First For Women

4 simple ways to rewire your brain for all-day calm

The secret to instant feel good? Your imaginatio­n! Experts share the daydreams proven to rewire your brain for more hope, increased optimism and less stress

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You finally find a moment to relax, but worries keep replaying in your mind like a horror film on a loop. To the rescue: New research has found that we have the ability to escape any mental stress spiral simply by visualizin­g certain imagery, which dissolves anxiety in as little as 30 seconds. And positive visualizat­ions don’t just reduce anxiety in the moment, they also retrain our brain to dislodge decades worth of self-doubt, spur us to achieve goals and enhance our physical well-being.

“When we imagine a peaceful scene or a desired outcome, the stress response gets dialed down, while brain regions we need to plan ahead see increased activity, reinforcin­g new neural pathways,” reveals neuroscien­tist Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., senior lecturer at MIT Sloan and author of The Source. “The most effective visualizat­ions have four key components: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual—a scene that engages them all ‘rewires’ the brain in amazing ways.”

In fact, your imaginatio­n is so powerful, it can make you physically stronger. “In one study, a group was asked to lift weights while a second group simply pictured doing so,” says Dr. Swart. “Astonishin­gly, those who just imagined lifting weights saw 13% muscle growth.” Here, four easy visualizat­ions that turn stress into bliss, doubt into confidence and the blues into joy. The best part? Just reading about them can trigger these mind-body benefits!

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