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Mind over matter

Mental imagery is key in developing a healthy lifestyle.

“There are strong links between chronic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes and behaviour, and imagery-based interventions offer an inexpensive, effective way of promoting healthy behaviour such as physical activity and healthy eating,” said Professor Martin Hagger, lead author in a new study which was recently published in the journal Health Psychology.

Hagger and his team of researchers at the Curtin University in Australia found that mental imagery was more effective in promoting healthy behaviour when the visualisation period laster longer, when people were constantly reminded to do their imagery by text message and when they were given detailed instructions on how to conduct the imagery exercise.

“We found that people who simply visualised the steps necessary to do the healthy behaviour on a regular basis were more likely to be motivated, and actually do it,” said Hagger.

According to Hagger a mental image or intention of what you want to happen in reality can not only boost your confidence but also increase your mental awareness, and give you the “competitive edge.”

The process of visualisation is to picture in your mind’s eye the result you desire before you actually take the action to achieve it. “Previous studies have shown that imagery interventions have been used in various contexts including enhancing athletes’ performance, flight simulation training for aircraft pilots and for symptom relief in hospital settings. Our research shows that imagery is also effective for promoting participation in healthy behaviour.”

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