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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
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!