When you were a child your imagination allowed you to transform a pile or bricks into a fort or an old dress into a magnificent ball gown and this simple art, which is known as visualization, remains with you throughout life, although you tend to use it less as you grow older, or to be less conscious of the fact that you are using it.
Today, psychologists frequently make use of visualization exercises to assist their patients to achieve positive self images or to handle difficult emotional situations. They know only too well that an image imbedded, often in great detail, in the mind can have a powerful impact on the body. By using this same ability and channeling it into a visualization exercise, you can assist your body to relax.
Many exercises, including those used in relaxation and meditation, make use of visualization and so it is important to master the art of visualization, before moving on to practice various relaxation and meditation exercises.
You might find that visualization is fairly easy to master, or you could struggle a little with it at first. Using your imagination is a little but like using the muscles in your body - it becomes stronger with exercise. All you need is concentration and a preparedness to let your imagination go.
To begin, try this object visualization exercise:
1. Pick an everyday object from your home and then sit at a cleared table with nothing else on it except your chosen object.
2. Look at it carefully and try to take in as much detail as you can. Pay particular attention to such things as size, shape, color and the way the light hits it. As you look at the item, try to memorize as much of its detail as you can.
3. Now close your eyes and picture the object in your mind's eye. How much of its detail do you remember and are there details that you can't quite recall?
4. Still sitting with your eyes closed, take a moment to think about how you are feeling. Do you feel under any stress as you try this exercise? Do you find the exercise to be interesting?
5. Okay, clear that picture from your mind and, while you are still at the table with your eyes closed, think about another everyday object in your home and, once again, try to picture it in your mind's eye in as much detail as you can.
6. When you are happy that you have a clear picture of the object, open your eyes and go and find it. How close was the picture that you painted in your mind's eye to the actual object? Also, try to identify the details which you missed in your visualization.
7. Once again take a minute to consider how you are feeling and whether or not you find this exercise stressful.
8. Now, return to the table and once more sitting with your eyes closed try to remember and picture an object from your childhood days. Think carefully about how much of the object can you recall and whether or not you can remember the details clearly. Once you have the object in your mind's eye, see if you can place it in its original surroundings.
9. There will almost certainly be bits missing from your picture and your mind will try to fill in any gaps from your imagination. Can you tell which parts of the picture are real and are coming from your memory and which are being created by your imagination?
10. Next, picture a common everyday object, such as a vase, but this time picture an object that you have never seen before. In other words, create this object in detail in your imagination giving it size, shape and color. Once you have the picture, imagine yourself holding the object and think about how it feels. Is it, for example, rough and heavy or smooth and light? And, once again, as you hold the object in your hands, think about how you are feeling.
You might be surprised that throughout this exercise you are asked to keep thinking about how you are feeling. At first, you may well find that visualization exercises are a little stressful. This is quite normal and nothing to worry about. As you continue to practice you will find that visualization becomes much easier and that any feelings of stress soon disappear.