Regardless of what your specific goals are in life, having and maintaining a clear vision is a key component to success. Envisioning a desirable outcome with such clarity, you can see plainly the steps you must take to get there. Your ability to stay motivated and focused on setting and achieving your fitness goals increases significantly when you can actually imagine or “see” the results of your hard work. Skeptical? I do not blame you. I have run across more than one person who thinks employing visualization techniques are a bunch of hogwash, but I think they are selling this great technique short.
Extensive research has been conducted on the power of visualization, and particularly the role it plays in weight loss. The brain does not know the difference between what is really happening and what is imagined – at least that is what the researchers have found. Therefore, visualization techniques such as disassociation and imagery can become effective tools for weight loss and exercising.
A study conducted by Smith College looked at the technique of dissociation, which is a form of controlled daydreaming where you consciously direct your mind away from a task and onto more pleasant thoughts. In this study, researchers asked one group of participants to focus on a memory recall task, and the other to remain focused on the amount of effort they were exerting while cycling for 15-minutes. While both groups demonstrated similar exertion levels, those focused on completing the unrelated memory-recall task rated their exertion levels to be significantly less. The take away: using dissociation techniques when working out can reduce your sense of effort and awareness of physical sensations such as pain and fatigue.
Listening to music, counting and alphabet games, and active fantasy are great disassociation techniques to employ when working out. Keeping your mind occupied with other tasks instead of how long or hard you are exercising relieves possible boredom and monotony. In short, it can help you pass the time more quickly.
Imagery is another power tool. Seeing yourself at your ideal weight or fitness level is a powerful motivator. Forming pleasant mental pictures of how your body will look and how you will feel when you reach your goal keeps you focus on the bigger picture. While weight loss is a gradual process, visualization is immediate, as it allows you to experience your new body image right away.
Visualization can be hard to master, but with practice and consistency, anyone can do it. Start by visualizing a picture of how you would look at your ideal weight, of walking down a street and turning heads or confidently strolling across a crowded beach in a swimsuit. Hold that picture in your mind for 5 to 10 minutes each day, twice a day. Many people like to practice this technique early in the morning and before bed, but you can do it at anytime.
Effective use of visualization can help you change your overall lifestyle and habits. It is not meant to replace healthy eating and exercise, but visualization can help you change your lifestyle and unhealthy habits. It may not be the key to success, but it can definitely play a role in defining the magnitude of your success. Three-time Olympic champion Gail Devers definitely summed it up best when she said, “Keep your dreams alive. Understand to achieve anything requires faith and belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe.”