Health & Fitness

The New Visualization Breakthrough – Mental Training Tactics for Health and Fitness Success

Understanding the brain’s role in motivation and behavior is one of the most important elements in fitness success. If you struggle with changing habits and behaviors or if you just can’t get motivated, even the best training and nutrition program is worthless.

A fascinating fact about your unconscious mind is that it is quite deductive in nature. In other words, it is fully capable of working backwards from end to medium. You do not need to have the means or “know how” to achieve a goal at the time you first set the goal, because if you only successfully “program” the result (goal) into your “mental computer,” the subconscious mind will take over and help you find The necessary information and means and the implementation of the necessary actions to reach the goal you want.

Many people are familiar with affirmations and goal-setting techniques as ways to give instructions to your subconscious mind. But perhaps the best way to harness the awesome powers of your mind is to use a technique called visualization. On the one hand, affirmation and visualization are the same thing, because when you first speak or think of an affirmation, it leads to a mental image, just as the human mind thinks of images.

You can use visualization to program goals into your subconscious mind. It’s simple: close your eyes, and mentally create the images and playback movies for the end results you want. For example, you can imagine your body, in as vivid detail as possible, exactly the way you want it. If repeated continuously and emotionally, the mental images are accepted by your subconscious as directives to be carried out and this helps in changing habits, behavior and performance.

Although there are some new and innovative ways to use visualization that you are about to learn, this is not really a new technique. Perception has been discussed and written about in the fields of psychology and personal development through the ages:

“If you want to reach your goal, you have to ‘see the reach’ in your mind before you actually reach your goal.”

– Zig Ziglar

“Using mental images is one of the most powerful and effective strategies for making something happen for you.”

– Dr. Wayne Dyer

“Creative visualization is the technique of using your imagination to create what you want in your life.”

– Shakti Gawain

“Perhaps the most effective way to bring the subconscious mind into practical action is through the process of making mental images—using imagination.”

– Claude Bristol

“There is a law in psychology that if you form an image in your mind of what you would like to be, and you keep that image and keep it there long enough, you will soon become exactly what you thought.”

— William James, 1842-1910, psychologist and author

Despite these glowing endorsements and a long track record, it’s hard for some people to get over the feeling that this is just a “hockey” self-help technique. However, visualization is an effective, time-tested method for increasing personal achievement that has been used by some of the world’s best athletes for more than three decades.

Here’s a little background: The Soviets began popularizing visualization in sports psychology in the 1970s, as detailed in Charles Garfield’s landmark book, Peak Performance. They dominated in many sports during that period, which the imagination is proven anecdotally true. In the past ten to fifteen years, there has been some groundbreaking brain research that has also scientifically validated visualization.

Here’s what Dr. Richard Restak, a neuroscientist who has written 12 books about the human brain writes:

“The act of imagining yourself going through the motions of a complex musical or sports performance activates regions of the brain that improve your performance. Brain scans have put intuitions like these on a strong neurological basis. PET scans reveal that mental training with the action activates The frontal lobe areas of the brain that are responsible for formulating appropriate motor programs. In practical terms, this means that you can benefit from using mental images.”

Too much fantasizing about it being a “cheesy” self-help technique.

Although visualization is widely used today, even people who are familiar with it often don’t realize its versatility and many applications. Arguably the most common use of visualization is by athletes (as well as musicians and other performers) as a form of mental training. Research has shown that “practicing in your mind” is nearly as effective as physical practice, and that both – mental practice and physical practice – are more effective than either alone.

One common and simple use of visualization in the context of fitness is “goal visualization,” which is simply making mental pictures of yourself having already achieved your ideal weight or the type of muscle you desire (for example, look at your dream “body”). You may visualize yourself completing a difficult lift such as a squat or bench press.However, visualization doesn’t have to be limited to mental training or seeing images of your dream body in your mind’s eye.The visualization technique knows no bounds – remember, you work with your imagination.

One creative way you can use mental visualization is called process visualization. It works like this: Once you have defined your goals, it is very easy to make a list of daily habits, behaviors, and action steps that you will need to take to reach your goal. So write the action steps down and visualize it (the whole process, not just the end result). In your mind’s eye, see yourself food shopping and making the right choices, see yourself ordering healthy foods from restaurant menus, visualize yourself saying no to soda and drinking water instead, and mentally project that you’re constantly hitting the gym and doing killer workouts. Some people literally imagine their entire “perfect day” as they want it to unfold. When you do this explicitly, emotionally, and in as much detail as possible, you will condition your brain to carry out those behaviors.

The newest and least known technique of mental imagery is called “physiological visualization”. An example would be filming the internal process of burning fat in your body or seeing muscle fibers grow larger and larger. With this technique, is it possible to actually give subconscious instructions to the cells, organs, and tissues of your body?

Well, consider the work of Dr. Carl Simonton, a physician and cancer researcher who has taught his patients (as part of a comprehensive program) how to visualize what is going on in their bodies, down to the level of imagining powerful immune cells devouring cancer cells. I must strongly stress that I cannot and will not suggest that you embody a lean, muscular body just through visualization, any more than I can or will suggest that you can cure cancer with mental imagery (there is a step between thought and manifestation – it’s called action – a step that many “new elders” forget easily stated). However, thoughts and mental images are precursors to action and the fact that there is a mind-body connection certainly makes this an exciting possibility.

Scientists have validated the mind-body connection in many contexts, not just by having the placebo effect. There is also more direct evidence for the way emotional and mental stress can contribute to disease. The mind affects the body! The mere fact that a branch of science has been devoted to this field is evidence that it is worthy of critical investigation and is not just the domain of the business information self-help specialist. The science is called psycho-neuroimmunology.

With the “Physiology Visualization” technique, you can, even during exercise, visualize the fat burning process that is taking place, and visualize the fat being released from the storage of adipose tissue (in the abdominal area or elsewhere). You can see stored fat converted into free fatty acids, entered the bloodstream, transported to working muscles and burned for energy in the mitochondria of muscle cells. If you are interested in building muscle, just consider applications for this technique as well! In fact, I can assure you that many bodybuilders have already used this method instinctively, without anyone telling them to do so.

Since we know more about the physiology of fat loss and muscle development today than ever before, you can make your photos very detailed and clear if you want to. My best suggestion is to refer to an anatomy and physiology or exercise science book that shows pictures of fat cells (adipocytes), blood vessels, myofibrils (muscle fibers), motor units, sarcomeres, and cellular organelles such as mitochondria, so you know what the structures look like . You can also get more detail about the processes by researching lipolysis, hypertrophy, energy production, or beta-oxidation of fat. This will allow you to play “mental movies” instead of just visualizing “still shots”.

Even if you have no idea what the internal structure and functioning of the body looks like, you can still use this method. Your body responds to mental images even if they are not anatomically correct. We know from the field of hypnosis that the subconscious mind responds well to metaphor – perhaps even better than to literal suggestions. Facts, numbers, and logic are the domain of the conscious mind, while emotion and metaphor can slip out of consciousness and into the unconscious. Dr. Simonton often wrote of his young patients creating mental (metaphorical) pictures of immune system cells as “knights in shining armor,” slaying the “dragon” of cancer cells.

This is important, because as I mentioned earlier, imagination is one of your greatest mental powers. You can imagine anything you want and you can beautify and exaggerate your photos as much as you like. For example, you can imagine burning free fatty acids for energy in the ‘cellular powerhouse’ – the mitochondria – and you can imagine the mitochondria are literally an oven… ‘burning’ fat!

I think it’s a great idea to “see” your fat cells shrink and visualize your body as a “fat burning furnace”. Even your very identity begins to slowly morph into that of a skinny person, when you begin to imagine your body becoming leaner and thinner, and you start saying to yourself, “I am a fat-burning, muscle-making machine!”

If you don’t think there is anything to the physiological visualization technique, that’s okay, because we know for a fact that the subconscious mind is inferential, so just give it a target and tell it what you want and it will get to you by automatically changing your attention and behavior. Therefore, we can be confident that physiology visualization will be effective even if only as subconscious guidance about your desired goal. If science one day provides us with more conclusive evidence that fantasizing does indeed cause cellular-physiological changes in the body, well, that’s all the better.

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