There have been many studies done on how visualizing or mentally rehearsing something over and over improves performance as well as causes physical changes in the body. It's well documented now which is why athletes use it as part of their training for competition. I want to address how we use this technique every day, but most of us are not using it to our benefit.
We tend to continually mentally rehearse the scenarios that upset us. We have ongoing mental conversations complaining about what we don't want, don't like, don't agree with, and so on. These mental rehearsals further engrain the same neural pathways in our brain causing us to continue in the same behaviors, thus getting the same results. They also cause specific chemicals to be released which can not only cause stress to our bodies but also keep us addicted to our negative thought patterns. These mental replays of what we don't want would be the equivalent of a coach telling an athlete to mentally rehearse over and over how NOT to perform a specific skill. There's not one coach on this planet that's would tell their athlete....."Here's what I do NOT want you to do....now I want you to mentally repeat what we don't want over and over and rehearse that." No one would do that. But that's what we do all day long when we mentally replay what we don't like or don't want in life.
"Practice Makes Perfect!"
One of the biggest things you need to change in order to master your mind is to change what you are mentally rehearsing. Doing that not only causes physiological changes in the body but also causes you to act in a different way.
Let's say you have a situation with someone you don't get along with. You probably go into mental conversations where you tell this person off or perhaps you ruminate on something that actually happened. You continue to mentally replay the scenario over and over....thus mentally rehearsing what happened. This not only further engrains the situation into your head, causing you more and more negative thoughts, it also releases a cascade of stress hormones into the body. It also keeps those same thoughts alive. Those thoughts directly affect your behaviors. This is not using mental rehearsal to your benefit.
If you haven't noticed by now, most of these Arrow Tips revolve around a common theme.....if you want better outcomes then you will have to think better thoughts.
Start by noticing what you're mentally rehearsing on a daily basis. Are they thoughts of worry, regret, guilt, anger, fear? Finding what's behind these thoughts takes digging deeper to discover what beliefs you have that are creating these thoughts and then beginning the process of challenging those beliefs to create more productive ones. A belief is just a thought that you've accepted as true for one reason or another, or it's a thought that you've repeated over and over until it has become true for you. Challenging and changing beliefs is a process that can be ongoing but for now, you can choose to focus your mental rehearsal on thoughts and feelings that are more in alignment with what you want in life.
Begin now to incorporate some new topics for rehearsal. How about rehearsing scenes that went right for you today? Mentally rehearse feelings of gratitude. For example, if you're in physical pain you're probably rehearsing thoughts of what's not going right in your body. Try today to at least spend some time mentally going over all the body parts that ARE doing their jobs perfectly for you. If 20 things went wrong for you today, instead shift your focus to the 200 things that went right and choose 5 of them to focus on.
Here's a great exercise to do at the end of every day. As you're falling asleep at night, mentally review your day. If there's something that went right that you felt really good about, mentally repeat that scene over and over conjuring up feelings of happiness or gratitude. If there's anything that didn't go the way you wish that it had, then REVISE that scene. Mentally put yourself right back into the original scene and literally replay it in your mind but this time change it to reflect the outcome you would have preferred. When you do this, try to feel what it would have felt like if it went the way you wanted it to. Mentally rehearse this outcome over and over. This is called a revision technique. This not only creates new neural pathways leading to a more desired outcome in the future, but it also releases better feeling chemicals into the body rather than the stress chemicals.
Notice what you are mentally rehearsing on a daily basis.
Begin now to mentally rehearse better scenarios in your mind.
Change unwanted feelings to better ones like gratitude, etc., and rehearse what those feelings feel like instead.
At the end of your day mentally rehearse what went right for you that day. Use the Revision Technique to change anything that went wrong.
Remember: YOU ARE UNSTOPPABLE.