What is visualisation?
Visualisation is also known as Mental Imagery, or Visual Mental Rehearsal (VMR), and is a technique that has been proven to be extraordinarily successful in producing specific outcomes.
Why is it important?
Our mind plays a direct role in the creation of our experience and how we interpret it. With the correct training and facilitation, it is possible to ‘resourcefully program’ our minds and bodies to act in a certain way to gain positive results.
The world’s best athletes have highly developed imagery skills and use these skills on a daily basis. Visualization (often termed imagery) is a mental training technique that involves using all your senses including thoughts, feelings, emotions, and other sensations such as sight, sound, feel, adrenaline to create or recreate an experience in your own mind. A critical part of visualization is ‘feeling’ also known as your ‘state’ yourself performing the way you want (confident, focused, good rhythm and tempo, etc.) Many individuals use imagery as a mental training skill to build confidence and a feeling of readiness prior to undertaking a difficult task or project, or when participating in training where new skills are learned (e.g. motivational aspects of imagery). It can also be used as a cognitive technique to plan competition strategies, rehearse plans, affirm what you want to occur, or as a thinking strategy to stay calm and composed under pressure. Everyone possesses the ability to use imagery, like anything else, it is a skill that must be developed and practiced.
It is well attested that mental imagery, often referred to as visualisation or mental rehearsal, helps us achieve our goals. We have decades of research into visualisation and mental imagery from the field of sports psychology and it is only of recent times we are using this evidence in the field of business and performance psychology to help us increase performance and achieve our desired outcomes.
Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow – all relevant to achieving your best life.
When properly constructed, mental imagery has the built-in capacity to deliver multiple layers of complex, encoded messages by way of simple symbols and metaphors. You could say it acts like a depth charge dropped beneath the surface of the “bodymind”, where it can reverberate again and again.
What research has been done into the subject of visualisation?
Mental Imagery research has grown significantly in the last few decades, particularly in the last decade with the scientific advances in the field of neuroplasticity. Studies show that the brain does not know the difference between imagining something and actually doing it. Therefore, visualising positive outcomes or successful completion of an outcome enables both the brain and body to become responsive and conditioned to that particular result.
First, research has demonstrated that imagery strengthens the neural pathways for certain movements (i.e., psycho-neuromuscular explanation). When you imagine performing a particular skill, your muscles fire in the same sequence as if you were actually performing the skill. Second, imagery may function as a coding system in the brain to help individuals form a plan or “ mental blueprint”; imagery strengthens the mental blueprint, enabling the actions/movements to become more familiar or possibly automatic (symbolic learning theory). The third explanation comes from Bio-Informational Theory (Lang, 1979) whereupon imagery involves the activation of a network of coded stimulus and response propositions stored in long term memory (for instance, the texture and feel of a tennis racquet in one’s hand coupled with the fluid motion associated with playing the shot). Recent research (Taylor, 1995) has focused on the effectiveness of imagery as an important self-regulation skill (e.g., the ability to set goals, plan and solve problems, regulate arousal and competitive anxiety, manage emotions effectively). The key is to program your mind, muscles, and emotions for success, and to make your imagery as vivid, realistic, and detailed as possible. When you vividly imagine yourself getting ready for competition, your central nervous system becomes programmed for success. It’s as if the activity you visualized has already happened!
Over the past 25 years, the effectiveness of mental imagery has been increasingly established by research findings that demonstrate its positive impact on health, creativity and performance. We now know that in many instances even 10 minutes of imagery can reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol and glucose levels in the blood, and heighten short- term immune cell activity. It can considerably reduce blood loss during surgery and morphine use after it. It lessens headaches and pain. It can increase skill at skiing, skating, tennis, writing, acting and singing; it accelerates weight loss and reduces anxiety; and it has been shown, again and again, to reduce the aversive effects of chemotherapy, especially nausea, depression and fatigue.
At the end of this session the learner will be able to:
- Define mental imagery/visualisation.
- Apply mental imagery/visualisation skills effectively.
- Enhance performance through the use of mental imagery/visualisation techniques.
- Apply the skills to enable visualisation of Battlespace.