IMAG­INE A RE­NEWED YOU

Visu­al­i­sa­tion ex­er­cises that will help you im­prove con­fi­dence, re­duce stress and boost per­for­mance.

Shape (Singapore) - - Contents -

When you men­tally re­hearse per­form­ing a move or task, you’re es­sen­tially do­ing it phys­i­cally as well.

You know that ath­letes use visu­al­i­sa­tion to give them­selves an edge and calm their nerves be­fore a big com­pe­ti­tion. (Re­mem­ber #Phelp­sFace from the Olympics?)

“When you imag­ine your­self per­form­ing a task, your mus­cles con­tract as though you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing it. The con­trac­tions are so small, you can’t feel them, but it’s enough to strengthen your mus­cle mem­ory,” says Ni­cole Detling, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of ki­ne­si­ol­ogy and sport science at the Univer­sity of Utah, and a sports psy­chol­ogy con­sul­tant to Olympic ath­letes.

In other words, when you men­tally re­hearse a ten­nis serve or swim­ming stroke, you’re es­sen­tially do­ing it phys­i­cally as well. As ev­i­dence: Peo­ple with wrist casts who vi­su­alised mov­ing their im­mo­bilised mus­cles lost half as much strength as those who didn’t imag­ine ex­er­cis­ing, re­search in the Jour­nal of

Neu­ro­phys­i­ol­ogy found. Visu­al­i­sa­tion can help hone your tech­nique too. Fe­male bas­ket­ball play­ers who imag­ined them­selves throw­ing per­fect free throws just be­fore a game wound up mak­ing 70 per cent of their shots, while those who didn’t sank 54 per cent, a New Mex­ico State Univer­sity study found. It can even rev mo­ti­va­tion, ac­cord­ing to re­search in the jour­nal Psy­chol­ogy of

Sport and Ex­er­cise. In the study, women who pic­tured them­selves work­ing out were sig­nif­i­cantly more driven to ex­er­cise than those who didn’t.

And now ex­perts are dis­cov­er­ing that the perks of visu­al­i­sa­tion go far be­yond fit­ness. New re­search has ver­i­fied its ef­fec­tive­ness for ev­ery­one, show­ing that the tech­nique is ex­tremely pow­er­ful at im­prov­ing con­fi­dence, re­duc­ing stress and boost­ing per­for­mance. That’s be­cause your brain re­sponds to visu­al­i­sa­tion the same way your mus­cles do, says Philip Post, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of motor learn­ing and sport psy­chol­ogy at New Mex­ico State Univer­sity.

“When you imag­ine your­self re­act­ing a cer­tain way to a cer­tain event – like be­ing calm and in con­trol while giv­ing a speech at a wed­ding – it strength­ens the neu­ro­log­i­cal path­ways you need to ac­tu­ally re­spond that

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