Elite athletes, entrepreneurs, and performers say it’s the secret to their success. It builds confidence, creates motivation, and helps gain a competitive edge. Visualization is powerful, and teens can use it to reach their goals, too. But learning how to use visualization effectively takes practice. Here, we explain how visualization works and share our top tips for teaching it to teens.

Visualization is creating a visual image in one’s mind or mentally rehearsing to learn skills or enhance performance. It allows us to experience and feel a situation that hasn\’t happened yet as if it were real. Imagining ourselves performing an action activates the same neurons in the brain as when we actually do that action. With practice, visualization builds new neural pathways that make a goal feel achievable. Visualization can also help us stay motivated and focused by stimulating the release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Boosting brain power with visualization has big benefits for teens:

  1. It reduces stress and anxiety. Visualization makes a new situation feel familiar, so it’s not so intimidating. In one study, teens who used visualization showed lower levels of anxiety and better overall mental health.
  2. It builds confidence and coping skills. Visualization allows teens to imagine problems and possible solutions, giving them the confidence to cope with challenges.
  3. It activates the subconscious mind. While the conscious mind is visualizing, the subconscious generates creative ideas and seeks novel connections to support teens in achieving their goals.
  4. It builds motivation. As the saying goes, “Seeing is believing.” When teens are able to see themselves as successful, they are more likely to stretch themselves.

Our Top Visualization Tips for Teens:

Relax the Body and the Brain. If teens are stressed or unfocused, visualization won’t work. To get the most out of visualization, teens should pick a time when they’re alert but relaxed, like after they wake up, after a few minutes of mindfulness, or just before they go to bed. If it’s before a performance or a test, teach them to take a few slow, deep breaths, feel their feet on the floor, and relax their chest, arms, hands, and face before they begin. Activating the nervous system’s relaxation response makes the brain more receptive to input from visualization.

Imagine Emotions. Visualization is more effective when it includes the feelings that inspire teens to reach for their goals. In other words, don’t just picture success: feel it. Help teens get specific in describing the way they want to feel, like powerful, proud, triumphant, fearless, or overjoyed. Then help them imagine feeling those emotions in the present moment. Positive emotions are motivating, and they help edge out any feelings of fear or self-doubt.

Make a Mind Movie. One popular visualization technique asks teens to imagine sitting down to watch a movie of themselves achieving their goal. They envision their progress down to the tiniest detail: their clothes, facial expressions, movements, environment, and any other people. They watch themselves performing perfectly. To go one step further, teens can imagine actually stepping into the screen and experiencing it all over again with their five senses, hearing the sounds, smelling the smells, and feeling the sensations in their bodies. The more sensory details are included, the more real the visualization will feel.

Create a Vision Board. A vision board is a next-level tool for manifesting multiple goals. To make one, teens need poster board, scissors, a glue stick, and a stack of magazines. They’ll flip through the magazines and cut out any images or words that represent their goals and dreams, then make a collage of the images. Digitally inclined teens can make a vision board online with free templates from Canva. Whatever the format, experts say the key is to keep engaging with the vision board. Encourage teens to put it in a place where they’ll see it frequently, update it with new images, and focus on the happy vibes they feel. Even better: when you make vision boards together as a family, you can support each other in making your dreams come true.

Fans of visualization say it’s an almost magical method for manifesting what we wish for. It can help teens get inspired, feel confident, stay motivated, and achieve the goals that matter most to them… what could be more magical than that? 

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