One of the best guards against ill health is to have a healthy mind. Luckily it’s well known that positive thinking in the form of creative visualization can have remarkable healing effects – simply by imagining being well you can become so.
In many studies of ill people, even including those suffering from cancer, it has been found that by concentrating on healing the illness mentally, you can reduce and sometimes completely eradicate the problem. For example, cancer patients are often asked to spend as much time as they can visualizing their white blood cells bustling around their body (and especially at the sites of any cancer) destroying and removing all cancerous cells they find, allowing normal cell growth to resume.
How this works is not exactly known, but from a biological point of view it is thought that your unconscious mind works with your autonomic nervous system and immune system in response to the suggestions given them by visualization, and this helps them to closely target the causes of the illness.
Of course modern medicine provides a range of treatments for many diseases, including cancers, and you should always maintain any treatment agreed with medical professionals. But by visualizing at the same time your chances of beating illness are substantially increased.
Building strong core muscles
As we age, if we don’t keep active and allow our muscles to weaken, this can help cause our joints to calcify, leading to arthritis. If you are young you won’t really think about this, but once you reach middle age you will start to notice your first joint aches and pains, and that is about the time when you should start doing what you can to maintain your muscles in good condition.
Obviously this is a physical thing you need to do, since you can’t create muscle simply by thinking about it. However, what you can do is build your muscles more quickly and easily (and achieve the motivation to keep looking after them) through visualization. And by toughening your core muscles (which run through the central section of your body, consisting of the spine, pelvic girdle and hip joints) in particular, you’ll achieve improved posture, reduction of lower back pain, toned muscles, and improved physical performance.
Here is a combined physical and visualization exercise you can practice to emphasize to you and your unconscious mind the importance of keeping these muscles fit and strong – and to help your desire to continue with this exercising.
- Sit up in an alert position and while you maintain a steady breathing rhythm try to pull your navel inwards and back to touch your spine.
- Don’t just imagine this, actually do it if you can. This is called abdominal bracing.
- As you hold your navel in, feel the muscles that are being employed and imagine yourself pouring energy into them from deep within your core.
Encouraged by physiotherapists and Pilates trainers this technique is held to be the answer to core stability so try to hold this position until the exercise is over, which should be up to five minutes if you can, but at least thirty seconds for a beginner. And remember to keep breathing evenly all the time.
Looking after your heart
By ensuring that your heart is as healthy as possible you will obtain a wide range of benefits due to increased blood flow and oxygen distribution around your body, such as increased energy levels and endurance, lower blood pressure, reduced body fat, reduced stress, tension, anxiety and depression, and improved sleep.
The only way to become and stay fit is to exercise, so the following visualization is targeted at motivating you and increasing your desire to exercise aerobically as frequently as possible or, if you have never jogged before, to go out and try it. You are going to go for a twenty minute jog so in your mind’s eye make sure you are wearing suitable clothes that are loose fitting and airy such as shorts or jogging pants and a t-shirt, and that you have on a good pair of running shoes.
- Now imagine yourself in the suburbs or on a country lane and start jogging, feeling how your shoes fit just right and your feet feel like they are bouncing with each step.
- Your legs feel strong and powerful, as your arms go back and forth in counter-rhythm to your them. They feel strong but are relaxed and simply swaying to keep you balanced.
- As you jog notice a very slight sweat building up on your brow and mop it away with the soft armband on your sleeve. Also note how your body feels more supple and is moving more easily.
- Be a little surprised that far from being tired you actually feel energized and can quite happily keep this pace up for the full twenty minutes.
- As you continue, imagine passing trees, houses and side streets. Nod or wave to people you know, and enjoy that they are seeing you exercising because they know that you are being serious about your health.
- Continue running as you breathe in cool and exhale warm air. Feel how the oxygen is refreshing your lungs and energizing your body.
- Continue the visualization until you have completed the full jogging session.
Twenty minutes is all it took, which isn’t very long (maybe enough time to drink a cup of tea or coffee and not much more). Now, while it’s all fresh in your mind, start planning for when you will actually go out and jog for real.
As well as strength you also need the stamina to persevere with changing bad habits and becoming healthy – stamina that will keep you going through thick and thin, giving you the energy to work on things over the long term. Physically stamina is the kind of energy that you draw on to run a marathon, while mentally it’s the ability to stick with something until it’s completion, no matter how long it takes.
And so it’s time for another breathing exercise because, it turns out, such exercises can increase stamina and endurance for many activities such as running, swimming, martial arts and even singing. The technique used is called Chi breathing and the goal is to remove emphasis from the shoulders and chest, and instead do diaphragmatic or core breathing from deep within the abdomen.
- Sit upright and hold your hands over your lower stomach.
- Now breathe in as far as you can until you can’t draw in any more air, then let it all out again, until the very last gasp has been exhaled.
- Repeat this a couple of times then start to imagine that as you breathe in your hands are somehow sucking the air all the way down your torso and into them.
- When you breathe out again see them pushing the air back through your stomach.
- As you do this you should feel your abdomen expanding and contracting and your breathing movement should be felt all the way down to your pelvic area.
Because you are drawing in far more air than with normal breathing make sure that you don’t over breathe, because you will need fewer breaths per minute. Take your time to settle into a slow and steady rhythm that feels comfortable. Then, once you are in the rhythm, visualize the deep and long-lasting energy that each abdominal breath brings you. I promise you, when you practice this technique you really will feel how deeply you are breathing. And while you visualize imagine all your internal organs being renewed and energized, so that after the exercise you will feel like just a car that’s been in for a service.
Being happy and contented
Having looked after your muscles, heart and stamina levels, it’s now time to turn your attention away from your body for a while and to your mind as you seek to instil as high a level of contentment as possible. Now happiness is one of the main goals in life of most people anyway. But it’s also a vital part of becoming and staying healthy.
If you aren’t happy your body will suffer, but if you can raise your spirits your body will follow. And this will enable you to deal with health issues and any bad habits much more effectively. You can’t go wrong with the following simple exercise any time you want to lift your spirits:
- Spend the next ten minutes simply thinking about your future life, imagining that absolutely everything has gone as well as it possibly could, and visualizing how you have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals and dreams.
- Then grab a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and write down everything you just imagined. And that’s it – visualization complete.
In a recent study a group of research subjects were asked to perform this exercise for twenty minutes a day over three days, while a group of control subjects were asked to spend the same amount of time completing a diary of traumatic events. When tested after these exercises, the students who had imagined the bright future measured significantly happier and also healthier physically than the control group. And this was the same when the two groups were reevaluated many months later – so we know this exercise has a very long term benefit too.
Being eager to learn
When we learn, we build new neural pathways in which our memories are stored. And when we want change we must also create new neural pathways. In studies it has been shown that people in the process of studying for a qualification (or who make a point of constantly learning new things) are able to remember and recall information much more easily.
It seems that the more we learn the more we are capable of learning.Therefore, if you want to keep your grey matter as flexible as possible and compliant to the changes you want in your life, you will make the whole process much easier if you adopt an approach of curiosity towards life and always ask yourself questions about anything interesting. To help inspire your curiosity and thirst for knowledge you can try the following set of affirmations, which ideally you should repeat out loud from time to time. (Of course you may not consider that all these affirmations are true to the way you think, so just choose the ones that fit best if you wish, and make up new affirmations too if there are things you would like to be more curious about):
- I am always keen to learn new things.
- I have an active and curious mind.
- I wonder what the world is all about and why I am here.
- I like to understand what makes people tick.
- I am curious about how things work.
- I am interested in other cultures and languages.
If you regularly practice the various exercises in this article, you will help bring your mind and body together into a healthier, more organic whole, and you also will experience greater inner completeness and feelings of wellness.