Creating a 20/20 Vision for Your Future
With a new year comes resolutions for many of us. But what about those who may not have an idea of where to even start? One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight or to get fit –Whether it’s losing pounds, shaping up, or any other area where someone may desire change, having a vision can be very helpful in identifying and being successful with resolutions and goals. Do you have a 20/20 vision of your future? If not, would you like to have one? And even if you do have something in mind, do you feel confident in being successful in achieving that vision and the goals that lead you to that vision?
A powerful tool that I was taught going through my health and wellness coach training program is visualization, which is based on neuroscience or the study of the nervous system and brain (Cambridge, n.d.), to create an optimal health and wellness vision. If you aren’t familiar with visualization or imagery, it is essentially using the imagination to help one create the life one wants by using imagery to bring about images one has either already experienced or wants to experience (Vanderbilt University Medical Center Health Coaching Program, n.d.). As part of the visualization experience, one uses all the senses – hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch – to attach to the images already formed in the mind. Visualization has been used in mental health therapy and counseling for many years, with roots dating back to 400 BC, and was used for the purpose of behavior change in the 1960’s and 1970’s (Blackwell et al., 2019). Research which includes brain imaging studies has shown that visualization uses the same areas of the brain that physically seeing something does (Pearson et al., 2015). It is this activation of the brain’s neural pathways that makes visualization such a powerful tool. By “seeing” steps needed to reach a goal, anticipating barriers and planning accordingly to overcome them, identifying needed supports, and seeing oneself as successful in achieving a goal, we may be able to “re-wire” our brain to support positive images and outcomes, including those related to our health and wellness.
Visualization can be used in multiple areas of health and wellness, and life in general. When looking at the various dimensions of health and wellness, visualization can be used in the areas of food and nourishment, movement, exercise, and play, relationships and community, spirit and soul, or any other area of health and wellness. It might be used in our careers, education, finances, athletics and sports, or any area of life. It is a versatile tool grounded in science and applicable to many areas. It is amazing just Googling “visualization” and seeing how much research has been done on this topic in so many areas of life.
While visualization and creating an optimal health and wellness vision works great in a health and wellness coach-to-client scenario, you can also do some work on your own. The exercise that I learned in my health and wellness coach training involves visualizing two paths – one without making any health and wellness changes and one with making changes. If you would like to try visualization on your own, I will offer a very simplified version (Vanderbilt University Medical Center, n.d.) that you might try on your own. I invite you to get comfortable in a quiet place and take a few moments to relax and to focus on your breathing and relaxation. You can use a guided meditation or relaxation app or other audio if you would like. When you are ready, you might find yourself beginning to imagine being surrounded by a terrain of your choosing. You may imagine facing two paths. One path (Path #1) will lead you to a default vision -that is, your health and wellness should you make no other changes. Another path (Path #2) will lead you to your optimal health and wellness vision. Paying attention to what you see, feel, hear, smell, taste, and touch if you pursue Path #1. As you progress down the path, time is passing -days, months, and years. Maybe you even see yourself 3 years from now, or 5 years from now. Noticing how you feel about yourself and how you might impact others.
When you feel that you have a good idea of what it is like going down Path #1, I invite you to restart and do the same for Path #2. Using all your senses again and paying attention to how you feel about yourself, exploring how you may impact others, and finding things along the way that might support better health and wellness that you want to take with you, while identifying barriers and obstacles that you want to leave behind. What does optimal health and wellness feel like? What does it feel like to be you in this state of optimal health and wellness? Focusing on the positives, seeing yourself succeeding and overcoming barriers and challenges and what it feels like when you have achieved optimal health and wellness. Continuing focusing on your breathing and keeping both these visions in your mind as you come back to a state of alertness. You may choose to take the images you created of the two paths and make decisions on any changes you might like to make based on observations made after completing this exercise. You may find yourself moving towards setting goals that support your optimal health and wellness vision (hint: goal setting will be covered in another article), or maybe you even decide to work with a health and wellness coach to more fully explore these visions and set goals.
Isn’t the science of visualization so interesting? Perhaps this brief introduction has spurred interest in further exploration! Here’s to a 2024 that includes a 20/20 vision towards a healthier you! Let me know if you tried visualization and how that worked out for you. I would love to hear from you and celebrate your successes!
Blackwell, S. E. (2019). Mental imagery: From basic research to clinical practice. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 29(3), 235.
Cambridge Dictionary (n.d.). Neuroscience. In www.cambridge.org dictionary. Retrieved January 8, 2024 from, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/neuroscience
Pearson, J., Naselaris, T., Holmes, E. A., & Kosslyn, S. M. (2015). Mental imagery: functional mechanisms and clinical applications. Trends in cognitive sciences, 19(10), 590-602.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Health and Wellness Coach Training Program (n.d.).