Something that I’m still a little new to is visualisation exercises. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve sat down to complete this exercise and ended up fast asleep. Still, suffering from insomnia I’ll take all the sleep I can get!
What is visualisation?
Whereas meditation is about reaching a state of deep peace by emptying the mind or repeating a mantra, visualisation focuses on creating a mental image to encourage relaxation. The brain is a strange beast. Given the right information, it has a hard time distinguishing between what is imagined and what is real. Weird, huh?
The easiest way to approach visualisation is to think of it as focused daydreaming. How often have you sat in work dreaming of lying on a sunny beach or, if you’re like me, just being at home playing on the Xbox? Daydreaming gets a bit of a bad rep for making it seem like you’re not paying attention (although you’re probably not) but you can use this “skill” to your advantage.
And hey, even Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory uses visualisation techniques to calm himself.
Visualisation can be difficult, so it’s often advised that you ease yourself in to it by starting small and visualising something that you can see/touch/smell in the real world. For this, a lot of resources use a red apple.
Picture the apple on a table in front of you.
Is it shiny or dull?
Does it have a stalk or a leaf?
Are there any marks on its skin?
After you’ve examined the whole of the apple from a distance, imagine yourself picking it up. Feel the weight of the apple in your hand, how the skin feels against your fingertips. Thoughts will try to divert your focus. Acknowledge them without berating yourself and the refocus your attention back to the apple.
Now, imagine that you cut the apple in to slices. Note the pips in the centre and how their black colour contrasts against the pale yellow of the apple. Can you smell the apple now? Look at it again and imagine that you can see the flesh already tinging with brown as if it was real. Imagine taking a bite of it and concentrate on its taste and texture. After you’ve eaten it, and when you’re ready, take 3 deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.
Once you’ve learnt to hold your focus on a single object, you can increase your range of visualisations. A good one for relaxation is to imagine a place that inspires a sense of calm.
To do this, begin by making sure you’re sitting (or lying) comfortably. Close your eyes and start to think of a place that you associate with peace. It can be a real place that you’ve been to or somewhere you create from bits and pieces of your memories of past trips.
Once you have the idea in your mind, begin to expand on it and fill out the details. Look around and notice the things that you can see. Try to imagine yourself in the centre of this place. Imagine that you are turning slowly in a circle, taking in everything around you. Note the feel of the floor on your feet and the colours around you.
Are there any noises around you? If so, what are they?
Is it hot or cold, warm or cool? Feel the temperatures on your skin, either heating it up or cooling it down.
Can you smell anything, such as the sea or flowers?
Is there any sunlight or shade?
Really try to build a full picture of everything that is around you. Visualise yourself moving through the space, touching objects and feeling fully immersed in the experience.
When you feel ready to return, take 3 deep breaths and slowly open your eyes.
This one might take a little more practice so don’t worry if you need to start small. You could build the idea of this place up over a few weeks, starting with just one part of the space at a time before imaging the full vision. The important part is that it’s somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.
Let me know how you get on in the comments or if you know of any other good visualisation exercises to try.
See you next week xx
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