This past year we’ve all experienced the impact of socialisolation and learned just how vitally important friendship is for our wellbeing.We’ve adapted to zoom calls and long-distance connections and developed new relationship muscles. And, accepting the likelihood of long-term uncertainty that may continue to limit our in-person contact, we have an opportunity to embrace a powerful health strategy, using visualization to consciously increase happiness.
Happiness, like health, has traditionally been linked to thingsoutside of ourselves. But most of us have heard that “happiness comes from within.” What does that actually mean and how does it relate to our health? How exactly does happiness come from within? One way is through intentional visualization.
Think of a time when you felt deeply happy. Pick onememory that stands out. Imagine yourself there again, observing yourself in a moviescene. Notice what’s happening and how you feel. Pretend it’s happening again right now.
When I do this, when I fully tune in to a memory and relive it, I’m always impressed by the power of my imagination to prioritize this sensation from the past to change how I feel in the present. I also typically wonder, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
All of us daydream, but it tends to be fairly random. There’s an enjoyment to that, but this simple exercise suggests there can also be some value to reliving memories with the intention of improving our present experience. After all, it isn’t as if memories wear out by visiting them too often!
As far as I know, there’s no downside to recalling happy times and reliving them! Isn’t that what we often do in family gatherings, tell stories and remember what brought us joy in the past?
This can also work in the other direction, visioning a preferred future. Think of something coming up in your life. Pick one imminent scenario, like going in to work tomorrow morning. This time, use your imagination to see what’s likely to happen and choose how you want to feel. Again, make it as detailed and real as possible and pretend it’s happening right now.
When I do this, when I help friends and clients do this, we immediately realize that we have a largely undeveloped ability to create how we want our future to feel. Often, when I arrive in that future situation I was visualizing, tI notice that I am feeling how I imagined I would! This raises fascinating questions, doesn't it?
It seems that what I did in my imagination set me up to have that positive experience. It’s as if I sent my emotional state forward through time, like writing a letter to myself and then reading it later. (That’s a popular workshop exercise, BTW. This is like doing that… without the letter!)
The key to all this is a realization that may have been incubating for many of us during this past year of privation: we can choose what we prefer to experience within the confines of our physical reality. It’s difficult, often impossible, to change things outside ourselves. We can’t really influence government decisions, we’re not in position to affect banking policies, we can’t control the weather, etc., etc., etc. But we can use this simple visualization technique to create a different inner state. We can be happy for no reason, as my friend Marci Shimoff wrote about in her book by that name.
Happiness influences our health. Being happy improves digestion, optimizes our immune system, and keeps our nervous system ticking along on an even keel, just to name a few of the many benefits. So, why wouldn’t we experiment with changing our own emotional state by time traveling with intention? It’s free, it’s fun, and it can make a big difference in our present moment life experience.
So, today’s Health Yourself Tip: Be happy, be healthy!