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Mental imagery, your tool!!

Updated: Jul 1

"I'm fine, everything is fine", "I feel better and better..." Stop! This has nothing to do with mental imagery. This is a mental capacity to represent a situation to us and to feel the emotions and sensations related to this situation. In other words, we are going to experience a situation that we have only imagined. Depending on its intensity, this representation can trigger the same physiological effects as reality would. So in the context of personal development, we can, through training, achieve results whether it is on the desire to reach a specific mental state (relaxation, vigilance, sensitivity to pain, etc.) or to develop skills.


Do you find it hard to believe? Let’s take the simplest and best-known example: the lemon test.


You will close your eyes and imagine a slice of lemon. Let's go ! You visualize this slice of lemon, it is in front of you. You discover each of its forms, its districts, its glitches, linger over these different parts. Then you focus on its different colors and textures. Always in your imagination, you take this slice with your hand, you feel its weight between your fingers and you approach it to your lips. This slice of lemon is close to your lips, but does not touch them. Stay like this for a few moments. Its taste will flow in your mouth in no time.


Stop ! Let's get back to reality. What happened ? Did your body react to the thought of the imaginary lemon on your tongue by producing saliva? Through mental imagery, we can alter our physical state and elicit reactions in our body. Our brain does not know the difference. And, let's enjoy it.


The Blaslotto study is the reference on the subject :

Dr. Blaslotto from the University of Chicago, conducted a study on a basketball team that was divided into three groups to test their free throwing skills: - The first group practiced free throws for one hour daily. - The second group contented themselves with visualizing themselves making free throws. - The third group, finally, had nothing to do. After the 30-day period, the groups were able to make free throws: - The third group obviously did not improve. - The first group improved by 24%. - Finally, the second group progressed by 23% by visualization alone. Mental imagery had as great an effect on performance as physical training. Thanks to the repetition of this visualization (here for 30 consecutive days), new neuronal connections have therefore been put in place, this is neuronal plasticity.


What it can be used for in our daily lives :


I Quickly get into a specific mental state (calm, serenity, confident, etc.):

I can testify personally: I am by nature lively and tense rather than relaxed… I have set up a positive visualization, adapted for me, allowing me in less than three minutes to reach my state of optimal relaxation. I come to such a level of mental and physical relaxation that I feel the beating movement of my heart. It took putting in place the right text and rehearsing, modifying, adjusting and training to get to this state. There are a large number of visualizations and it is up to the relaxologist to offer you the best program for you… Rumination after work, putting aside bad thoughts or even staying focused in a noisy environment… There are many topics.


II Preparing for a stressful event:

We can face stressful events: an exam, an audition, a competition. Through certain visualizations, we can better prepare for this event.


III positive visualization to develop a particular skill both physically and mentally.

Thanks to the principle of neural plasticity, a person reacts and acts in less than a second to a stimulus with a combination of movements: we see it in tennis, football, fencing, boxing, also with musicians , the military...

This is possible thanks to neuronal plasticity. To define it simply and quickly: Each neuron in our brain can make up to 10,000 connections with other neurons and these connections change as you train for a particular task. This task can be physical, but also purely cognitive. Neuronal plasticity modifies neural circuits. At the beginning a temporary connection is set up thanks to chemical substances around the neurons. With training, these temporary connections become more structural and over time the neurons change shape and position. So the more we train, the more we develop a neural structure that makes us better at it. If the subject interests you, I advise you to watch the documentary Human the World Within which popularizes it very well. Thus by training mentally we develop skills to do better, faster and in all circumstances.


How it works and its limitations.


Positive visualization works effectively because we do it in a particular state: alpha waves!


Thanks to an electroencephalograph, we can transcribe the activity of the brain into electrical frequency. At certain wave frequencies, we have certain brain activity. Delta waves from 0.5 Hz to 4 Hz define deep sleep, theta waves from 4 to 8 Hz sleep with dreams, deep relaxation, meditation and the state of hypnosis. Regarding our subject, alpha waves from 8 to 13 Hz, light relaxation, positive visualization. There are other waves, but let's stay on our subject. At the alpha level, the hemispheres of our brain are connected. This connection allows us to focus better and better manage our emotions. For positive visualization to be effective, it must begin and occur at this alpha wave state.


It's like everything, it's by visualizing that we... visualize effectively.

Indeed, it is through training, repetition thanks to neural plasticity that you become more and more effective in your visualization. As I said previously on a personal basis, I worked on a visualization made for me and after three weeks, I arrive in a mental state and calm very quickly. We have fantastic tools within us, and we don't always need external solutions. But obviously, there is a way to go to get there.


In addition to rehearsals, it is important to work on a custom script. Indeed, a positive visualization can be made more effective by listening to a precise text. If the latter is tailor-made, it will be more effective for you. This is where you need a competent person to start with.



Limits…

There are limits: first of all, mental imagery can be a help, but in no way a replacement for medical treatment. Moreover, we cannot invest ourselves in any visualization considering his phobias, his past pains. A framework is necessary at the beginning so that this is done in a safe and efficient way, then a step-by-step process is put in place so that finally the person is completely autonomous... Starting with a professional on the subject will allow you to direct you to the right way with efficiency.


Marco PAONESSA

Certified practitioner relaxation therapist







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