Here it is, into the 2nd full week of the new year. Resolutions abound! I definitely see it at the gym and hear the chatter on social media and among friends. Even if you abandoned the idea of New Years resolutions a long time ago, there is still something infections about starting fresh along with a brand spankin’ new year! The problem, well…there are several…but the stick-to-it-ness is lacking. Along with accountability and planning/goal setting, a huge tool for success, in my opinion and personal experience, is visualization.
What? Is that some weird new age, magic, must use fairy dust and chant kind of thing? Um…no. In fact, it is a scientifically researched tactic that a lot of athletes use. In fact, Aymeric Guillot, Ph.D., a professor at the Center of Research and Innovation in Sport at University Claude Bernard Lyon, in France finds that we actually activate some of the same neural networks (paths of interconnected nerve cells that link what your body does to the brain impulses that control it) during visualization that we do in the activity itself. Does that mean I can visualize running 5 miles instead of doing it? Well, it doesn’t activate your muscles and fat cells so…nice try! But, it gets your head in the game, helps prepare you, builds confidence in your own ability as you “practice” in your head and, as those neural networks are activated, lets you experience some of the adrenaline that might come with what you are envisioning.
“Ok, well I’m not ‘training’ for anything. What does this have to do with me and wanting to lose 20 pounds?”
Visualization can be used in a very powerful way to create new habits. I really believe that when you are changing something in your lifestyle, it is crucial to create sort of a new culture for yourself. Losing a significant amount of weight or starting a fitness program, these things have far more to do with your day to day life than just going to the gym 5 days a week and eating less. It has to do with how we relate with people, how we deal with stress, happiness and emotion in general. It has to do with how we relax and how we celebrate. It has to do with routine and what brings us comfort. I could go on and on…
If I want to become a fit, healthy person, envisioning myself as a fit, healthy person in very specific ways is huge. It makes it real in my mind, I can actually see how it would look in my life. Very important is what it reveals to me that WON’T fit in my life anymore. If I am picturing myself as being strong, energetic and fit but find myself binge drinking with my buddies on the weekend, or on the couch at night numbing out with a pint of ice cream or bag of chips, or I go out with my family and order a meal that puts me into a food coma for the rest of the evening and therefor cannot complete my workout …those things are going to start sticking out as NOT what gels with my image for myself.
Another way this tactic is helpful is in creating that new culture for oneself by bringing new input into your life in a lot of different ways. What I mean is surrounding yourself with things and people that inspire this new way of life in you. It might be friends who are living a healthy lifestyle, a magazine that motivates you, pod casts, books, websites, going to workshops or taking classes. A homework assignment I often give clients is to make a vision board. There are no specifics with the vision board other than making it something that inspires you in terms of a specific goal you are trying to reach. A vision board, if you have never done one, is essentially a collage.
Here’s an example of one (not mine):
Some people like to put quotes up in their house, in their car, etc. I love that idea too. A vision board takes the process a little deeper and the experience of just creating the vision board has a lot of meaning and helps us focus and hone in on where we are going with our goal and how we need to mold certain things in our lives in order to get there.
I would love to see any vision boards that are created! Or hear other tips that you use that you find helpful and inspiring!
Either send me a message through the contact form or you can find me on FB: healthwithjess
Love and blessings,