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Use visualization to build a new habit

Perhaps you’ve heard the advice that a good way to increase your likelihood of success is to visualize yourself succeeding. Sure it’s fun to fantasize about winning that award or fitting into those skinny jeans, but is that really increasing your effectiveness at meeting those goals?

Over at the 99u blog, Gregory Ciotti wrote about the role of visualization in building habits that stick. Turns out that fantasizing about results is not very helpful, but visualizing the steps necessary to get those results can make a difference:

Researchers found that those participants who engaged in visualizations that included the process of what needed to be done to achieve the goal (ex: fantasizing about learning another language, by visualizing themselves practicing every day after work) were more likely to stay consistent than their peers (that visualized themselves speaking French on a trip to Paris). The visualization process worked for two reasons:

  • Planning: visualizing the process helped focus attention on the steps needed to reach the goal.
  • Emotion: visualization of individual steps led to reduced anxiety.

 We think a lot about developing habits, especially those that can help patients improve their oral health. Have you had success with coaching patients to adopt healthy habits? Leave your suggestions in the comments.