Using visualisation to reconnect with your goals and visions after cancer.
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
You are not alone if you find that your pre-diagnosis goals and visions no longer align with who you are after treatment ends. Once you have had a cancer diagnosis it can be difficult to visualise a future for yourself that doesn’t involve cancer.
It is important to give yourself permission to be hopeful about the possibilities your future holds and take some time to consider what your new story might be. One way of doing this is practising visualisation.
Using the power of your mind, visualisation exercises can be used to open up the possibilities of what your life post cancer could look like, supporting and motivating you to work toward your new life goals.
What is visualisation?
Visualisation is the act of mentally visualising something or someone. Mental practice can help you get where you want to in your life after cancer.
Top athletes such as Muhammed Ali and Jessica Ennis-Hill have used vivid, detailed internal images and visual run-throughs of what they want to see happen i.e. crossing a finish line. They will engage all of their senses in a mental rehearsal of events. It is proven that repetitive visualisation creates measurable physical changes in the brain.
You do not have to be an athlete to use visualisation. An individual recovering from an illness may employ these techniques to imagine they are changing a picture of illness into a picture of wellness. Psychologists believe that the relaxation aspect of this activity often produces a psychological comfort.
"The idea that one’s mind can be utilised as a potentially effective medical intervention gives one a sense of more personal control and greater optimism"- Clifford N Lazarus
We ask our Life after Cancer programme participants to take part in the following visualisation exercise as a way to reconnect with their goals and visions. Try this visual mental practice at home to write a ‘Dear future me, one year on’ letter for yourself.
Get started on your own visualisation practice.
Find yourself a quiet, safe space for half an hour to undertake this exercise. You will only need paper and a pen.
You are ready to begin visualisation:
Start by establishing a highly specific goal or vision
If you were to visualise yourself doing/being or achieving one thing in your life right now, what would it be?
Visualise in full-colour HD
Now imagine the future, you have already achieved your goal. Hold a mental picture of it as if it were occurring to you right at that moment.
Build on that scene by using all your 5 senses, asking yourself:
Who are you with?
What emotions are you feeling?
What are you wearing?
What can you smell?
What do you hear?
What is around you?
What do you love about this situation?
What are you grateful for?
Combine with a positive affirmation to set the tone- ‘I am strong’ / ‘I am capable’
If any negative thoughts creep in, acknowledge them, but then let them drift away. They have no place in the positive vision you are creating for your future self.
'See it. Feel it. Trust it is possible.'
Once you have this vision, it is time to begin writing your letter.
Start by dating the letter one year from now
Write as if you have achieved your vision
Remember to add all of the visceral details you visioned
Once you have finished, pop your letter in an envelope and put it away for a year. Set yourself a reminder in your calendar to open the letter one year from now.
The worst that can happen is nothing from your vision comes to life. It won’t have a negative impact, only a positive. Once you have experienced your vision, you are more likely to subconsciously start making steps to achieve your visualisation, or at least be more open to the possibilities.
Are you looking for more support after cancer treatment?
If you enjoy doing this activity you might like to join us for our free Life after Cancer 6-week coaching programme.
The free 6 weekly workshops will help you to fulfil your potential after cancer. We will encourage you to trust your whole self and to support you to live in a way that is in line with who you are after cancer.
Who is the life after cancer course for?
This is for anyone who has finished cancer treatment, is looking to increase their mental wellbeing and meet others who have also experienced cancer. The course takes place on zoom and is free (with a small deposit to secure your place).
If you are looking for individual support after cancer, we also offer specialised post-cancer treatment one-to-one coaching. We offer a free 15-minute call to understand how we can support you and to answer any of your questions.