The Top 5 Reasons to Visualize (w/ Scientific Proof)

confidence visualization May 03, 2019

Visualization helps program the subconscious brain to be successful. Here are the 5 reasons you should start practicing visualization today.

#1. Builds Confidence

Visualizing success in your training or racing and you can subconsciously improve your belief in your abilities. We all compete according to how we see ourselves. Change how you see yourself, and your performance changes. Just take a moment and think of 5 times you were at the top of your ‘game’. Write them down. Then take a deep breath, close your eyes and replay all seven of those instances in your mind.

I'll bet you feel more confident in your abilities and more sure of your enormous potential. It’s powerful stuff. Simple but brings out your BEST you.

#2. Controls Emotions

Controlling emotions is one of the most important aspects to mental training. Staying calm under pressure, reacting appropriately to adversity, getting hyped for competition, ignoring unhelpful emotions in the heat of the moment. These are all CRITICAL parts of our performance. Even the Navy Seals have started training in visualization techniques to control their emotional reactions in life and death situations. But even for everyday athletes, anxiety can creep in and become a huge barrier to peak performance. If this begins to happen, visualization is your best tool. 

When you feel nervous or anxious, focus on your breathing and imagine yourself being calm and confident. If you’re feeling fatigued see yourself as powerful and courageous to pump yourself up. You’ll be amazed at how your body follows your changed mindset. Sometimes we forget how connected our body and mind are and how much control we really do possess.

You can also practice working through anxiety or discomfort ahead of time so you are more prepared for that emotion when it happens in real life. If you have a particular situation that causes you anxiety, visualize yourself in that situation, feel all those negative emotions, really imagine all the causes and sources for this unproductive emotion, then slowly imagine all of them morphing into positive emotions like courage and confidence. When you mentally rehearse controlling your emotions, you’ll be ready for them in real life. Again, your body very willingly follows your mindset. Change your mind and everything else will follow.

#3. Improves Skill

When you visualize your sports skills, your brain will trigger the same muscle patterns as if you were actually performing the skill. Neuromuscular science proves that visualization can actually affect your nervous system in the same way the actual movement does. The brain interprets your imagination in the same way it interprets your movement and excites the exact same muscle patterns. But you don’t get tired!

A study done at the University of Chicago (Dr. Blaslotto) did research on visualization and free throws. The researchers divided people into 3 groups and tested each group on how many free throws they could make.

After deciding their baseline free throw percentage, he had each group do something different:

  • The first group practiced free throws every day for an hour.
  • The second group visualized themselves making free throws.
  • The third group did nothing.

After 30 days, he tested their free throw accuracy again.

Want to know the results?

  • The first group (physically practiced free throws) improved 24%.
  • The second group (visualization only) improved 23%!!! All without touching a basketball for 30 days.
  • Unsurprisingly, the third group did not improve.

Physical practice is of course important, but imagine using the power of the MIND and physical practice.

After all, there is only so much physical practice you can do, your body may wear out, you might get fatigued and practice bad habits, or injuries may prevent you from practicing.

Speaking of injuries....

#4. Helps Injuries

Visualization speeds up recovery time from injury or after a tough workout. 

In a study done by Achterberg and Mark S. Rider (Dossey, Meaning and Medicine, 167), researchers measured the effects of visualization in altering the immune system. The subjects were divided into two groups. Each group was asked to visualize images of the shape, location, and movement of one of two types of white blood cells. Blood counts were taken both before and after each twenty-minute visualization sessions:

Results showed that the highly directed imagery was cell-specific; that is, it affected the one of the two types of white blood cells toward which it was intended or directed, and not other. The mind can control healing by altering the immune response with visualization.

Visualization also prevents skills from deteriorating during injury.

A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they sat in their chairs and only imagined lifting.  In a study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation (Yue 2004), researchers compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads”. He found a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym and a 13.5% increase in the people that just imagined going to the gym! This is powerful stuff. Other studies have shown the effect of visualization AND physical work.

Read more about visualization for injuries here.

#5. Resolves Stagnation

Sometimes athletes hit a plateau and stop improving the way that they want. This can be frustrating and lead to some very negative and unproductive mindsets. When an athlete is working hard physically and still not improving, the reason is usually mental. Visualization can help athletes work through that in a few ways:

  • By visualizing past successes and learning from them.
  • By studying their ideal mental performance state in a controlled environment.
  • By exploring places for improvement away from the intensity of competition.
There are many benefits to visualization. This study done by Soviet sport scientists is often referenced.
The study explored the effects of mental training through visualization, on four groups of world-class athletes just prior to the 1980 Lake Placid, Olympics. The four groups of athletes were divided as follows:
Group 1 – Did 100% physical training to prepare for the Olympic Games.
Group 2 – Did 75% physical training and 25% mental (visualization) training.
  • Group 3 – Did 50% physical training and 50% mental (visualization) training.
  • Group 4 – Did 25% physical training and 75% mental (visualization) training.
What researchers found was that Group 4, the group with the most visualization training, showed the greatest improvement of all of the other groups! Group 3 did better than Group 2, and Group 2 did better than Group 1.
Of course physical training is important, and we're not at all suggesting you start doing 75% mental training, but imagine what combining physical and mental training could do for your athletes!

Bonus Certification: Performance Visualization SpecialistTM

When you become a Positive Performance Certified Mindset CoachTM, you will also graduate the program as a Performance Visualization SpecialistTM

In month 2 of the Mindset Coach CertificationTM, I will distill everything I’ve learned over the last 12 years and qualify you to be a certified Performance Visualization SpecialistTM. Why is this important? Because, when you have this skillset, you can enact big change in the people around you, and in your own life.

Once you’re certified, you’ll be able to use guided visualizations with your athletes and with people in your life that you love and care about. You’ll be able to help your friend get better sleep, you’ll be able to help your sibling heal from a breakup, you’ll be able to help your children manage pressure, and you’ll even be able to turn it back on yourself to foster personal growth and change.

I am so excited to equip you with this skill because I know how powerful this tool is. I’ll give you the script, you’ll practice, you’ll design and record your own visualizations, and you’ll leave with a stamp of credibility and super powerful skill in your toolbox.

If you want to start impacting athletes in a big way by learning how to develop and lead guided visualizations, apply for our Mindset Coach CertificationTM program. We are eager to help you succeed in this program by also qualifying you as a Performance Visualization SpecialistTM upon graduation.

Note: Applications for the Mindset Coach Certification are currently closed. To be the first to know when the doors open for the next cohort of our 4-month hands-on certification course, join our waitlist.

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