By Jenny Peterson
(For an audio version of this blog, listen to episode #8 of my podcast)
I’m sure that you have heard of the law of attraction. Or maybe created a vision board to attract what you want in your life. But after following all the tips and making that beautiful crafty vision board, it hasn’t done its magic. It leaves you wondering what did you do wrong?
Now I’m not a huge fan of vision boards, but I am a fan and teacher of how to use visualization and the law of attraction for healing. Why? Because it works.
You have a powerful tool within your own mind called the Recticular Activiating System (RAS) that has a role of attracting whatever you put focus on. You owe it to yourself to know how this system works and how you can use it to its fullest potential and ultimately for your healing.
Today I'll be discussing using visualization and the law of attraction to heal. I will walk you through this simple yet powerful tool, how it works in the brain, how it has worked for me, and how to do it even if you think that you can’t visualize.
Let's start with the science.
Why and how does visualization work in the brain?
Did you know there’s a powerful part of your brain that, when you understand how it operates, can help you achieve any goal? It’s called the Reticular Activating System (RAS).
The reticular activating system starts above your spinal cord and it's about two inches long, it's about the width of a pencil, and it's where all your senses come in. Well, except for your smell, which goes into your emotional center of your brain, but the rest of them come in through the RAS and what the RAS does is connect that subconscious part of our brain with the conscious part of our brain.
Its function is to act as a “gate-keeper”, evaluating the incoming information and prioritizing that information in the form of messages that need your attention. Our conscious mind can handle 40 bits of information per second. Sounds a lot right? What about our subconscious mind? How much information can it handle per second? Well, the answer is 40 million bits of information. Too much information going on there right? That’s when our RAS comes in and filters out all the unimportant information that we don’t need at that particular moments so that we don’t be over stimulated by all of this and focuses on only important information. Without this filter, we would all be over stimulated and distracted by noises from our environment around us.
As an example, let’s just say you were a mother who has a baby sleeping in the next room, and you live right next to a busy airport with lots of loud noise from jets taking off and landing. Despite the constant roar of the jets and other noise, you will hear your baby if it makes even the smallest noise in the next room. The RAS filters out the airport noise, which is unimportant to you and keeps you focused on your baby, which is the “Most important” thing to you. The Reticular Activating System is like a filter between your conscious mind and your subconscious mind. It takes instructions from your conscious mind (like “I need to hear my baby”) and passes it on to your subconscious mind, which becomes diligent and alert to your request.
Here are some examples of the reticular activating system in action.
You buy a new car and then notice other people driving the same car. Why? Because the model of your new car is now unconsciously on your important list. Your reticular activating system notices other people that also have the same car.
You are a pregnant woman, and you notice other women who are pregnant because this is now on your important list.
You are at a party with lots of noise. Whilst in a conversation, someone shouts your name. You hear your name through all the background noise. Why? Because your unconscious mind knows that your name is important and it picks that up.
When your baby coughs or cries at night, your reticular activating system will wake you up from deep sleep to attend to the baby. That’s because one of the functions of your reticular activating system is sustaining life.
You know when you search for something online and then all of a sudden it shows up in your social media feed? Its just like that! Our devices have an RAS system! Yikes that’s scary.
How does the RAS know what to focus on?
There can be up to a billion bits of data coming to us at one time. The brain can only process so much which means the RAS filter only allows certain things to come through. How does it know what to let in? By what you focus on. So if you say, “I’m so clumsy,” you will invite or only notice circumstances where you’re clumsy. People who say, “I’m always broke,” tend to always have money issues. Look for and notice the times you say, “I’m always” or “I never.” Pay attention to the words you say after your “I am” statements. They have a powerful effect on programming the RAS. Self-talk leads to belief which programs the RAS to deliver proof of your beliefs.
You need to program your RAS like a computer by telling it what to look for. The RAS can’t guess or figure out what you want. It only pays attention to what you focus on. If you’re constantly talking about how awful your job is or how lonely you are, you are telling your RAS to find and deliver to you events that prove these beliefs true.
This applies to everything you are feeding your brain. If all you watch on TV is the news or reality TV where people are always creating fights or you’re hooked on crime shows, you’re filling your RAS with programmed information that’s telling it “Life is hard. People are mean. There is scary stuff out there.” This doesn’t mean you can’t watch these TV shows or keep up with the news, but it does mean you should be aware of what you’re feeding your mind. Keep this in balance. Watch the news and then turn to an uplifting show or read a happy, positive book.
The way your subconscious mind understands importance, is by what you think about most of the time with strong emotion!
Listen to that again! So if you have chronic illness, stop and think, what are you thinking about all the time? Not getting well, fearing about the future, your symptoms….. and I’m sure there are not happy emotions tied to these thoughts!
This is why it is so important to focus on what you want. When you focus on bills, lack debt and sickness consistently, then a life of abundance, good health, prosperity, and peace will be out of reach for you.
If you desire a life of abundance, good health, prosperity, and peace, then take time to focus on these in detail. This will get your reticular activating system working for you rather than against you.
How does the RAS system relate to the law of attraction?
According to the law of attraction, positive or negative thoughts bring positive or negative experiences in your life. In other words what we think about we attract into our lives. Your mind, including your RAS, cannot differentiate between something that is vividly imagined and reality. So for example, if you keep thinking about never getting well and seeing yourself forever sick, that is what you are attracting even. Anything that you can vividly imagine will seem real to your reticular activating system and it will act on it. Your reticular activating system believes whatever message you give it, whether it comes from external life experiences or something you create inside.
What you imagine/think about you attract. That is how the RAS is designed. Its a perfect design if we use it in a healthy way. You design the message and your RAS finds the resources for you.
Use your RAS to your advantage by focusing on what you do want instead of what you don’t want!
Why don’t most people solve their problems?
They're laser focused on their problems & what they don’t want! The strongest driving force in the universe is PAIN, or what you don’t want.
People focus so much on what they don’t want that they become experts at producing it.
We are designed to pay attention to what we don’t want- its how our brain was designed for survival.
Where ever the mind goes, the body follows- when we’re focusing on what we don’t want, the RAS keeps looking for proofs to support it.
Thinking constantly about your problem continues to bring more of it..
How the RAS works with Limited Beliefs
This works for beliefs as well. If you have a belief that you are not good enough, the RAS system will filter out any information that provides that you are good enough. Instead it will find the proofs to support that you are not good enough. In your relationships, career, etc. You will also most likely be using language to support this belief regularly. Its a feedback loop!
Paving the Way for New Neural Pathways
Visualization allows you to pave the way for new neural pathways that can allow you to perceive people and situations in a new way.
“Many people are propelled by events of the past, but visualization is an act of projecting the present into the future,” “Visualization changes the dynamics of personal change by pulling the person toward a visualized healthier future.”
Visualization is a self hypnosis tool that rewires old responses . When this happens, the normal chatter of everyday life (which often includes a lot of unproductive self-talk) eases into focused awareness, a kind of expansion of perspective that, when put into action, can lead to powerful insight and the potential for change. And your body relaxes, which allows healing to happen at both the cellular and the mental level.
So as you practice interrupting habitual thoughts with visualizations throughout the day, keep in mind that you’re doing more than just imagining yourself swimming in that ocean or walking through that amazing landscape. You’re communicating to your brain that you’re safe and in a different place in your life — so there’s no need to conjure up that old response any more.
How its Worked for Me
When I was sick I used visualization for several things. I can remember specifically that I used it for exercise, driving and for what my life would look like when I get well.
I couldn’t exercise for even 5 minutes when I was sick. I would get dizzy and feel like I was going to pass out. But within 2 weeks of visualization and taking small action steps each day, I was able to exercise for 15 minutes. As I kept on visualizing I was able to work myself up to 30 minutes a day with a variety of exercises.
Driving was very similar. Within 2 weeks of visualizing, I was able to drive short distances. I kept doing it and eventually was able to go wherever I wanted. That was an amazing feeling.
I also visualized what my future would look like when I was well. I knew that I was going to have my own business again helping people with their health. I saw myself working in my office, coaching clients and teaching classes. It wasn’t long after I get well that this too came true.
I still use visualization daily to attract the things in my life, its just different now. Rather than focusing on my health, its around family and my career.
Every single thing that I have visualized has come true. I have never let the negative nancy thinking get in the way of my future. In the beginning, I had to work a little harder to keep those thoughts out, but after awhile they just were no longer there. I kept my focus on the prize, the end in mind, never losing focus. If I had a negative thought or seemed to get lost in my symptoms at a given moment, I would immediately go to my future visualization. I was visualizing my future all day long some days.
I suggest that you do the same. Don’t let anything get in the way of the life and future you want to have, especially your own thoughts (which often are not true).
How do you visualize even if you think that you can’t?
Sometimes I will have people tell me that they can’t visualize. While this might feel true, its simply not. It may be that its not one of your top sensory skills but you can do it.
Do you ever think about or see yourself in the future not well or still sick?” Or have you ever had an old memory pop up in your mind when you see, hear or smell something? Or when you think about your past treatments or bad events in your life can you see them clearly or imagine them happening again?
This is all visualization. The thing is that most people that don’t have what they want in their life are so used to focusing on things that they don’t want, that the brain isn’t used to focusing on things that they do want.
Start practicing with visualizing your car and then changing the color. Or your front door. Think of a movie that you loved and see the image on the tv screen. Practice these regularly and soon you will be able to visualize!
You Don't Need to Know the How
Since your brain is already responding as if its already happening it will facilitate the actions needed to bring it to fruition.
You have successfully attracted the things that you don’t want in your life without knowing the how, so trust to let go of the control for the things that you do want.
Leave the how up to your RAS system and you just focus on the message (command) that you're giving it. It will do the rest.
HOW TO GET STARTED WITH VISUALIZATION
Determine what it is that you don’t want.
Now this might seem counterintuitive, but it will help you determine what you DO want. Sometimes people have been so focused on what they don't’ want in their life that they find it hard to think about what they do want.
So make a list of everything that you don't want in your life. I recommend that you make a list of everything you don’t want first on a piece of paper. This could be long. But after writing that list, I want you to just focus on the top 5 things that you want to change. For my students or for those that have chronic illness, I recommend focusing on things related to their health because that is priority when we are working together or if you're sick.. After those have come to fruition then they can focus on other areas of their life. Its pointless to focus on your career or relationships if you haven’t worked on you first. Everything in your life is a reflection of what you are holding within so, if you want to change all those other areas, you have to work on your first.
Some examples that I see for those with Chronic illness are:
Don’t want to be in fear of or have reactions to food
Don’t want to depend on others to drive me
Don’t want to avoid or not be able to exercise
Don’t want to be in pain
After you have picked the top 5 areas you want to focus on, then we can go to step 2. I recommend 5 or less because anything more than that is just too much for your RAS system to handle at one time. I know that its capable of a lot but we want to help it not hinder it with too many changes at one time.
For each area that you have picked, assign it its own piece of paper.
So if you have on your list that you don’t want to be in fear of food, then that goes at the top of one piece of paper. Then on the other pieces of paper put the others.
Once you have each “don’t want phrase” on their own sheet, then write the opposite of the don’t want phrase underneath it. So if you don’t want to be afraid of food, put “I want to eat anything I want.” The key here is to make sure that you have a positive statement. For example you don’t want to say, I don’t want to have reactions to food. That is still focusing on having reactions to food and the RAS system doesn’t know what “don’t want” means. Instead, state the opposite of what you don’t want in a positive statement.
Ask yourself how will I know when I have achieved this? What will I see, hear, or feel? Add as many senses to this as possible and start this statement with “I am” Write this underneath your positive statement.
For example with the food. I am sitting at the dinner table with my family. The table is full of a wonderful selection of foods that I love. There is chicken, potatoes, a salad, rolls. I can smell the aroma of the warm rolls that just came out of the oven. With every bite I take, I am smiling and enjoying my food. I eat everything that is on the table and after I’m done I feel nourished and fulfilled.
Write down what you would be saying and what others would be saying in this situation. This adds a sound element to the visualization. So you could say, my family is saying that they are so happy that I am able to eat again and I am saying, I am so happy to enjoy food again too!
Ask yourself how this situation makes you feel. Writing something like this makes me feel happy, grateful, and nourished.
Now you have all that you need for a visualization. Its time to record it. I recommend recording it so you can listen to it morning and evening. Hearing your own voice is very powerful to the subconscious mind. When you record it, make sure that you talk slowly because you want to visualize what it looks like when you are hearing it. In addition to feeling the emotions when you say them.
So for the example I was using with the food I would record everything that I wrote down except for the 1st and 2nd step, where you wrote down the negative and positive statements of what you wanted.
So it would sound something like this:
I am sitting at the dinner table with my family. The table is full of a wonderful selection of foods that I love. There is chicken, potatoes, a salad, rolls. I can smell the aroma of the warm rolls that just came out of the oven. With every bite I take, I am smiling and enjoying my food. I eat everything that is on the table and after I’m done I feel nourished and fulfilled. My family is saying that they are so happy that I am able to eat again and I am saying, I am so happy to enjoy food again too! this makes me feel happy, grateful, and nourished.
Listen repetitively morning and evening.
Here are a couple things to keep in mind when you listen:
Remember that the RAS is connected to your sensory system. When you visualize what you want… When you see yourself having the results… When you can hear the surrounding sounds … And when you feel the emotions like you already have what’s most important… You will reprogram your Reticular Activating System in a heartbeat. In essence, you have to be able to imagine your goals as if you are already living them. The more detail you can add to the picture, the better, with a special emphasis on how it feels when you’ve achieved that goal.
Its important to make the image that you create very large. Imagine that you are seeing it on a large cinema screen.
You don’t want to fall asleep when you are listening to this, since the whole point is that you visualize in your own mind, which you can’t do when your sleeping. So if you find that you are falling asleep when you are listening, sit up in bed rather than laying down or do it in a chair in your living room rather than in your bed. Your subconscious knows that the bed is where you sleep, so its naturally going to want to relax when you are in it.
To summarize, your reticular activating system is super important because it helps bring people, things, places, situations and opportunities into your life based on what you focus on consistently. This is the law of attraction.
When you lack goal clarity and focus, you miss out on opportunities as your reticular activating system has nothing to go on. If the RAS doesn’t see something as important, you will miss out and it will instead focus on the mundane or negative.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” But it’s also a powerful tool to affect change.
Visualization is essential to healing. It programs your brain to have a healthy response to something that may have caused fear or any other negative response. Your future is no longer scary to your brain when you focus on what you want and how it will make you feel.
You have a built in attraction system that will literally provide you with anything that you want.. I encourage you to use it for the good rather than the bad and you will see changes in your life and health.
Jenny Peterson is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Rewire (MBR). She teaches those with chronic symptoms how to stop fearing their body, identify the root cause to their symptoms and how to be their own healer. Learn more about MBR here.