By: Dr. Beth Templin
I've already shared with you why I place a water bottle with lemon in my bathroom and why I lay out my exercise clothes each night before I go to bed. This is one tactic to help me be more successful. I prepare the environment to make it more likely I will achieve the desired outcome.
The next step is for me to visualize the benefits of the activities I am choosing to do. For example, when I drink my water first thing in the morning, I visualize the water seeping into my joints. I visualize my cartilage becoming a wet sponge. Let me explain.
Your joints are covered by a protective layer called cartilage. Cartilage is about 80% water in younger adults. As a normal part of aging, the water content decreases to about 70% in older adults, making your cartilage become stiffer and thinner.
Think of the difference between a wet sponge and a dry sponge. The wet sponge is soft and flexible, whereas the dry sponge is stiff and brittle. It’s much easier to break or damage the dry sponge than it is to do the same to the wet sponge.
The same happens to your cartilage. If you are dehydrated on a regular basis, which most of us probably are, then you’re more likely to cause damage to it. Dehydration is one of the reasons people with arthritis feel so stiff and achy in the morning. They have gone all night without drinking any fluids and as a result are slightly dehydrated.
By drinking my water each morning to start my day, I am helping to rehydrate my body and protect my cartilage. Since I want to maintain healthy joints for the next few decades, this is a great habit to form. When I tie in my understanding of the benefit to my body by actually imagining the benefit, it makes the action more meaningful and important to me.
Another place I use visualization is when I am walking on my treadmill each morning. I don’t just get up there and start walking, instead I imaging all the benefits the walking is providing to my body.
I visualize that with each step I take, I am creating stronger bones in my legs and spine, helping me to prevent or delay the onset of osteoporosis.
I visualize the blood pumping through my heart up to my head, keeping my brain health and strong.
I visualize my lungs breathing in clean, fresh, healthy air full of oxygen and breathing out stress, carbon dioxide and other harmful things that my body doesn't need.
This process helps me visualize and connect the benefit of the action I’m doing to the improvements that I want to achieve by performing the action. For me, this visualization makes the activity more enjoyable. It makes it more powerful. It makes it more likely that I’m going to continue to repeat the desired activity over and over again. It makes it more likely that I will achieve my goals.
You don’t only have to use this technique to connect the importance of an activity you are currently performing to cement the value of performing it. You can also use visualization and mental imagery to visualize how you will accomplish or achieve a new goal.
There is extensive data to support that the mind can truly influence the body. If you can’t think it or dream it, you can’t do it. In other words, if you can’t imagine yourself achieving a certain goal, if you doubt it’s possible, you are less likely to make it happen. The opposite is also true. When you believe you can achieve something, when you imagine yourself accomplishing a goal, it is more likely to happen.
Several studies have shown the positive effects of visualization on health, including improving your physical performance. This is where the phrase “mind over matter” comes in. In a study conducted at Stanford, they found that just by believing you were good at something, you could push your body in that direction.
For example, if you believe you are a good runner and have good endurance, you are more likely to run longer. If, on the other hand, you think of yourself as a poor runner with poor endurance, you are more likely to stop sooner.
Often times people will visualize how they will tackle a difficult task so they are better prepared to face it, such as being able to get up and down from the floor or hitting the perfect shot during a golf game. Visualization can also be used to help people see themselves being successful with completing a new challenge, like walking a mile for the first time or completing a challenging hike.
Visualization can be used several ways in your life to help you stay on track with current goals and help you achieve new ones. You can imagine the benefits of a current activity in your life to make it more meaningful. You can also use mental imagery to feel more confident and increase the chances that you can accomplish a new task and make positive changes in your life.
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Dr. Beth helps adults 55+ understand the changes of aging and how to live a healthy active lifestyle, so they don’t start to miss out on the good things in life.