In Part 1 of ‘From Dawn To Out Of Control” we explored how to strengthen your willpower by replacing temptation with positive habits and hobbies. The blog also mentioned a second coping strategy called visualization. Part 1 suggested that you could do better by imagining yourself doing better. That might have seemed a bit like double-talk, but it isn’t. Here you will learn how to visualize a behavior change into realization.
When good and evil battle, we always like to think that the energies of good and love conquer all. Allow that to be your reality. Visualization is a proven skill that has been utilized by some of the most successful people in history. It is effective in increasing focus and motivation. Visualization is also an exceptional tool for maintaining self-control by reminding us what good choices look and feel like.
Studies on the human brain confirm that thoughts create “the same mental instructions as actions” (Adams, 2009). In this way, the things that you think can control both your subconscious mind and the actions you take as a result. Athletes have been using this principle as part of their training since the 1960’s, using visualization as a type of mental rehearsal before the big game. Examples include four-time Olympic discus champion Al Oerter and renowned tennis star Billie Jean King (Clarey, 2014).
Learning to maximize this visualization technique doesn’t take great technical skill. Instead, all you need to do is to practice creating mental images. Research completed by Dr. Leonard H. Epstein in 2014 “shows that when people are taught to imagine, or simulate the future, they can improve their ability to delay gratification.”
Remember when you were a child and you would let your mind run wild with the most enchanting worlds and characters? Some of us still do this when worrying about worse-case scenarios. You can visualize a bright and engaging adult world too and rewards for good choices.
Why not try it right now? Sit in a comfortable position. Once you feel safe and relaxed, close your eyes. Imagine yourself and your environment in the most vivid detail possible. In this visualization, really take stock of yourself. Look through your eyes and see the world as a reflection of yourself. When you are ready, start to visualize the two paths that diverge from where you sit.
Path A: Lose Control
Think about it. How will you feel after you lose control? Disappointed, depressed, guilty? All day you worked so hard, and now here it is 8:00 pm and all your progress was wiped out. Maybe you ate too much junk or drank too much wine, and now you are feeling bloated, over-full, emotional, frustrated. Sure, for a moment there was that sense of pleasure when you gave in to temptation, but it was short lived and now you’re left with the mess you’ve allowed to continue. Thankfully, there is another option that you can master.
Path B: Self-Control
Visualize how you will feel when you make the right choice. Put down those potato chips and visualize yourself reaching for crunchy carrot sticks or sweet grapes. Are you even hungry, or trying to fill a void?
Visualize yourself relaxing with a good book, going outside to breathe the fresh air, doing something positive. How do you feel about your choice? Most people would say proud, healthy, satisfied. These are choices that stand up to the light, but are equally fulfilling in the dark. Visualize how good you will look and feel even later, weeks or months down the road.
Once you sit and mindfully visualize the outcome of each path, choosing the right direction becomes more instinctual and less like a sacrifice.
Practice this skill often so you can apply it to those out of control urges that sneak in after dusk. Pair visualization with the good habits discussed in Part 1 as well as the skill of ‘Avoiding Decision Fatigue,’ which will be explored in Part 3.
For more personalized guidance, schedule a phone consultation with Rose.
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What To Remember:
Thoughts become actions.
Adams, A. (2009, December 3). Seeing Is Believing: The Power of Visualization. Retrieved from Psychology Today.
Clarey, C. (2014, February 22). Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training. Retrieved from NY Times.
Waring, B. (2014, April 11). Visualizing Future May Help Weight Loss, Epstein Says. Retrieved from NIH Record.
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“What consumes your mind controls your life.”