).
The Simple Key to Why Visualization Works
The key to understanding the real-life powers of visualization resides in the simple fact that the human brain is connected to our endocrine system. The endocrine system controls the hormones and chemicals in our bodies.
We all know that these hormones and chemicals can impact both our emotions and our physical state. When we become frightened, nervous, or angry, we shake because of the increase of adrenalin and related substances coursing through our bodies. This mental and physical state certainly doesn’t help our performance, confidence, and ability to think clearly.
But what if it could work the other way?
What if we could use our mental and physical state to influence the chemicals in our body? This is exactly what Russian sport scientists spent a fair amount of time researching in the 1970s and 80s as they pursued better performances from their elite athletes. And visualization is a practice continued by Olympic athletes from all over the world today.
The Facts About Visualization as Shown in Research
Here are some interesting facts gleaned from the research on visualization:
Based on all this information, visualization may be especially key for building new skills, honing technique, and reducing anxiety around performance or learning. In addition, it can be a powerful tool for anyone who is working through an injury and may not be able to train.
How You Can Practice Visualization
Quick instructions for a simple visualization practice:
You don’t have to have all the details at first. Just schedule the time to sit down in a quiet place and draw your picture of success once a day. Add more details each time.
And, of course, be sure to keep up your actual physical practice, as well, whether it’s making healthy food choices, remaining consistent with your exercise, or making the time to practice recovery techniques. Each time you make a positive choice, you are laying another stone in the road to your goal—so keep building that road both in your mind and in the physical world.