Okay, so you know the basics of creative visualization are getting into a relaxed state and then visualizing what you would like to happen. If you’d like more information about the basic steps, you can start by reading a four part series I wrote about detailed visualization here or sign up for my newsletter to get my free ebook (where I explain more) if you haven’t yet.
But once you get started, a whole bunch of other questions come up.
Like, how long or how often should you practice visualization for?
Does spending more time at it indefinitely increase the effect, or is there a tipping point?
What exactly should you visualize for the best effect?
These are some questions I received from a reader recently, and I’d like to address them in today’s post here.
So how much time should you spend in visualization?
Great yogis repeatedly visualized desired creations (if you’re interested in learning one, I share one in my free ebook!), and monks of some sects such as the Kargyupa spent up to seven years in complete solitude in a cave or sealed room perfecting visualization abilities. My interpretation is that they were practicing their skills during this time and not necessarily working on a specific goal. I believe the key here is repetition and not necessarily length of time.
Some of the most interesting research I’ve found on this topic has been the work of Dr. O Carl Simonton, radiation oncologist and medical director of Cancer Counseling and Research Center in Dallas, TX. He taught cancer patients how to use creative visualization to heal themselves of cancer.
He advised using relaxation and mental imagery three times per day. While reviewing information about his research and practice, I was not able to find any indication that a specific amount of time was recommended. Most of my research into the works of various practitioners recommended visualizing for five to 15 minutes, or not specifying a limit at all.
I suppose five to 15 minutes of a formal visualization practice can be viewed as a standard minimum. Or at least until the visualization you’ve planned is completed. On one end of the spectrum, short visualizations done off and on throughout the day can also be effective. This would be a more passive, informal practice of daydreaming your visualization while moving about your day, linking real world physical sensations to the experience you are visualizing. The other end of the spectrum would be to spend a significant amount of time in visualization (more than 15 minutes and possibly several hours).
My feelings about this are that it would be useful to spend this amount of time practicing meditation and the skills of visualization, but not necessarily to focus on a particular outcome. I imagine there would be a danger in becoming too attached and obsessive about the outcome to the point of feeling a forcing energy. The recommendations usually given to visualize for five to 15 minutes are already effective and involve less effort. I’m not aware of any danger in visualizing for longer periods of time, but it may not be necessary. Do what feels comfortable to you and pay attention to your reactions.
How do you know what to visualize?
Have you ever had a specific goal in mind and sat down to visualize it, only to wonder how to create an image for your goal?
Or have you wondered if you should be visualizing just the next small step of improvement or the end result?
I found Dr. Simonton’s 3 detailed steps given to cancer patients to help them visualize healing. I distilled the main idea behind each of the three steps and visual images, so they can be applied to anything.
Here are the 3 steps with examples of how you could visualize each step depending on what your goal is. The examples provided are images for healing cancer, reducing swelling and inflammation, increasing muscle growth and losing weight, finding your soul mate or future partner, and overcoming shyness by introducing yourself to someone at a party. The first example provided in each step was taken from Dr. Simonton’s recommendations for cancer partients.
3 Step Visualization
1) Visualize the action that initiates and causes the desired outcome
- Tiny bullets of energy from radiation treatment bombarding cancer cells
- A soothing white light enveloping an area of swelling and inflammation
- Working out at the gym to increase muscle strength and to lose weight
- The moment you meet your soul mate/future partner
- You decide to introduce yourself to someone new at a party and overcome shyness
2) Visualize whatever is blocking or standing in your way to become weaker
- Cancer cells become weaker and more confused than normal cells and are unable to repair the damage
- Swelling goes down and inflammation heals
- Fat is burned off and replaced by muscle
- Release fear and doubt as you spend time with your soul mate/future partner
- Breathe deeply and feel your fear and nervousness melt away as you talk to someone new
3) Visualize your resolution and end goal
- Visualize white blood cells (soldiers of the immune system) swarming over dead and dying cancer cells, carrying them to the liver and kidneys to be flushed out
- Where there was once swelling and inflammation, there are now new, healthy cells growing
- See yourself in the mirror with your desired physique
- Imagine your soul mate/future partner saying, “I love you,” and being with this person after many years
- See the person you met responding positively to you and exchanging phone numbers with you
So basically, you want to visualize the key action that sets the plan into motion, negative forces weakening and positive ones gaining, and the end result and resolution. You want to visualize the details of the whole story. Visual descriptions should be very granular and detailed, tailored to your unique desire.
Has visualization worked for you? Leave a comment below if you have any additional visualization tips to share or a success story!
For more information about how detailed visualizations should be, check out my 4 Part Series starting with: How Detailed Does Your Visualization Need to Be? Part I
Do you have any questions you would like me to answer in my weekly blog post? Send your questions to Christina@CoachingWithChristina.com.
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