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This 5-Minute Visualization Technique Can Change The World

Emma Loewe
January 6, 2018
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Photo by Sophia Hsin
January 6, 2018

Don’t you push yourself enough? This January, nurture yourself with Nourishing New Year. Instead of focusing on flaws to fix, this January we’re nurturing ourselves back to balance with simple, grounding steps. Each day for the next two weeks, mindbodygreen will share a story a day inspiring you with simple ways to nourish yourself, your community, and our world through eating, moving, giving, creating, and loving. Follow these common-sense principles along with us for the next 14 days and start the new year with a calm mind, connected spirit, and balanced body. Check out the full plan here!

Earlier this week, we dove into the science behind why nature is so healing. The wellness community agreed that stepping outside is a simple, refreshing way to feel your best: A neurologist explained why greenery can help ease depression and headaches, a naturopath suggested that fresh air improves immune function, and a microbiologist said we should all be getting a little dirty in the name of health.

Now it's time to pay back these favors to Mother Earth and consider how we can nourish the planet that nourishes us every day.

Even if you're battling sub-freezing temperatures in your area, this spin on an outdoor routine is quick and painless. Let's use the power of visualization to connect to nature from under a blanket or next to a roaring fire.

How can visualization bring us closer to nature?

Visualization is a tool that helps us imagine things into being. Studies show1 that envisioning a brighter future can help boost our happiness in the present, and visualization has even been used to help recovering addicts2 ease into a new routine.

The body can't differentiate between a mental rehearsal and the real thing taking place.

As further evidence of the practice's efficacy, hypnotherapist Grace Smith points to research that found that when Olympic skiers mentally rehearsed their sport, their muscles fire the same way they would if they were physically doing it. "The body can't differentiate between a mental rehearsal and the real thing taking place," Smith explains. She works with clients to help them reach an extremely relaxed state to help them bridge gaps that exist between visualizations into the real world.

A visualization exercise to help heal the planet.

  1. While it can be tricky for people to reach this still space where the conscious mind takes a back seat, Smith says it's possible with a little knowhow. Before you start the visualization, she recommends sitting in a comfortable position, taking a few deep breaths, and doing a progressive relaxation exercise like you might in a yoga or meditation class. Think about relaxing the top of your head, then the muscles in your face, working your way down the body. Then, follow it up by saying the following silently to yourself: "Ten, I'm going deeper and deeper... nine, I'm going deeper and deeper," all the way down to one.
  2. Once you use these techniques to settle into the body and breath, start to imagine yourself surrounded by nature. Picture yourself completely alone, isolated in the landscape. It could be a river, a forest, a beach—go with whatever first pops into your head. It may be a place that is familiar to you, or a new scene entirely. "You may be called to a completely different place you've never been, which means that 2018 is asking you to expand your horizons," Smith explains.
  3. Once you've found your place, simply be there for a while. Engage the five senses and hone in on the details of the visualization—the feeling of the wind on your skin, the sounds of the animals that surround, the colors, shapes, the patterns. Walk around, look up and down, and watch your surroundings change with each step.
  4. Then, kneel down on the bare ground and placing your hands on mother earth. Feel her energy run through you and gently ask, "How can I serve you?" Listen until an answer arises. What does nature say back? What does its voice sound like? Is it tired and worn out or melodic and strong? Whatever you hear, let it play over in your mind a few times. Then, say it aloud, in your own voice, as you come out of the visualization. "People in California might be called to help the forests that have burned," Smith says. "People living where the hurricane hit might be called to do a beach cleanup."
  5. Whatever words you heard, grab your journal and write them down. Follow them up with three or four actionable ways you can help bring them to life this year. It could be as simple as picking up trash along your local beach, but keep it with you as you move through 2018. Make a habit of stepping outside or returning to nature in your mind to stay close to your intention.

Need a few ideas on how to bring your intention to life and help nourish the planet this year? We have you covered.

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.