Saturday, January 14, 2017

Get the Picture: Mental Imaging

What the mind of man can conceive and believe,
he can achieve.
Napoleon Hill,
Think and Grow Rich

Mind over matter. A phrase that we have all heard throughout our lives. We have heard countless times used in innumerable ways. Some sites claim it first appeared in 1863 in a work called the Geological Evidence of the Antiquity of Man. It was used in reference to an evolutionary growth of animals’ minds in relation to humans. Personally I have used it, tongue in cheek, as “If you don’t mind, then it doesn’t matter!” The trouble I got into that way.
Napoleon Hill knew about this concept when, in 1937, he wrote his book Think and Grow Rich. He instructs readers to write down positive affirmations and solid goals. You read this list several times during the day, but most importantly just before going to sleep and right after waking up. These two times are paramount.
Right before sleep and just after waking up, Hill knew, that the line between our conscious and subconscious minds was the thinnest. This is when the messages of success are going to pass into the subconscious mind. That is of primary importance. It is the lynch pin on which everything else will hang in this piece.
Why? Because our subconscious mind does not know the difference between what is reality and what is not.

When we meditate and focus on thoughts and images of strength and success and get those images into our subconscious, they become a reality for our mind. What becomes a reality in our minds becomes a reality in our actions. It is a natural cycle. What we believe, we do, say, and perform. These outward actions bring success. This success reinforces our thoughts and beliefs. So the cycle continues.
I want to introduce you, in a manner of speaking, to Mark Divine. He is a former Navy SEAL Commander, an entrepreneur, an author, and a very successful man in very many ways. In his book The Way of the SEAL he teaches what he calls the “envision The Future Me” exercise.
Getting ready to do this mental imaging is the same for meditating and very similar to what I have experienced in some forms of yoga and what is done in tai chi and in many sports and arts.
First, find a comfortable seat or place to recline. The intention is not to fall asleep, but if you do, oh well. So long as you get the images into your mind.
Second, breathe deeply. Most of us only breathe into the upper part of our lungs. This restricts the amount of oxygen we take in. Think of the air coming into your lungs and filling them from the bottom up while you breathe in and push your belly out at the same time. As you are breathing, lightly press the tip of your tongue to the top of your mouth just behind your front teeth.
While breathing in, picture bright light coming in through your nose and into your body to illuminate all the dark recesses. As you exhale see and feel the darkness and dust leaving with your breath.
After several breaths of the light, just breathe and feel your body relax. Feel every muscle hanging under the effect of gravity.
Visualize what you want. Focus on it with laser like intensity. Go through your routine. Do your warm up. Feel all the stretches. Experience it in as much detail as possible. Use all of your senses. You already know how your workout area looks. Call up how it feels, smells, sounds. There is a unique taste to it as well, find it in your mind.
Go through your workout or the event you’re training for. Go through each play, each step, every single minute detail of what you will do. Experience it as a champion. Experience the victory. The deeper and richer the detail of sensations, the more real it becomes to your conscious and subconscious minds.
Back to Mark Divine. He writes about the Future Me exercise. Mark says in his book, The Way of the SEAL, on page 28 that
“Even though you may not feel or look the part now, you must envision yourself in your ideal state, activating your personal power and living in alignment with your stand and purpose. I learned in the SEALs that there’s no such thing as perfection, only perfect effort. Through practicing a “perfect” version of ourselves mentally, we’ll slowly become that person in real life.”

            Scientists are beginning to understand more about the mind/body connection. They are finding evidence to support this. One such study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine just this past September. In this study participants were divided in two groups. Both groups had one of their wrists and forearms put into a cast for four weeks. One group would perform guided mental imaging and the other group would do nothing for the duration.
            During the guided imaging the study group was led to envision themselves doing gripping, flexing, and extending exercises.
            The key points from the study are:
·         Coupling mental imagery with physical training is the best suited intervention for improving strength performance.
·         An examination of potential moderator variables revealed that the effectiveness of mental imagery on strength performance may vary depending on the appropriate matching of muscular groups, the characteristics of mental imagery interventions, training duration, and type of skills.
·         Self-efficacy, motivation, and imagery ability were the mediator variables in the mental imagery-strength performance relationship.
·         Greater effects of internal imagery perspective on strength performance than those of external imagery could be explained in terms of neural adaptations, stronger brain activation, higher muscles excitation, greater somatic and sensorimotor activation, and higher physiological responses such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate.
·         Mental imagery prevention interventions may provide a valuable tool to improve the functional recovery after short-term muscle immobilization and anterior cruciate ligament in patients.

Both groups lost grip strength. The control group registered a 46% loss overall while the study group registered 24%. That is a significant difference for a four-week period.
There is also a correlation in how hard you focus on the image and how detailed you make your images. Frequency is also a factor.
Bill Bradley, who served as a democratic senator from 1979 to 1992, used visualization throughout his basketball career. To him, that was a key part of practice and training.
For us, as athletes, whether we are training for fitness, flexibility, or one event or another, we can also benefit from this fact. When coupled with training, the effects of mental visualization are going to speed up recovery and improve our training. Our training will improve in our ability to focus while there, our muscles will benefit from a stronger mind-body connection.
So, when you go to bed tonight, fall asleep focusing your mind on the experience of The New You.
From the No-Budget, No-Whining, No-Excuses Basement Gym. Stay safe. Train hard.

No comments:

Post a Comment