How visualisation can help you become the person you want to be

How often have you found yourself reacting in the same old habitual ways to certain situations? Maybe it’s reacting negatively towards a particular person, feeling shy or anxious in certain situations, or repeatedly falling off the wagon with healthy behaviours as soon as a stressor hits. So much of our behaviour is habitual meaning that we do it without even thinking. We start to actually identify with feelings and behaviours as if they are our identity making it very difficult to change. But what if that wasn’t the case? What if you had the option to act consciously and choose how you want to show up each day?

I’ve heard many times how visualisation can help to do exactly that, change your mindset so that you can step out of your comfort zone and grow into the person you want to be. I never really paid it much attention until recently. However, recently I had an interview for a position that I really had set my heart on and after reading again about the power of visualisation I decided to give it a go. I’ve always struggled with confidence speaking in front of people, and this was an interview where I had to give a 15 minute presentation in front of a panel of 5 followed by a question and answer session. Naturally my inner critic was going wild with what ifs…

“What if you stumble on your words?”
“What if you go bright red in the face?”
“What if your mind goes totally blank?”

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These were all based on memories of past experiences of presenting or public speaking where I’ve done exactly that. Blushed like a tomato, panicked and totally forgotten everything I wanted to say – eek! When I projected forward how I thought the interview would go, these were the memories I had to help me out with visualising how the interview would go. This has happened before too when I’ve had to speak publicly. I’d be nervous and running through all my past “failures” at speaking in front of people and of course when the moment arrived the same thing would happen again, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This is something we all do, as humans we hate uncertainty and we try to predict situations based on information we already have. Sometimes this can be helpful but often it can keep us feeling stuck in a rut and unable to reach our potential. But this time I was determined that it would be different. I’d had enough of feeling terrified at the thought of speaking in front of people and I wanted to create a new possibility. Since starting to teach yoga and make Youtube videos, I’ve already proved to myself that I can get out of my comfort zone and do things I am afraid of so why should this situation be any different?

I decided that for a few days leading up to the interview I would practice a guided visualisation where I imagined myself presenting confidently, impressing the panel and answering all of their questions with ease. I allowed myself to be aware of all of the judgements and criticisms that were present in my mind but chose not to dwell on them and to focus on creating new, positive beliefs about my abilities. As I always say, it’s important to also feel the emotions when practicing meditation or any mindset work and so I really let myself feel that happy, confident, excited version of myself in my mind. If you’re interested in the guided meditation I used, you can listen to it here.

As it wasn’t “real”, the visualisation gave me the opportunity to dream up an entirely new Amy, totally separate from the shy, anxious version I had become so attached to. I did this every morning, first thing for five days leading up to the interview and let me tell you, it worked wonders! I’m not saying that I arrived at the presentation with no fear or doubt but I felt so much better than I ever have in these kind of situations before. I presented confidently (even though I was shaking with nerves), I said everything I wanted to and answered all of the questions without freaking out too much. Definitely a win in my books. It’s out of my hands now whether I get the position or not but I feel good knowing that I showed up as my best self and gave it my all.

The best thing is that now I have a stored memory of this confident version of myself who can present well. Next time I need to do something like this and I rack my mind for past experiences, amongst the embarrassing memories I will also have this one to lean on and give me hope that I can do it. And the more memories like this I can build, the stronger this new, more confident Amy will become and over time it will become my new identity. So if any of you out there are struggling with confidence or with changing your behaviours, maybe give visualization a chance. You only need to commit around 15-20 minutes a day and it really can change your life. Of course, visualization alone won’t change anything in your life but what it can do is give you the motivation and sense of personal power so that you take actions that do create change.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you did please like and share with anyone who it might help. Comment below your thoughts and experiences and follow my blog for more posts on health, nutrition, yoga and creating positive change in your life!

If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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Real health #25 How meditation can help you to change your mindset and your habits

We are long past the days where meditation is seen as something completely hippy or “out there”. Meditation and mindfulness are becoming every day terms understood and practiced by students, parents and business executives alike. We are starting to understand the impact of rushing through our lives in a half-conscious, distracted state is no good for our health and happiness and embracing meditation and mindfulness as tools to help us to become more present and aware. Yesterday I wrote about how to change your habits you first need to change your mind and today I want to explain how meditation can help you to create this mindset change.

Most of us spend our days operating from our conditioned mind. Our sub-conscious has a huge set of stored thoughts, beliefs, emotional responses and programmed actions that we play on repeat and these conditioned patterns define the way that we show up in the world and our identity. If we want to change our habits we have to consciously think different thoughts which enable us to feel differently create new pathways in the brain. But this can be hard to do when we are constantly bombarded with the familiar thoughts and feelings that tell us who we are. If we try to think differently, we will be greeted with a barrage of opposing thoughts and intense feelings because we have moved outside of our familiar comfort zone. This can make changing your thoughts very difficult!

How can meditation help you to get past this and change your mindset? Firstly, meditation helps you to become aware of your current habitual thought patterns. Yes all of those annoying intrusive thoughts when you are trying to meditate can actually be a good thing. Pay attention to them and you will see where your mind is probably wandering throughout the rest of your day too, without you even realising. Maybe you are distracted by things you should be doing instead or maybe you find yourself criticising yourself for not being able to empty your mind and meditate “properly”. Maybe your mind tells you that you can’t do it, you are uncomfortable or that you always fail. Whatever it is, take note! This is your first glance at your natural state of being from the point of view of an observer.

You can also use meditation as a way to practice disrupting these unhelpful thoughts and letting them go. When you aren’t paying attention, one thought can lead to another and before you know it you can spiral down the rabbit hole of negative thinking. Our thoughts affect the way we feel and those emotions then affect the way we think. We can easily become stuck in unhelpful loops of thoughts and emotions without noticing. Maybe you have a memory of being left out at school and the thought brings up emotions of sadness and loneliness. Those feelings then trigger other memories where you have felt alone and the feelings of isolation grow and become overwhelming. Over time of thinking these thoughts and feeling these feeling you can start to identify with the state of being as a lonely, unloveable person and this becomes your identity. Meditation offers you the opportunity to become aware of these patterns and break the chain.

When we have negative thoughts about ourselves, there is usually another voice present in our mind which knows better. For example, I’m sure many of you have experienced body image issues at some point in your life. That voice that tells you you are not beautiful enough or thin enough is probably loud at times but there is always that quiet voice underneath which says you are good enough as you are. Meditation slows down your thoughts and allows this alternative voice to have it’s say and become louder. In other words you are able to observe a thought and how it makes you feel then choose to think a different one. Of course you can do this through out your day but the focused attention state of meditation makes it much easier to observe your thoughts and engage your conscious mind.

How to start a meditation practice

There are many different meditation techniques but as usual I suggest to keep it simple if you are starting out. All you need is a quiet place, a comfortable place to sit and a timer. You can practice in your living room, on your bed, in your garden or out in nature. There are no rules, just find a place where you feel safe to relax.

  1. Set your timer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes (tip set it on vibrate or on quiet so you aren’t jolted out of your practice)
  2. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or sit on a chair with your feet planted on the ground
  3. Close your eyes and start to become aware of your body sensations, noticing areas of comfort or pain, tension or tightness, hot or cold and the contact points between your body and the surface beneath you
  4. Bring your attention to your breath. Notice the sensations associated with the inhale and exhale, the rhythm and depth of your breath, whether you feel it deep in your belly or high in your chest
  5. Hold your attention on your breath. You can count your breaths if it helps you to concentrate or continue to focus on the sensations
  6. As thoughts arise, notice the emotions they trigger. Note whether they are helpful, unhelpful or neutral and then let them go. If you find yourself distracted, at the point you realise, let the thoughts go without judgement
  7. Continue like this until your time ends and then slowly open your eyes and start to bring movement back into your body
  8. Try to keep this relaxed, focused awareness with you as you go on with your day

With practice, meditation can also help you to access your sub-conscious mind and change your beliefs. I especially like combining meditation with affirmations by starting with a full body and mind relaxation and then listening to repeated phrases that reflect the new way I want to think. I have recommended them before but my absolute favourite guided meditations for changing your mindset are from The Mindful Movement. They have so many free videos on Youtube on all sorts of topics from healing your physical and emotional body, improving self-confidence to releasing fear and worry and letting go of the past. The video below is a great one if you are embarking on a new healthy lifestyle and trying to change your habits. Listen to the meditation before bed a few times a week and watch your confidence and belief in your ability to succeed soar!

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this article and the series so far. Let me know in the comments below your thoughts experiences with meditation, especially if it has improved your life and helped you to build healthier habits.

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  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again!

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How to reduce stress and balance your hormones

We all know by now that stress plays a major role in our overall health. Stress has been linked to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and most definitely to hormone related conditions such as PCOS and hypothalamic amenorrhea. Managing stress and calming down your nervous system is so important for healing from any physical condition. Hopefully this post will offer you some tips on how to manage stress in your life and support your healing journey.

1. Reduce the external stressors

With the world we live it today it can feel impossible to reduce stress.. how can we be calm when we have so many demands on our time, high pressure jobs, children to look after, financial worries, family emergencies. The first thing I will say is that you will never be able to reduce all stresses in your life. Even if you disappear to a remote island you will find something to stress and worry about if this is the tendency you have. However, it’s still a good idea to take a good look at your life and see if there are any areas where you can reduce the load.

Practising minimalism can be a really good way to do this. I don’t mean to sell all of your possessions and go couch surfing but by focusing on things that really bring value to your life and forgetting the rest you can really reduce financial and time pressures and in turn reduce the stresses in your life. This can be material possessions.. maybe you have a lot of clothes, products or clutter in your house that could benefit from a good clear out. But it can also relate to non-material things such as activities or habits that don’t bring you joy, obligations that you stick to to keep others happy even if you don’t have the time or the resources, time wasted on social media or other technology. Simplify your life as much as possible and make sure that you are spending time doing things you love every day.

2. Reduce the internal stressors

Much of our worries actually come from beliefs and thoughts that we are constantly running through our minds. Around 95% of our thoughts each day are the same as the day before and too many of them are negative thought loops that we get trapped in without realising. Our brains cycle through all our various worries and it seems like there is no escape. Actually there is a way out and it starts with awareness. Are you conscious of the thoughts you are thinking on a daily basis or have they become so ingrained that you don’t even notice them? This is where a meditation practice an come in really handy.

Many people think that to meditate “properly” you have to be able to empty your mind of all thoughts and give up quickly when this seems like an impossible task. But when you approach meditation from the angle of observing your thoughts and watching where your mind goes when it isn’t distracted, it becomes a tool of self-discovery and you will likely start to see the same repetitive thoughts popping up. Much of it will be mundane stuff such as what you will have for dinner tonight, work tasks or chores that need doing etc. But some will be darker.. maybe some criticism of yourself, anger towards someone in your life, feelings of failure or regrets of decisions you have made in the past.

Get yourself a journal and start to write down thoughts that come up for you. Once you are aware of them you can start to question.. “Does this serve me?”, “Would I feel better without this thought?” This will create space for you to let go of some of your worries and start to ask yourself “What can I replace this thought with?” “What would a more helpful thing to say to myself right now?”. You won’t be able to change your thoughts over night as most of them are habitual and happen without us even realising, but you can make a start and over time things will get better

3. Get yourself into the relaxation state

This is a really important one. Many of us think we are relaxing because we do chilled out activities such as watching TV, reading or writing in a journal. These things might make us feel calm in the moment but if our brains are still active and we are just distracting ourselves, we are often not truly activating the “rest and relaxation” pathways of our nervous system. I really recommend for everyone, especially those on a healing journey, to focus on getting into a deep relaxation state on a daily basis. This means allowing your body and mind to sit back from the stresses of life and melt into pure bliss.

I find guided relaxation tapes really useful for this and relaxing music or delta brainwave frequencies can also work really well Get yourself some headphones, find a comfy space to lie down and block out the world for 20-30 minutes. Focus on letting go of any tension in your body and allow yourself to be held and supported. Notice if your brain feels too “switched on” and try to create some space for you to surrender your stresses for a while. There are hundreds of these available on Youtube but I have shared 3 of my favourites from The Mindful Movement channel below.

Over to you…

I hope you enjoyed this post of how to reduce stress and balance your hormones.

  • Like this post and follow my blog for more posts on dealing with stress and hormone balancing
  • If you are looking for guidance, support and accountability on you health journey, please contact me for information on the nutrition and holistic health coaching packages I offer. I would love to work together with you to get you feeling your best again.

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Full moon forgiveness ritual

Last night I randomly woke up around 3.30am. I lay awake in bed for a bit but I had this nagging urge to get up and move around. I do get insomnia pretty often and with the current lockdown situation its been worse than usual so I wasn’t too surprised but then I looked out of the window and remembered it was the full moon and not just any full moon but a super moon..crazy! Not the best photo but here is my quick snap of my view from outside my front door.

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I have been getting more interested in working with the lunar cycles as well as my menstrual cycle since the start of this year. I treated myself to the “Moonology” journal by Yasmin Boland which tells you the phase of the moon and the astrological sign it is moving through each day. I didn’t really know much about astrology before, I even had no idea what a rising sign was, but it is really fascinating and I am finding myself wanting to learn more. Here is the free astrological chart I downloaded from her site. So beautiful!

chart

She also gives meditation and journalling exercises for every new and full moon. Usually I do these at night before I go to bed but but last night was the perfect opportunity to have a true full moon ritual. I went outside to feel the night air on my skin and the ground underneath my feet. Even though it’s spring now in the UK, it was pretty cold so after a few deep breaths I decided to move inside. I lit some candles and sat by the window. I listened to the full moon meditation and chant (see here) and really surrendered to the experience and wrote in my moon journal what came up.

I don’t know whether it was the powerful energy of the super moon or the fact that I am due to bleed any day now but I found this a really emotional experience. The full moon is all about forgiving and letting go of things that don’t serve you anymore. I realised I am carrying responsibility for mistakes I have made in the past and continuing to repeat negative thoughts and beliefs about myself on a daily basis. I know this isn’t serving me and I focused on letting these float away. I really felt held during this meditation and afterwards I felt lighter as if a weight I didn’t even know I was carrying had been lifted from my shoulders. Even today I have felt happy and energetic despite losing half a night’s sleep.

The full moon is a really good time to reflect on any fears, worries, arguments or events that have happened in the last month and release negative energies to clean the slate for the start of a new cycle. Often we are so busy with life that we don’t pay attention to our thoughts and emotions and squash them down. We can distract ourselves with excessive busy-ness or use compulsive behaviours such as food, shopping, substances to numb ourselves but these unprocessed emotions are stored in our body and eventually can lead to disease. Recently I have been journalling a lot and so much long forgotten stuff has come up and this full moon was the perfect time to let all of this go.

I don’t think this is a one off and done kind of thing. I think surrendering is something we have to keep coming back to, letting go of all of the old energy and allowing new emotions to move through more easily. I really believe in the power of ritual and cycles and I think taking the opportunity to hit reset each month is something that everyone could benefit from. I am definitely going to keep this ritual in my monthly routine (although maybe not the waking up at 3am part!)