I’ve written several times on the Daily Mind about how I find it a constant challenge to maintain a positive outlook and keep negativity at bay. There are several tools I use in my daily quest to remain upbeat, and one of my favourites is visualization. Over the years I’ve learnt that visualization can be a powerful weapon in keeping stress and depression in check whilst training your mind to become more focused on the positive aspects of life. In this blog post I’m going to share some of my favourite visualization exercises for aiding relaxation, beating anxiety and boosting self-confidence.
With each of these techniques it’s best to practise them when you are alone and at a time when you won’t be disturbed. This isn’t always easy, especially if you’re planning to use them at a time of stress, but when you’re starting out you’ll find it easier to practise in a quiet situation. Make sure you turn off your phone and find somewhere to sit where you are comfortable and your back is supported.
Your safe place
The following visualization exercise is great for promoting relaxation and combating anxiety. I’ve used it in a number of different ways ranging from when I’ve been struggling to sleep to when I’ve had a particularly harrowing dentist’s appointment!
Start out by closing your eyes and bringing to mind an image of a place where you feel safe and relaxed. This could be a tropical beach, a flower-filled garden, a meadow, or the top of a mountain. Try to think of somewhere that feels right for you, perhaps based on personal experience. Once you have settled on your safe place, use your imagination to make the experience as real as possible for you. If it’s a beach, imagine how the sand feels between your toes and how hot the sun feels on your skin. Listen for any sounds you can hear – the waves lapping perhaps, or a bird flying overhead.
Really place yourself in that moment in time and focus on how relaxed and soothed it makes you feel. Try to keep this image in your mind for at least five minutes before gently bringing yourself back to the present and opening your eyes. You should feel nice and relaxed! Once you are able to master this on your own, you can try it whenever you are in a stressful situation – like that dentist’s appointment!
The mental rehearsal
The technique of mentally rehearsing an event before you actually experience it is often used by sports people before a big sporting event. The idea is to prepare the mind and body for all eventualities in order to achieve the greatest chance of success. The idea is also that you get to pre-experience achieving your goals, therefore boosting your confidence. I’ve used it before going into a situation that makes me nervous, such as a party where I don’t know many people.
Close your eyes and visualize yourself in the situation that you are preparing for – this could be the aforementioned party, where you don’t know anyone and are nervous. As with the previous technique, make the image of the party as real for you as possible, by conjuring up everything you can see, hear, smell and even taste. Put yourself right in that moment. Then, imagine yourself moving through the party, chatting to people and having conversations in a relaxed, easy manner. Visualise a mirror on the wall of the room where you catch a glimpse of yourself looking happy and at ease.
Take the visualization right through to its conclusion, with you leaving the party feeling confident and proud of yourself for having a successful evening. Try to run through this particular visualization a few times before the event, so that you get used to the idea of it going well. By the time the event comes up for real, your mind will be expecting it to be a success. The brain can easily be trained!
The protective shield
This is an exercise I learnt from an NLP (neuro linguistic programming) teacher many years ago. I find it particularly useful when I know that I am going to be encountering a difficult person or situation in which I may feel threatened or anxious. The idea is to visualize a protective shield or cloak which keeps you safe from the situation or person that makes you feel anxious.
Before beginning this exercise, take a few moments to decide on the type of protective shield you would like to visualize. It could be an actual shield, like you might use in battle, or it could take the form of a cloak that covers your body, a protective bubble or a screen. Choose an image that resonates with you. Then, close your eyes and begin to visualize yourself wearing or being enveloped by your chosen form of protection.
Use all your powers of imagination to make your shield as vivid and vibrant in your mind as possible. Visualise its colour and form and imagine how it makes you feel, being protected by this shield. Get used to visualizing this image a few times on your own. Then, just before you encounter the person or situation that is bothering you, practise your visualization and notice how protected and more confident you feel.
I hope these exercises have been of interest and that you are able to try them out in a variety of challenging situations. Good luck!