What Is Visualization Meditation And What Are the Benefits?
By: Dylan Buckley
Updated November 20, 2019
Medically Reviewed By: Chante’ Gamby, LCSW
When we're children, our imaginations run rampant as we envision ourselves in a variety of exciting scenarios. From acquiring magical powers to pretending to be like our favorite adults, using our imagination is an important part of developing our creativity and nurturing our minds. As we grow up, however, we begin to use these creative muscles less and less, but imagination can be a useful tool for adults as well.
As we grow up, we often scrap imagination because we don't need it for most of our adult responsibilities. Plus, it's often considered to be a childish behavior. However, experts are discovering that using our imagination in our adulthood can be beneficial to reaching our goals and manifesting what we want in life.
Visualization is actively used by a host of successful people, including athletes, entertainers, and business moguls. While you can simply visualize reaching your goals, the most effective way to use this technique is to practice visualization meditation. This is a simple, step-by-step process you can do almost anywhere and anytime. In this article, we'll take a closer look at how it works and how it can benefit you.
Moving Toward the Future
When you think of the challenges that lie ahead of you, you may have a vague idea of where you want to go with your life. If that's the case, you're more likely to stumble into anything that comes along without exerting much control over what happens to you.
Visualization, on the other hand, allows you to see the future you want in vivid terms. You not only know what you want, but you also know how to achieve it. Combined with SMART goals, visualization can move you steadily toward the future you want to create.
What Is a SMART Goal?
In 1981, George Doran wrote about SMART goals, an acronym that would come to be used by corporations, governments, and individuals alike when planning for the future. Here's what it stands for:
- Specific - Goals need to be specific. Otherwise, you know neither how to achieve them, nor when you've been successful.
- Measurable - With goals you can measure, you know when you're falling short of the mark and when you're moving toward it. In the end, if the goal isn't measurable, you'll only have a vague notion of whether or not you achieved it.
- Assignable - You have to be able to assign a goal, so someone (or a team) is responsible for making it happen. If someone or something is outside your control, it's not a goal. It's a hope, and you have no power to make it happen.
- Realistic - If a goal isn't realistic, what's the point? You need to set goals that are possible to achieve.
- Time-related - Your goals need a deadline, or they may never get completed at all.
Goals are extremely helpful in nearly every aspect of life. It's important to note, however, that a goal is not a visualization, but rather something you can visualize. For visualization to work, you need to find your own unique vision.
What Is Your Unique Vision?
Your vision comes from within you. You don't impose it on yourself by making a to-do list or thinking about what you should do. Instead, it comes from your personal worldview and your inner desires. What do you want your life to look like? If you're not sure about your unique vision, trust that it's there within you. All you have to do is uncover it or reveal it to yourself. One way to do this is through visualization meditation.
What Is Visualization Meditation?
Visualization meditation combines the practice of meditation with the technique of visualization. In meditation, you sharpen your focus through a mental exercise, such as controlled breathing or repeating a mantra. It's a practice based on calm reflection.
Visualization is a technique that allows you to experience the feelings associated with achieving a future goal. It's similar to guided imagery because it's rooted in visual images and other sensory experiences. This technique has been used effectively by public figures and private individuals who simply want to improve their lives. Through much research, scientists have found that visualization can even improve health issues like cancer symptoms and depression.
In visualization meditation, you simply combine these two practices, visualizing something positive while you meditate.
How to Visualize Through Meditation
If you want to try visualization meditation, you'll need to give yourself some time to stop and reflect on your life. You can do a quick visualization meditation in a few minutes, or you can take a bit longer to connect with your inner self on a deeper level.
When people first use this method, they often find it difficult to stay focused for very long. They're quickly distracted by random thoughts or their environment. That said, persistence pays off. Eventually, you'll develop a greater ability to benefit from this technique. The following steps can help you visualize during meditation.
Focus Through Mental Exercise
When you want to meditate, you can use a focusing exercise. Deep, controlled breathing helps keep you calm and alert. Plus, it gives you something to focus on other than your problems. Alternatively, you can look directly at an object and focus on that. Whatever focus you create will carry you through the next steps of the visualization process.
Focus on One Area of Your Life
If you're using visualization meditation to make big changes, don't try to fix everything in your life all at once. Instead, focus on just one aspect. For example, you might focus on your career, your relationships, or your financial situation.
Imagine the Best that Could Happen
Your task during the meditation is to imagine the very best that could happen. Not only that, but you need to imagine it clearly, distinctly, and in great detail. Visualize where you see yourself and what you want. (This is ultimately what you want to manifest over time.)
Allow Negative Thoughts to Pass
Let your worries, fears, and arguments pass by without dwelling on them. You can't stop thoughts from coming, but you can ignore them. Like clouds, let them drift by and pay no attention when they appear. Focus on positive thoughts instead.
Meditate on a Mid-Range Goal
Think of a time in the not-too-distant future when you'll have had a chance to make progress toward your goal. Ideally, what do you want to achieve by that time? What steps are you taking in your imagined future to move toward that goal?
Imagine Your Life When that Goal Comes True
Next, imagine what your life will be like when you achieve your SMART goal. Visualize the specifics of it. What sights will you see? What else will you experience? How will you feel emotionally?
Step Back and Enjoy the View
Now, gain some perspective by imagining that you're watching yourself experience the good feelings and exciting sensations associated with achieving your goal. Enjoy the moment, knowing you've already taken an important step toward making your dream come true.
Come Back to Center to Choose Immediate Steps Toward Your Goal
The last step of the meditation is to think about the concrete steps you'll take in the coming day, week, or month to move toward making your goal a reality. Make these short-term SMART goals, and dwell on their ability to guide you toward success. As you close your visualization meditation, relax into your physical self, feeling the sensations that are present in your environment.
Move Toward Your Goal Every Day
Although the meditation itself is over, you can continue to benefit from the insights it gave you. You can't go about your life in a constant state of intense meditative focus, but you can reflect regularly on your goals and the actions you take toward those goals. Better yet, take small but consistent actions every day.
What Are the Benefits of Visualization Meditation?
Meditation on its own has many health benefits, such as reducing high blood pressure, lowering the heart rate, and calming the mind. In addition, visualization can help you move toward success surely and steadily. What about visualization meditation? What can you gain from the combination?
As you practice this technique, you'll naturally develop a more positive outlook. You'll learn to let go of the negative self-talk that may have been holding you back for years. You'll also develop the habit of problem-solving and gain a more positive, success-oriented outlook.
Better Goals Held in Mind
Because visualization meditation requires you to focus on your goals, those goals will become more real and immediate to you. Once you've focused on them intently for a while, they'll stay with you and inform the choices you make every day.
The calming element of meditation helps you prepare for the challenges you'll meet while working toward your goals. Also, when you meet those goals, you'll be ready to enjoy the pleasant and exciting feelings that will accompany that success.
Some people go through life unable to focus, but the ability to focus isn't necessarily something you have or lack. Instead, it's something you can develop, build, and improve over time. Flex that muscle enough, and you'll find your focus is as strong as you need it to be when it really counts.
Increased Motivation and Energy
Meditation sessions usually bring increased energy. As your body relaxes and takes in fresh air, you'll become more physically energetic. You'll also become more mentally energized. Plus, your motivation will increase more and more as you continue your practice.
Ready for Action
With a clear plan and extra focus, you'll be well prepared to move toward your goal every day.
How to Get Started
Meditation is one of the most simple exercises to try because it requires no tools outside of your body, your focus, and your mind. If you're ready to start your visualization meditation journey, you'll find a few tips below.
Find a Quiet, Distraction-Free Place to Meditate
After a little practice, you may be able to meditate anywhere, but those who are new to meditation are more likely to succeed in a quiet environment with limited distractions. Put your phone on do-not-disturb, settle in, and start meditating.
Practice Your Visualization Every Chance You Get
Imagination is like a muscle that needs to be worked out. Even after you're done meditating and visualizing, you should continue trying to build these mental images whenever you have a chance. Whether you're imagining your workout before you lift weights or you're picturing a great day at work, try visualizing every aspect of your life to get more practice.
Be As Realistic As Possible in Your Goals
There's nothing wrong with dreaming, and you should always try to expect the best from yourself. However, there's wisdom and happiness in knowing your limits and only working toward goals you can achieve. When you set unrealistic goals, you set yourself up for failure, which can be detrimental to your mental health as well as your future goal-setting attempts. Make sure to set goals you're capable of reaching.
What If You Can't Find the Positive?
Sometimes, people who try to meditate have a hard time finding anything positive to imagine. Even if they find something to visualize, they may feel disconnected from the images they see. Should you have trouble visualizing or seeing yourself as successful, a counselor can help you discover things that might be keeping you from seeing the good in your current and future life.
If you're looking for affordable, convenient online therapy, you can easily connect with a licensed mental health counselor at BetterHelp. Meditation visualization is just one technique your counselor can teach you to improve your life. To get a better idea of what you can expect from BetterHelp counselors, here are some reviews from people experiencing a range of life's challenges.
"Rachael is OUTSTANDING. This is my first experience with counseling/therapy and she's made it something I didn't realize I would enjoy so much. I always feel more confident and planned out after we talk. She helps me build realistic goals and checkpoints to help me get there. I never have to feel embarrassed about what I say (or if I'm crying the whole time!). She feels like my smartest, most helpful friend who gives the very best advice by aiding me in finding my own solutions. 10/10 would recommend!"
"As I maneuver through difficulties, Krista has made the experience a little bit easier, less lonely, and something of a challenge to overcome rather than a reason to be stagnant. I'm grateful for her professional skills and long-term partnership I have been fortunate to be able to build. Living this past year mindfully the best I can made me see my strengths and things I need to work on clearer. The resilience I've gained and Krista helped me realise became a quality of mine I'm very proud of. I believe the skillset and tolerance I'll continue to gain living mindfully in my 20s will be an asset that will help me tackle any issues that come up in the future. Krista really understands my values and aspirations. She encourages me to pursue my passion and chase my dream no matter the many, long-lasting, face-scrunching hiccups along the way. I'm also thankful for Better Help. This is only possible online as I move and travel a lot."
Visualization meditation can help mentally prepare you for success as you work toward the life of your dreams. If you're curious about using visualization meditation in your day-to-day life, we hope this guide will help you give it a try. With the right support and the right tools, you can achieve your goals. Get started today.