How Does Visualization Work?


To be successful in visualization, it helps a lot to understand how it works – it will prevent you from making the wrong steps that will get you nowhere and kill your motivation, and direct your efforts to the ones that will keep you going and eventually lead to success.

Visualization and Our Brain

We have been talking a lot about how our brain works in our articles about subliminal messages and hypnosis, stating over and over how important it is to include our subconscious into our conscious efforts to get/achieve what we want. Visualization plays a crucial role in most of the processes that we can use to influence and re-program the way our subconscious “thinks”, because yes, it can understand words, but the primary language that our subconscious speaks are – images!

There are numerous scientific studies that show that mental practices that include visualization are almost as effective as true physical practice; for example, a psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, Guang Yue, compared regular people who went to the gym with those who performed virtual workouts in their head, and found that, while there was a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym, those who conducted mental exercises of the weight training, and no physical activity, had almost half as much (13.5%)!

Studies show that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions, and mental images impact many processes in the brain, such as attention, perception, motor control, planning, and memory. According to Lynne McTaggart, the author of The Intention Experiment, electromyography (EMG) has shown that the brain sees no difference between the thought of an action and a real action. When we perform an action, some specific neural pathways are being stimulated, and specific chemicals are being produced; the same physiological changes happen when we visualize ourselves performing that action.

Psychiatrist Dr. Srinivasan Pillay claims that the impact of visualization on brain activation has been proven in cases of stroke. After stroke, the area of the body that no longer receives blood dies because of the blood clot in an artery. But if a patient imagines moving the affected limb, the blood flow to that area increases, minimizing tissue death.

The strong mind-body connection is in other words the link between thoughts and behaviors, which allows us to use visualizations to improve every aspect of our life. That’s why visualization is so important in practicing manifestation: you can create whatever you dream about in your mind, and with practice, you can achieve what your mind conceived.

Difference Between Visualization and Daydreaming

Many people mistakenly believe that daydreaming is the same thing as visualization, so they don’t put much effort in it – and that’s why they can’t create a vivid image that feels real – and, as we previously explained, it has to look real to your mind in order to be effective.

Daydreaming just happens, it is letting your unconscious mind do whatever it wants. Daydreams are most often inconsistent – you don’t usually daydream about the same things, playing the same scenario in your head.

When you add conscious act to your daydream, it becomes closer to visualization. As we explained in our article How to visualize, a visualization should have a firm structure and intention, it is constructed with the guidance of your conscious mind, and needs you to fully concentrate on it. Daydreaming rarely involves including other senses, and even when it happens, it happens by chance; visualization is best when you’re able to include all five senses to it, one by one, and to really see yourself in the image you’ve created.

Finally, daydreaming most often happens only in the third person view and in future tense – you see yourself doing something, but it’s from the outside. With visualization, the third person view is only one part of it that leads you to the first person view, as if the visualized scene were unfolding all around you, and it happens in the present. It gives more power to the visualization and makes it real in your mind – whereas while you daydream, you know that it’s a dream, much closer to wishful thinking than to creating an environment that your brain will believe in.

Why You Should Start Small

With successful visualization, you should visualize the end goal, and not the process that should lead to it (leave it to your subconscious or to the law of attraction to work their ways through it). The end goal, however, should be pictured in as many details as possible, including all the senses, and with the strong belief. Now, what will happen if we ask you to visualize your dream life right now? Well, probably nothing.

If, for example, your dream life involves having a billion dollars, then your visualization should include all the things that you’re able to buy with that money, the lifestyle that you attribute to it, the feelings and sensations that you’d be experiencing as a billionaire. And seriously, there are so many images involved here that you probably wouldn’t know which one to pick right now, so your mind would get lost wandering and trying different images: a day on the yacht with three gorgeous blondes – a business meeting where you decide to buy Disneyland – shopping at Tiffany’s.

Visualizing big things, too different from your actual life, requires a level of focus that you probably can’t achieve in the first go. These visualizations need to be carefully planned, and you have to develop them regularly – which is why most people get discouraged after a while. Nothing prevents you from creating that image right now, but it will probably be more of a daydream than a visualization, because you haven’t learnt how to properly visualize yet.

So, start with the small things, and practice on them to see how it works. A few examples:

  • If you don’t feel like getting up in the morning, imagine yourself sitting on the computer chair and turning the computer on, or taking a shower and getting your clothes on (or whatever your usual morning routine is). No matter how hard you feel like going to sleep, keep focusing on that image – include every detail like the taste of your toothpaste, or the touch of your keypad. After a few minutes you’ll find yourself doing it, without any effort.
  • You’re sitting in your chair and watching TV, but you have a pile of dishes to do and you just don’t feel like doing them. You can visualize the dishes all clean and neatly stacked in the dishrack. Focus on that image, don’t let it slip your mind – the dishes are done and it’s all looking nice and clean. Eventually you’ll realize that you have no trouble standing up and doing the dishes.

You can now probably see how visualizing the small things, parts of your daily routine, can make you motivated to act upon them. You can do these a few times daily (it’s a fantastic help with procrastination!) until you get more familiar with your own process of visualization, ready to move on to bigger things.

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