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How can we improve our mental strength?

Image thanks to Wikipedia

Imagination is a wonderful and powerful thing.

We all use our imaginations every day, even though you might not think you are an imaginative or creative person.

The thing is that many of us spend loads of time imagining all sorts of things that we DON’T want to experience, or that we are NOT looking forward to, rather than visualising or imagining the things we actually want to see happen.

We might imagine the amount of work that will be piled up on our desk after we return from a holiday or long weekend, or the meeting we have booked for tomorrow going 'wrong' in a number of ways. We are really good at rehearsing negative future events in our minds, which is all part of our built in negativity bias which you may have already heard us talk about thanks to Dr. Rick Hanson.

The challenge for many of us is to find a way to rehearse future events in our minds in the way we actually would love to experience them, or to find ways to use our imaginations to shake loose our negativity or stress.

We might daydream of a destination we would love to visit or an experience we would love to have, or we can look forward to enjoying the food we are about to taste, or we can imagine ourselves thinner or healthier or younger or wiser, but we get a bit scared to imagine things going too well, like somehow by doing that we’ll 'jinx' it somehow.

So how do we use our imaginations to help us achieve what we want AND reduce stress in our lives or improve our mental strength?

One way is to build our skills so we can learn to visualise or mentally 'rehearse' a future event in our mind in detail in the exact way we would like to experience it, (which is really effective when preparing for an interview or important presentation, or a special date, party or event), AND there are daily quick visualisations that can really help you to keep looking after you.

These short sharp visualisations can help you manage your stress and maintain your balance and mental strength, and they could become little rituals that you can use to help you navigate the ups and downs we all experience.

Here are some ideas for quick visualisations that could help you at home or at work or anytime really:

  1. Imagine you have wings of steel.

For those of us well over 40, you may remember the cartoon Batfink. Like his classic line, ‘Your Bullets can not harm me, my wings are like a shield of steel,’ you could choose to imagine that you have a protective shield around you and that you choose who and what you let in - like love, positive words and supportive people; and what you choose to keep out - like negativity or the pressures of other people’s priorities.

2. Wash away the stress of the day.

As you step under the shower at the end of a big day, focus on how the water hits your body and how it feels on your skin. As the water cascades off you, imagine all your troubles and all the stress of the day is flowing from you and going down the drain and out of your life. You are being cleansed of negativity and can re-energise and recharge and renew.

3. Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag.

We created this fantastic visualisation together with a group of wonderful Community workers in rural New South Wales at our series of ‘It’s All About ME!’ workshops a few years ago. At the end of a tough day of serving your community or your family or your customers or whoever, pack up all the work of the day mentally in your mind, and zip it into a big heavy canvas duffel bag. Put that big bag in the boot of your car, and only open it when you arrive back to work the next day. Then you can give yourself permission to enjoy your evening knowing that your work will be there for you tomorrow and you can attack it with gusto then.

4. Drive Time.

If you travel home by train or bus or car or bike, and you would like to be present for your loved ones when you arrive home, then give yourself the gift of implementing a drive time ritual to let go of the stress of your day. Resist the urge to make a few more calls, and instead play some of your favourite songs, sing up a storm, or listen to that funny radio show or podcast, or just have the sound off and connect with the road and imagine this trip is your own personal therapy session where you can let go of all the stress of the day. Then when you arrive home you can be free to be in the moment with the people you love.

5. Your circle of Influence.

This comes from a Neuro-Linguistic Programming technique and it can be really powerful for getting you into a calm and positive state when you want to share your idea in a positive way to influence another person. Before you begin your presentation or conversation, imagine that there is a circle of influence that you can see all around you - it extends from behind you and it reaches out and envelopes the other person. It might look like a white haze or it can be any colour or type you want because you’re creating it. Imagine that when that person is enveloped they have then moved into your circle with you and they will be more open and accepting of your ideas.

There are plenty of other ways that you can use your imagination to support yourself and develop and maintain your mental strength in a world that sometimes tests us all.

So use that imagination you have, because it is there ready to help support and serve you.

Until next time,

The PLS team

‘Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.’

-Carl Sagan

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