Back about four months ago, I attended the Alberta Pain Conference and heard Dr. Norman Doidge speak. I was able to secure his book, The Brain's Way of Healing from the public library.
It is a hefty 360 page book outlining various ways the brain can be challenge and potentially changed over time through a variety of different modalities and techniques.
One of the techniques he describes is one I've personally done for years.
It is free to do.
It doesn't take any special equipment or location.
It takes as little or as much time as you want.
Well, get on with it Lisa - what is it?!
Let me explain.
When we picture ourselves doing something, the brain is activated and it believes you are actually doing said thing.
Rewind to 1994, I am at the National Synchronized Swimming Championship in Winnipeg, Manitoba. My coach, Joan encouraged my teammates and I to take time at bed to visualize our figures (individual components of synchro performed before a panel of judges) and "watch" ourselves perform at the pool.
You may wonder, how do you do that?
My strategy was to see the pool (we had practiced at the competition pool earlier that day) in my mind and imagine where in the pool I would be competing. I would try to hear the sounds of the pool (what does it sound like under water? Will there be a whistle blowing? Who will be chatting quietly around me? Will the water be still or lapping at the side of the pool?) and tap into any smells of the pool (chlorine anyone?) I might also try and feel the pool (what is the temperature? Am I in the deep end or the shallow end?)
Even as I describe this to you, I can take myself back to that weekend in May.
So the night before the start of the competition, I was prepping my mind but also my body.
My body thought that I was actually doing what I was telling my senses to see, feel, smell and hear. With the entire goal of translating this to my performance. Essentially, another practice run before the actual competition.
Here we are after our last team run through of the competition. I'm on the far right.
I still do this technique today. The content is different but anytime I do a speaking engagement, I do many mental run throughs and visualizations to prepare. If I can, I take time ahead to find out what the space looks like, where I will be situated in the room and what the possible sensations that could come up as I am presenting.
I've gone as far as taken a virtual tour of a space online so I can situate myself in the space.
So what does all this visualization stuff mean to you???
I don't think that only athletes can use visualization for their benefit. I have encouraged and taught many patients over the years how to "see" themselves being physically active.
Heck, I've even verbally guided someone through arriving at a facility, stepping out on the pool deck and having them tell me what they see.
The process of just seeing ourselves GET TO THE PLACE of where we will be physically active is important. So we've told our brains that we've "been there" before and it becomes less scary to actually be there to participate in some physical activity.
Now it is your turn to take ACTION, from the comfort of home.
#1 - Find a comfortable position where you can remain alert with your eyes closed.
#2 - Set a destination or location and imagine yourself there (either in first person through your eyes or third person watching yourself).
#3 - Initiate your senses. What do you see, hear, feel and smell?
#4 - Watch yourself put your body into motion. Whatever way you want to.
#5 - Repeat. Each time you visualize yourself teaches your brain more. Maybe the second or third time around you see something a little different with the goal to always be positive and perform whatever you are doing well.
How did it go? Reply to this email and let me know how your visualization practice went.
It is a practice. So do it as often as you can to reap the benefits!
Stay well and happy moving,
What to know more? Here is some extra reading if you are intrigued:
Improving Physical Movement With Visualization
Debunking Visualization: Does Mental Imagery Have an Effect on Sport Performance?
How to Grow Stronger Without Lifting Weights