In honor of the Sochi Olympics, and the remarkable physical feats accomplished by thousands of athletes from all over the world. I wanted to share this remarkable information with you.

A few years ago, I discovered, much to my surprise that athletes have been using this powerful technique to improve their performance.  And you can use it to engage your mind and enhance your health.

Did you know that guided imagery (also known as visualization) has been used by athletes in training to enhance motor (muscle) functioning. Research has found that thinking about moving a part of the body specifically stimulates the nerves in the muscles of that area.

Through brain activation by imagery, their muscles are stimulated as though they are physically engaged in the sport. Before the U.S. Olympic trials and the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, track and field athletes found that pre-event visualization improved their performance.  A study involving elite gymnasts found that those who made the Olympic team had ways of thinking, affirming, and visualizing success that could be strongly linked to superior gymnastic performance.

Coincidentally, last night after writing this article, while watching the Olympic Ice Dance competition, I heard the winner of the gold medal Meryl Davis state, during an interview immediately after their record setting win say, “I’ve never skated and visualized the performance at the same time and tonight that’s kind of how it felt,” said Davis after she and White had set a record with their total score.

And while watching the Super combined  ski event tonight, the commentator, quoted Mikaela Shriffin, an American who made her Olympic debut today, “Everyone else thinks it is my first Olympic.  To me it is my thousandth.  I have been envisioning what’s going on right now for a long time.

Affirmations (positive statements) and certain forms of mental imagery seemed to differentiate the best gymnasts from the gymnasts who failed to make the Olympic team. These two types of gymnasts also appeared to show different anxiety patterns and different methods of coping with competitive stress.

Thousands of years ago Aristole wrote, “The soul . . . never thinks without a picture.”  Visualization, the use of mental imagery to induce physiological changes, is an ancient technique that has reemerged in the contemporary world as a powerful healing tool. It has gained acceptance among psychologists, teachers, athletes, and businesspeople and has filtered into mainstream modern medicine in the same way that meditation has. Often used in conjunction with prayer and meditation, visualization has been practiced in cultures around the world.

It is the act of imagining a reality through creating mental pictures. But it is not only visual; imagery can involve every other sense as well: physical sensation, sound, smell, and taste. It’s an internalized experience that encompasses emotions, words, sounds, and even subtle bodily sensations.  We all visualize, and do it constantly. Whenever we think about anything, whatever we’re imagining involves imagery.

Imagery is a natural language and a major part of your nervous system. Since the 1980s, many clinical studies have determined that visualization is an effective component in the treatment of a vast range of illnesses.Visualization can assist you in developing positive emotions and expressing spiritual qualities, such as hope, courage, patience, perseverance, love, and others that can help you cope with, transcend, or recover from almost any illness.

Imagery can help whether you have a headache or a far more serious condition. While engaging imagery, you can invoke the relaxation response and use it to reduce, modify, or eliminate pain. Imagery will also assist you in changing lifestyle habits that may be contributing to poor health.

In one-fourth to one-third of the population, however, the imagery is so fleeting that the person is not even aware it’s occurring. Yet even though it can be outside our range of conscious perception, it is the natural way that our minds code, store, and express information.

There are two ways to visualize: in a normal state of mind or in a meditative state. Visualizing while meditating is deemed more effective. Either way, visualization includes generating a stream of thoughts you can hear, see, feel, smell, and taste. These thoughts are an inner, and often symbolic, representation of your experience or your desires. Purposeful visualization can be a doorway to your inner self and a way of observing your own feelings, ideas, and emotions. But it is more than that: it is a means of achieving well-being, of transforming and releasing yourself from mental distortions that may unknowingly be guiding your behavior and affecting your health.

Source: Superhealing Chapter 3 Engaging Your Superhealing Mind