Tip #112: Visualise your life without anxiety.
The Why: Visualisation was another one of those things that I had heard about, but that seriously evoked my inner cynic.
A short, sweet definition for those of you who have never come across this technique before: visualization is where you vividly imagine yourself in a particular scenario of success. Many huge names and celebrities swear by this visualization, and have said that it has helped them reach their goals and their biggest dreams.
No. It couldn’t be. There’s no way you can imagine things and then they happen. If that were true, there would be six-foot spiders climbing up my walls at night and I’d have a constant supply of salted caramel chocolate.
But, the scientist in me said: “let’s do an experiment”. So, I found myself legs crossed sitting on my bedroom floor, eyes shut attempting to picture a life without panic, without fear, without anxiety.
At first, I had literally zero idea as to what I was doing. I got bored and restless. My mind ran in a million different directions. It’s safe to say it didn’t really work out.
But I am not one to give up so easily. So I developed a few handy tips to make the process a little easier.
A few months later and lo and behold, I have found it to be one of my favourite and most helpful exercises in fighting off my bad mental health.
But, I hear you ask, how does this actually work?
Well, dear reader, visualising your goals or your best life does three amazing things.
The first is that it solidifies exactly what you want to achieve. This can be incredibly useful if you have no idea what you actually want out of your anxiety journey, or what you want out of life in a more general sense. It forces you to picture what success and happiness look like to you, rather than what they look like to anyone else.
It can help you answer some of life’s biggest questions like: What will it take for me to be happy? What do I want in life? What do I need to do to get there?
This is because when you imagine something so vividly, you’ll be able to read your emotions toward that thing much more clearly than just thinking about it in the abstract. If you have a concrete image of you picking up an Oscar, but feel ambivalent, but then imagine yourself on a farm looking at a beautiful sunset feeding your chickens and feel elated, you know which career will be best for you.
The mind’s imagination is an incredible tool. A place where anything is possible. It allows you to follow your biggest desires and ambitions in a safe place where no one can judge. It allows you to throw of the usual constraints and doubts and really see where you want or need to be.
Visualisation gives me direction, so I lose the fear and anxiety of not knowing where I am aiming myself. Visualising a happy and successful life gives me peace from panic, and makes me realise that it is possible. It gives me hope.
The second thing visualisation does, is it helps me to feel less anxious about doing something, as I feel I have already done it.
This may not make too much sense immediately but stick with me here.
For instance, I began visualising myself in social situations, people laughing at my jokes, me interacting happily without having a panic attack. If I knew I was going to a party, I would visualise every step of the way there and during, but I imagined it without having a panic attack. This meant that when I actually ended up going, I felt like I had seen it all already and had done it without anxiety, so it didn’t feel so scary doing it a second time.
The third thing visualisation does is give you motivation.
Visualising this happy, successful, anxiety free life made me realise how close it was. How much I wanted it. It finally felt possible.
Visualising made me want to work for it, made me want to get to that place. It gives me the focus I need on my bad days to keep going through what seems like hell.
But, back to my tips on how best to visualise and achieve these wonderful things.
Number One – Have Direction
The biggest mistake I made when I began visualising was to not have a purpose or direction before I began. This made it difficult to focus and to stop my mind from wandering all over the place. I kept imagining too many scenarios and not concentrating on any of them enough for the process to work.
So, before you begin, think of what exactly you want to visualise. Is it going on an aeroplane without fear? Is it being able to speak in front of a whole room full of strangers? Is it going travelling alone?
Sometimes it is best to relate your visualisations to your anxiety goals – which you can find a guide to here – as this will give you a great place to begin.
Number Two – Be Consistent
Another mistake I made was to have too many visualisations all at once. I had about 10 or 12 that I would flit between. This made it really difficult for the technique to really take effect.
What I would recommend is to think of the same four or five scenarios in the same order, so you are always building on the same base, rather than trying to do too much at once.
Once you’ve achieved one visualisation and feel like it’s worked in a certain area, you can always replace it with another.
Number Three – Have Big Dreams And Smaller Ones
Of course, it’s good to concentrate on specific anxiety goals and specific things you want to achieve in the short term, but also don’t be afraid to dream big.
Use the time and the space to visualise your biggest goals and desires too – really let your mind run wild and figure out what gives your life meaning.
Perhaps have three smaller anxiety focused goals, but then visualise one or two bigger dreams and ambitions that you have. There are many case studies that show the power of visualisation in reaching your success.
Number Four – Set A Timer
I would highly recommend setting aside five minutes each day to visualise. It’s a very short amount of time so totally manageable, without it intruding on your day, and without giving you too much time to get bored.
Set a timer for five minutes, close your eyes, and relax, so you know exactly how long you’ve kept it up.
Number Five – Do It Daily
Whenever embarking on an exercise like this, the best advice you can get is to stick with it. Keep doing it every day to see the best results.
If you do it too sporadically, it won’t cement what you’re trying to achieve in your mind to full effect, and won’t work as well.
It takes only 30 days to form habits, so keep at it!
Number Six – Give Yourself The Time To Fail
Like with most things in life, practice makes perfect.
It took me about a week to really get into the swing of it, but I’m so glad that I stuck it out and carried on. It’s okay for your mind to wander, or for you to experiment to see what works best for you.
Allow yourself time to get used to it and fail, because no one can be a master right away.
Visualisation can become a very excellent tool in your anti-anxiety toolkit. It not only gives you the motivation you need to keep calm and carry on, but also it shows you the steps you need to get to your happy place.
Now, go out there, dream big, and let your imagination run wild in a positive way.
So, tell me in the comments, what do you visualise your life being like?