Updated: Jul 24
Seeing yourself healthy is a powerful tool for your healing journey.
February 2016, I had overcome some of the health challenges I had been dealing with, but I was also still struggling with a lot of illnesses and symptoms. I had just come back from Germany, and while I was there, someone told me about a clinic in Frankfurt that has amazing results with various treatment modalities, treating people with chronic Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses. I went to the clinic while I was in Germany, just to get evaluated, and to get a treatment plan. The treatment would have taken 2 weeks, and since my family lived close enough to the clinic, I could have just driven in every day for treatments, instead of renting one of their apartments.
Shortly after I got home I was talking to my husband about a good time to go back to Germany so I could schedule the treatments at the clinic. However, I got an email from a woman I had "met" on one of the online health groups I had been a part of. We had stayed in touch outside of the group, although I had not heard from her in a while. She told me about a brain retraining program she was using that was helping her with the chronic illnesses she had been facing, some of which were the same as the ones I was facing.
I looked up the program and read all the information provided on the website, and I have to admit, I was skeptical. This was before I really knew much about mind-body medicine. The DVDs for the at-home program were around $250 and came with a full money back guarantee. That sounded a lot better than the 15,000 Euros the treatment in Germany would have cost, and I had some time before I would be able to go back anyway, so I decided to give it a try.
The reason I mention this program is because a large part of the brain retraining is visualization. Seeing yourself healthy, happy, in social situations, working, traveling, eating anything you want...or whatever it is you are unable to do because you have chronic health issues. That's not the only part of the brain retraining, but it's an integral part. This is also where I started to learn more about mind-body medicine, and how the brain creates symptoms to "protect" us. I started the program February 2016 and it worked so well that I decided not to go to the clinic in Germany.
Why is visualization so powerful? You have an image of everything in your head. If I say dog, you see an image of a dog, not the word "dog" spelled out. If you have been sick for a long time, you most likely have an image of yourself being sick, fatigued, and unable to do things you want to do. Changing that image is important, because your brain can't distinguish between reality and what you are imagining.
Athletes use visualization to improve their performance. They imagine the perfect shot, kick, or swing, depending on the sport. Studies show that visualization increases athletic performance by improving motivation, coordination and concentration. It also aids in relaxation and helps reduce fear and anxiety. In the words of one researcher, "visualization helps the athlete just do it and do it with confidence, poise, and perfection."
So how do you do it? You just picture in your mind the desired outcome you want, but you have to go into detail. Find a time when you can spend 15 to 20 minutes without interruptions. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and start seeing yourself healthy and doing what you want to do.
The most powerful type of visualization is first person visualization. You see all the images with your own eyes. This typically works better for creating the emotions and feelings, because you are imagining yourself doing the activities. Since your brain can't distinguish reality from imagination, the brain thinks that you are actually doing the activities right now.
The second type is third person visualization. This is where you see yourself doing the activities you are imagining, kind of like watching a movie with yourself in it. While it is not as powerful as the aforementioned type, it is still beneficial. The most important part to any visualization is that you feel the emotions and feelings associated with the activities.
Let's say you are dealing with fatigue and you want to start jogging. Imagine the outfit you are wearing, describe it in detail, then describe everything you see while you are jogging. What is the weather like? What is the color of the sky? Are there clouds or no clouds? What season of the year is it? Is anybody with you or are you jogging by yourself? Are you jogging in a city, in a neighborhood with trees, in the forest, along a lake? Describe your route. Describe how you feel physically and emotionally. The more detailed you can get the better the outcome and it's important to feel the emotions. It is also beneficial to talk out loud while you are doing this.
Of course you can't just sit around imagining yourself doing things, but never going out and actually doing those things. Eventually you need to take action. It's ok if your action doesn't match the visualization - yet! Just keep practicing and you will get there. If you are struggling with health issues and haven't used visualization yet, give it a try. I believe you will find it helpful.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below, or send me an email at email@example.com.