Using Mental Imagery To Your Advantage

By: Nicola Kirkpatrick

Updated February 13, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Deborah Horton


Mental imagery, commonly known as "visualization," is a powerful tool that can be used to overcome some of our deepest fears and move into a place of healing and success. However, the process of using mental imagery to your advantage requires more than using just pure imagination and hoping that you achieve your result. If you are interested in mental imagery as a therapeutic tool, here is a comprehensive guide.

First, however, we must understand what mental imagery is and how it works.

What Is Mental Imagery?

The process of visualization or using mental imagery involves producing mental situations that help us picture and achieve success in any area of our life. Imagery is used quite frequently by major athletes, and the results are phenomenal. One study conducted by a professor at New Mexico State University studied the effects of mental imagery on athletic performance. The study focused on basketball players who had practiced mental imagery before games and their performance compared to games where they hadn't practiced mental imagery.

The results? The research concluded that imagery did have an effect on the performance of the team and their accuracy increased dramatically. Can this type of exercise be used for exercise out of athletics? Definitely! That's what this article is going to teach you how to do.


Step 1. Figure Out What It Is That You Want (and Be Specific!)

The purpose of visualization is to reach your goals. However, it can be difficult to reach your goals if you are not quite sure of what you want. Are you looking to ease your anxiety and panic attacks? Are you trying to beat your depression? Whatever it is that you want to manifest in your life, figure out your end goal and make sure that it is specific. For example, trying to reach a goal of "looking slimmer" and trying to reach a goal of "losing 40 pounds" are going to provide two completely different results.

Step 2. Map Out Your Journey

Now that you have an end goal in mind, the next step is to map out your journey to your goal. Let's imagine that you want to conquer your depression. What steps do you need to take to get there? Will you be going to therapy? Will you be taking any medications? Is there anything that you can do on your own time to help ease the symptoms of depression? Now is the time to do your research so that you can produce the most accurate and detailed plan.

Take all of your notes and research and write it down somewhere to make the visualization process easier.

Step 3. Begin to Visualize Your Plan in Motion


Once you have a detailed plan, you can begin using mental imagery to help yourself reach your goals. Let's continue with the above goal of conquering depression. What does it feel like to be rid of your depression? What are you doing now that all of your symptoms have disappeared? Run through all of the joyful situations that are happening as a result of your freedom. Use all of your senses when you are running through your visualization exercises to reap the most benefits. This imagery will help you find the motivation necessary to follow through on your plan.

Step 4. Solve Any Problems That Arise As They Come

If you've ever imagined yourself in a situation before, you know that it doesn't always go according to plan. In fact, someone who has a mental illness may have extra difficulty trying to believe that they can be successful. Facing these types of issues can be difficult, but it is necessary if you want mental imagery to work in your favor. Ask yourself, what parts of your visual journey isn't working out for you? Do you lack the confidence to get through each of your steps? Are you having problems believing that you are capable enough? Isolate and address these problems on your own or in therapy.

The most common complaint that people have about visualization is that it just doesn't work for them. If it doesn't, it won't matter what other issues are preventing you from reaching your goals because the tool itself is the biggest issue. Why is visualization not working for you? Well, it is often one of two things.

The first reason why visualization is not working for you could be the fact that you are not a visual person. Some people are not hardwired for mental imagery, and it could do more harm than good to try to force this tool to work for you. There are plenty of other tools out there that will help you reach your goals.

The second reason is often that people are not fully invested in the method. Think about people who don't believe in the power of therapy. These are almost always the people who have either not given it a try or who have not given themselves fully over to the treatment. If you think that visualization is silly or not reliable, guess what? It will be silly or unreliable. Much like you will only achieve your goals if you believe you can, using mental imagery will only work if you believe it does. Think about these two things if you find that this tool is not working out for you.


Step 5. Return to This Vision Throughout Your Journey

The purpose of using a mental imagery technique is to help you follow through on your desired actions and realize your potential. It is not something that you can do one time. It is something that you must continually do while you are working on your goals. Whenever you doubt yourself or whenever you forget why you are working towards something, return to this vision. This is what will carry you to your goal!

The two words that you need to keep in mind while you are using mental imagery are "faith" and "perseverance." A lot of people hear about visualization exercises and assume that following through on the steps provided to them will be good enough. Unfortunately, it's not. While visualization and its results can be exciting, especially when you first hear about it, you will not be able to get results off of this feeling of excitement alone. Changing your life requires commitment, faith, and dedication. Mental imagery is simply a tool that will help get you achieve your goal.

The most important thing to remember is that you may end up needing help to reach your goal or visualize your success. This is normal, and it is nothing to be ashamed of. If you find that this is true for you, I highly recommend visiting

BetterHelp is the world's largest e-counseling platform that provides affordable, accessible, and convenient online counseling. Clicking on the link above will bring you to a short questionnaire that will connect you to the right online counselor for you!

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