Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 1:27PM

Many therapists suggest visualization as an important tool, as a way of either increasing the odds of success in a particular endeavor or as a means of putting oneself in a proper, generally relaxed, state of mind. This could apply from anything to winning a match or game, having a good time at a party, or to a resumed connection with an estranged friend or relative. A simple way of thinking about this was popularized by Stephen Covey in “The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People”; “Begin with the end in mind”

Frank Niles, PhD., writes in his blog:

“Visualization should not be confused with the “think it and you will be it” advice peddled by popular self-help gurus*. It is not a gimmick, nor does it involve dreaming or hoping for a better future. Rather, visualization is a well-developed method of performance improvement supported by substantial scientific evidence and used by successful people across a range of fields.

Take athletes, for example. Studies show that visualization increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. It also aids in relaxation and helps reduce fear and anxiety. In the words of one researcher, visualization helps the athlete just do it and do it with confidence, poise, and perfection.

According to research using brain imagery, visualization works because neurons in our brains, those electrically excitable cells that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.”

Think for example about what happens when you see a movie that is engaging. You feel as if you’re part of the action.

Niles continues: “When we visualize an act, the brain generates an impulse that tells our neurons to “perform” the movement. This creates a new neural pathway — clusters of cells in our brain that work together to create memories or learned behaviors — that primes our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result.”

As a primarily cognitive/behavioral therapist I’ve not given enough emphasis to the role that pictures (visualization) can play in changing thoughts and attitudes. That point was driven home just a couple of weeks ago when I was lucky enough to be scuba diving in the Maldives.

I’d had a few dives where it was difficult for me to “clear” my ears (the process of equalizing pressure in the air as one ascends or descends, as for example driving up a mountain road or in an ascending airplane). I decided , before entering the water for my next dive, to “visualize” myself smoothly descending with no problems and having a trouble-free dive experience. Lo and behold, that’ exactly what happened. I put “visualize” in quotes because I wasn’t able to visualize very specifically – it was more a case of conjuring up the feeling associated with the success I was aiming for.

I urge you to try this technique in various situations. It may not work all the time, but it’s certainly worth experimenting with.

* A prime offender in this regard was the best-selling book “The Secret” which many readers interpreted as a magic formula to get what they wanted simply by thinking about it. If only it were that easy!!