The mind has the power to positively or negatively influence the health and wellbeing of the body. More often than not, humans have a tendency to ruminate on daily life worries and as a result this upsets the body’s hormone balance, depletes the brain chemical required for happiness and damages the immune system.
The use of mindfulness exercises can alleviate stress and anxiety by focusing the mind on more positive experiences in daily life. Creative Visualisation is a mindfulness technique used to encourage our imagination to manifest a desirable outcome or goal– facilitating in an improved physical and mental functioning. After all, Buddha once famously said “The mind is everything. What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create”.
Creative Visualization is most prominent in areas of sports psychology where the mind’s eye is used to program the body for success. Take Tiger Woods as an example – in an interview he explained his exceptional golf swing as attributed to the practice of visualising how he wanted his shot to be, rather than his actual physical practice.
Interestingly, the mechanisms in your brain that forge these new paths cannot differentiate between an imagined event or real one, so long as the visualised image is powerful enough. So while the body relaxes, your brain is hard at work training your subconscious mind for success. The thought can stimulate the nervous system in the same way the actual event does. Rehearsing an entire event in your mind trains it and creates neural patterns to teach our muscles to do exactly what we want them to do. Athletes who practice visualisation seek to eliminate the “fear of the unknown” and its associated competitive anxiety – that may otherwise have impeded on real-time performance.
Similarly to practicing a skill or an art form, the mind is used to change emotions that subsequently have a physical effect on the body – creating this ripple effect. With every repetition of a thought or emotion, we reinforce a neural pathway – and with each new thought, we begin to create a new way of being. This process of neuroplasticity – or brain plasticity – is our brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience.
By activating certain neural pathways regularly, such as with creative visualisation, we strengthen them overtime. Conversely, by not activating them, they weaken and as a result the process of synapse elimination (or synaptic pruning) occurs. Many people turn to visualisation to relax and lower stress levels, resolve or cope with chronic pain, or heal themselves emotionally and physically.
Hearing the news of cancer diagnosis can bring about worry and stress to an individual’s life – impeding on one’s ability to think positively. Visualisation has been used in conjunction with mainstream cancer treatment to help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and depression.
Results of a study indicate that 20 minutes of daily home relaxation with guided imagery for 7 days has a significant effect on overall symptoms of distress, insomnia, bloating, numbness, anxiety and depression on breast cancer patients undergoing first-time chemotherapy. More research reports visualisation as a powerful practice in relieving the adverse side effects of chemotherapy, such as nausea, vomiting, anxiety and depression.
Practicing Creative Visualization:
There is absolutely no experience or skillset required for Creative Visualisation. Though Visualisation is possible on your own and can be achieved in the privacy of your own home, there are trained therapists that will lead you through a state of deep relaxation and take you on a journey into your own imagination. You may choose to create images that remind you of a safe, relaxing and peaceful place, such as a forest, beach or a favourite room. You can imagine the sounds, smells and feelings of being in that place.
There are two main methods of visualisation that cancer patients may use to improve physical and emotional function:
- The Simonton method – imagining the body’s immune response fighting and destroying the cancer cells. A common exercise involves picturing the cells of the immune system as Pac-Men gobbling up and destroying the cancer cells.
Perhaps, moments throughout the day when you are sitting in solitude, you may imagine breathing in a cloud of soft healing energy, with deep regular breaths, and feeling the healing spread throughout the body.
2. The palming method – involves associating colours with feelings or emotions.
You put your hands over your eyes and imagine a colour that you think represents being anxious or afraid. You then imagine that colour being replaced by another colour that you believe represents strength, courage or healing. For example, if you think brown is the colour of fear, you imagine your body slowly being surrounded and healed by a soft light of another colour that removes your fear, leaving you with a sense of peace.
Solaris Cancer Care offers creative visualisation to those impacted by cancer and encourages you to reach out to them to book an appointment.
Genevieve’s fascination with the mind and its impact on human behavior led her to pursue a Bachelor of Psychology, at QUT, and then further continued to complete an honours degree, at University of Sunshine Coast. Genevieve envisions her future to embrace a career assisting adults in discovering the cause of psychological issues and in turn providing guidance to alleviate pain and suffering. When she’s not working full time, Genevieve can be found relaxing at a coffee shop, jogging along the boardwalk of the Brisbane River, partaking in an early morning yoga class, or simply reading a good novel with a cup of tea.