(Article) Seeing is Believing:The Power of Visualization
This Psychology Today article summarizes recent research on the benefits of using visualization in various aspects of life, including in relationship to sports, physical health and healing from disease. As discussed previously (see here and here), I am interested in how many of the same techniques used to visualize positive outcomes such as success in athletic competition, or healing from disease, can be used to envision a positive birth experience. Research now shows that visualization can actually change the body and the brain, and the way that they perform; thus these techniques can act as powerful tools for the pregnant woman as she prepares for labor and birth. I am encouraged to see how hypnotherapy is now being used in birth, and hope that clinical studies will be conducted at some point soon on the use of visualization in birth.
See a specific example of using visualization and birth here.
Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization
Despite the great case for getting off our duffs, there are some amazingly cool and effective practices we can do from the comfort of our own recliners – without even budging a finger. For instance, you could practice your golf swing, work out your muscles, prepare to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, hone your chess skills, practice for tomorrow’s surgery, and you can even prepare for your best life!
Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success! For instance, Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist who spent 9 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for US has a lot of experience with mental practices. While in solitary confinement, he played himself in mental chess, saying: “I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!” Remarkably, in 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!
A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting. In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone. For instance, in his study on everyday people,Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. He found that a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym. However, the group of participants who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5%). This average remained for 3 months following the mental training.