Every now and again, we need to stop, take a moment and reflect on our lives – what has gone before and what we want to happen.
What’s not important?
What do you want to let go of?
What do you want to change?
Key to our own wellbeing is being able to create a positive reality for ourselves, but to do that we need to know what we want the outcome to be. It’s all too easy to focus on what you don’t want, but what do you really want?
“Energy flows where attention goes.”
So, if you’re focusing on what you don’t want, that’s potentially what you’ll get. But, if you focus on what you do want, anything is possible.
But first you need to be laser clear on what it is you actually do want.
While gaining clarity can be an empowering process in itself, visualising that reality takes powerful to the next level and vastly improves the chances of the visual reality becoming the actual reality.
Awareness is a motor act, so visualisation and imagination are ways of turning the unseen into the seen, making the intangible tangible. We find it easier to understand something if it has form rather than just being energy, if it has been experienced rather than just thought about.
For example, if you need to have a difficult conversation or are going for a job interview, you can run through what you want to say and what you want to happen in your mind so that when you experience the situation for real, you’ve already been there before.
In somatic movement, we often visualise a pose or movement either before we do it or instead of doing the full version. I did this recently with my teacher with full wheel pose and it felt tangible in my body and was one of the juiciest versions I’ve ever done.
Visualisation is also a very effective technique to use during pregnancy and birth. Visualisation uses the power of the mind when you’re in a deeply calm and relaxed state to prepare yourself for labour and birth, helping you to alleviate anxiety, stress and worries.
However, repetition is key, so during pregnancy you could visualise labour contractions as surges or waves, rising to a peak and then falling again, rising to a peak and then falling again with you floating on those waves as they rise and fall. Then when you are actually in labour, you’ll be more prepared and less likely to fight the surges flowing through you; you’ll be more likely to go with the flow and stay calm.
My cervix is opening, like a flower.
My pelvis is flexible and open.
My muscles are warm, heavy, and totally relaxed.
Why is visualisation so powerful?
Visualisation can help you to:
1. Overcome your fears and build your self-confidence
Your brain struggles to make a distinction between a real memory of something you’ve actually experienced and an imagined one, something you’ve visualised, so when you use all your senses and emotions to positively imagine something you’ve been worrying about, your brain often stores the visualised ‘experience’ as a memory, making the unknown known and creating a safe space inside you where you can retreat when in deep rest like Yoga Nidra and Savasana where your truth can be expressed and you feel safe, held and supported, helping to dispel fears and develop calmness, confidence and self-esteem. It’s almost like having a dress rehearsal of the event before it actually happens.
2. Develop new skills faster
Visualised practice of a skill can often be as effective as real practice of that skill. Athletes often ‘win’ a race many times before they actually run it – and win it. You use the same parts of the brain to visualise yourself doing something as you do to actually do it in real life so you can build the same neural pathways through visualisation. Remember, as we said before, awareness is a motor act.
3. Develop focus
And as we also mentioned before, where your attention goes, your energy goes so you can let your mind know what you want it to focus on through visualisation, helping you to create your own reality and success.
But how does this work?
There’s an area in your brain known as the reticular activating system that’s very important in ensuring you don’t go into overload by receiving more information than you can cope with. It acts like a filter, deciding what’s important for you to notice and what isn’t. It prioritises things that are important for your survival and safety and that match your current mindset – your values, beliefs, emotions and thoughts. So, by programming your reticular activating system through visualisation, you can make sure that it notices and lets you know about opportunities that will bring you closer to where you want to be.
4. Override limiting beliefs
When you’re deeply relaxed, visualisation is often referred to as self-hypnosis as you’ll be in a suggestible state where it’s much easier to reprogramme your thoughts and beliefs subconsciously.
Yoga is very helpful for us to access this deeply relaxed state. Combining visualisation with 20 minutes daily of deep relaxation or Yoga Nidra is a wonderful way to nourish mum and baby during pregnancy and in preparation for labour and birth. It’s not important to actually ‘see’ the visual pictures in your mind; just to know that they are there is enough; feel, sense and imagine them.
“One of the lovely things a person can do for another person is to awaken the power and sacrament of their imagination, because when you awaken someone’s imagination, you are giving them a new kingdom, a new world.”
John Donohue from his poem ‘The Threshold’
If you vividly visualise yourself doing something you believe you can’t do several times while you’re in a deeply relaxed state, you’ll begin to replace the limiting belief that stopped you being successful with a new belief of your capability to succeed.
So, how do I visualise effectively?
Close your eyes and set an intention. What is it you want to achieve? For example “I am peaceful”.
Relax your body and mind deeply, perhaps using a body scan where you focus on each part of your body, one at a time, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, relaxing each one while focusing on your breathing.
Now imagine the situation using all your senses and emotions. Make it real so it’s recorded in your mind as a memory. What do you see? What sounds are around you? What can you smell? What can you feel – emotionally and physically?
Repetition is key so repeat regularly and you’ll soon start to notice the changes you’ve been striving for.
And how do affirmations fit in with all this?
What you tell yourself about yourself, you’ll often believe, but by using affirmations you can reprogramme your subconscious mind to believe what you want it to believe as you start to create your own reality.
Using affirmations also makes you more aware of your negative thoughts too. They come more to the surface from the subconscious, which can be helpful to work through fears or be more aware of things that might be keeping you stuck.
As we’ve seen previously, where you focus your attention is where your energy goes so if you have a positive attitude, things will likely run much more smoothly for you (or at least, you will cope with adversity in a much more resilient manner). However, if you feel bad about yourself and have negative views, you’ll often feel drawn to self-defeating behaviour which will exacerbate the situation. It’s really the Law of Attraction in action.
Affirmations are simple statements that you tell yourself to focus your attention:
- They begin with phrases like “I”, “I am…”, “My mind is open to…”, “My body is open to…”, “My baby is…” and are written in the present tense.
- They are positive, not negative so instead of saying “I no longer enjoy fast food”, you would say “I’m healthy and like how my body feels when I make healthy choices”.
- They incorporate emotions eg “I feel vibrant and alive when…”.
As with visualisation, make your affirmations real; feel them, taste them, let them come from your soul – daily – and wait for the magic to happen.
Affirmations are however linked to your own map of reality/belief system which has been ingrained since birth and are based on your:
- Emotional experiences
- Knowledge and facts
- Social influences
Some of these belief systems might be really helpful and some, perhaps, not so much. However, these are all important aspects of your beliefs that can make the use and practice of affirmations a little more complex than some people would like us to believe.
So in truth, often repeating an affirmation to yourself over and over again without any context or meaning behind it probably won’t be sufficient to implant that belief in your head. Often for me (and clients I work with), I use affirmations in conjunction with a journalling practice, Yoga Nidra/hypnotherapeutic practices and authentic movement/somatic movement practices to really feel and embody the change in my body.
I also firmly believe that affirmations need to be very personal to you. They need to hold some kind of truth or real significance to be embodied and believed. An affirmation that is supported by your own knowledge, life experience and reasoning is going to be way more powerful than something given to you, learned in a book or handed over.
In my one-to-one sessions with pregnancy clients, after sessions around fear release and hypnosis, I give the clients worksheets to use to create their own affirmations that resonate with them, which are based on words that fire them up. They might be visual, kinaesthetic etc and have an impact on the words they use and those that resonate deeply with them.
An affirmation is not something that someone can tell you is right for you. It needs to come from your own heart. However, it can be helpful to use others’ affirmations as a starting point and go from there.
I’m Lara Heppell and I specialise in working with women one to one and enjoy being part of their journey of reconnection and self-discovery. I support women to find more balance and harmony in their lives by deepening their inner connection to their own body’s needs, helping them cope pre-conception, with fertility issues, prenatally, postnatally or during times of transition, grief or loss and helping alleviate the symptoms of menstruation, perimenopause or menopause.
If you’d like to explore any of the ideas in this blog post or feel you need further support with your wellness, please get in touch.