While imagination is not included on most psychological strengths lists, I find it to be a fun and effective tool for working with thoughts and emotions. The good news is that we can cast into the future to set goals, connect more compassionately with people around us, and spin stories. Unfortunately, we can also worry, misunderstand the motivation of others, and concoct dystopias. As with much of life, the choice is ours.
Here are three ways you can use imagination and journaling to enrich your life.
Planning. Make a list of activities, objects, and people that bring you joy. What is one simple and achievable playful action you could take right now? What fun outing or activity could you add to your calendar?
Visualization. Imagine you are walking on a grassy path into a grove of trees. A slight breeze lifts your hair. The sun is warm on your skin. After a few minutes of walking, the path widens and you reach a small clearing where you see an old stone well. You let the bucket down into the depths, fill it with water and then turn the crank to bring the bucket back to the top. You can feel the strain on your shoulders as you guide the bucket up to rest on the stone walls of the well. At the bottom of the bucket, you see something sparkle. You reach down and pull it out. It is a shining metal symbol. The moment your fingers touch it, you know it’s a message of encouragement sent just for you. In your journal, write about the symbol, the message, and who might have sent it.
Savoring. Remember a positive experience you once had. Describe it in as much detail as possible, including sounds, smells, and textures. Sink into the memory and savor it.
Fred Bryant, psychologist at Loyola University, says savoring is “like swishing the experience around your mind.” Your imagination can help you live a more creative, compassionate, and resilient life.