While watching some pregame get-you-in-the-mood programming on TV, I saw a segment where a number of athletes talked about how they would visualize the game before it started, imagining how well they would perform. Though I first studied the practice decades ago, I don't think I've ever heard it discussed so casually. Visualization has now become the norm for those wishing to excel in almost any area of life. It can help you make your life better and longer as well.

The practice of clinical guided imagery, or visualization, has been used in various ways. For many years now, we have been focusing on its use in helping people heal their physical bodies and their emotional states.

Numerous research studies have shown how beneficial this practice can be. Visualization is not meant to take the place of traditional medical interventions, but it can enhance them. It is also a great tool for relaxation, which can be very challenging for anyone who is going through physical or emotional distress.

To begin the process, you don't have to be in a meditative state. You can take these few simple steps. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place. Let out your breath until your lungs feel empty. Begin inhaling through your nose, first filling your stomach, then the bottom section of your lungs, followed by the middle, and, finally, the top of your lungs. Hold that for a count of five. Slowly exhale through your mouth. Feel your body relaxing, releasing all tension as you exhale. Let all worries fall away from your mind and let go of any distress in your body. Do three cycles of this deep breathing.

In this relaxed state, think about and see in your mind's eye what it is that you want for your life. Then begin with one small element of that desire and embellish it. What else would you add to your vision? What would make it more tangible to you? Be as specific as possible.

If you are fighting an illness, you may want to visualize yourself being healthy or imagine the medications working and healing the condition. If you are having surgery, imagine it going perfectly, hearing the doctor say "this is going great," and see your recovery going well too.

Every surgeon and oncologist with whom I've spoken agrees that positive guided imagery can be an effective practice. There are also CDs, DVDs, and software applications available to help you. If you have a hard time coming up with images in your head, viewing a screen can assist you. Modern technology has given us some great tools to heal ourselves.

One thing that encourages athletes and patients alike is feeling victorious. Actually feeling the positive emotions of winning the game or healing your body may give you that extra energy you need.

Whether experiencing the pleasure of winning a game or feeling the positive emotions associated with healing your body, these visualization techniques can provide you with that extra energy to take charge of your body and mind.

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