Imagination is commonly described as the formation of mental images of situations that you have not experienced in your physical existence.
While this is an accurate short description of the function of our imagination, in order to be able to learn how to train your imagination it is important to look at the science behind it. This is a guide to successfully training you imagination.
First, one should be aware of the strong correlation that exists between memory and imagination. Neurological studies indicate that the acts of remembering and imagining stimulate the same areas of the brain. Deeper analysis of this correlation demonstrates that the process involved with long-term memory also contributes to higher levels of creativity and imaginative skill.
The causes for these are many, but it is heavily influenced by the way that the human brain processes long-term memories more efficiently than short-term ones.
As such, developing techniques to enhance your long-term memory contributes to the broadening of your imagination and vice versa. The neopallium and thalamus, regions of the brain strongly associated with sensory perception, are the most active areas of the brain when a person engages in imaginative thought.
What the science of imagination tells us is that we can train our imagination through a combination of sensory and cognitive activities. This also means that through imagination it is possible to amplify the perspective that we have about the world.
That being the case, training your imagination can yield many benefits that go beyond simply making your daydreams more interesting. Improving your imagination can help lead you to increased creativity, work efficiency, planning skills, situational awareness and analytical powers, just to name a few. Getting started with an imagination training regimen does require complicated procedures or time consuming sessions.
By dedicating a few minutes on a regularly scheduled basis to this goal, you will be able to broaden your imagination by using some of the following techniques.
Below you’ll find the guide to successfully training your imagination:
Getting in the Right Mindset
In order to begin training your imagination it is imperative that you prepare your mind for the practice. This is accomplished by placing yourself in a comfortable location that is free of disturbances. If you find solace soaking in a warm bath, sitting in your favorite chair, or simply laying in bed, use those as the stage for your imagination training.
Once you are in your quiet place, start by engaging in some basic breathing exercises. Take three deep breaths exhaling slowly after each one. Then close your eyes and continue with an additional three deep breaths. This will help to lower any anxiety or stress that you may be carrying over from your daily routine. Physiologically it will help lower your heart rate to normal levels and bring your body to a relaxed state.
How to Train Your Imagination Through Visualization
Start with visualizations of places that you know or that you have mentally constructed in previous sessions of imaginative thought.
Envision yourself walking through this space in your mind. If it is an interior space, see yourself walking to each wall. If it is an exterior space, see yourself walking around its perimeter. At this stage, you may have the temptation to move on to another location in your mind. While this is normal, in order to train and develop your imagination it is important to remain in the initial space that you conjured up in your mind.
After conducting the initial mental walk-through of your space, start adding enhancing elements to it. Add decorative touches to the space. Place pictures on a wall, change the furniture in the room, modify the color scheme of the decor. For exterior spaces, imagine how it would look during different seasons of the year. Visualize the natural fauna of the space growing over time. The level of complexity is only limited by the amount of time that you have available.
By allowing your imagination to linger in one location, you force your mind to expand upon a particular construct. You will find yourself creating added elements that you normally would not associate with that place.
You will be able to transcend your thought from the real to the surreal; and in the process unlock levels of creativity and imagination that you may not had been aware of possessing.
The Connection Game
This exercise involves extrapolating associations between ordinary objects. Start by thinking about any object of your choosing. Then proceed to think about other items that are connected or associated to it.
For example, if you start with a radio, it can be associated to headphones, in turn they can be associated to a person’s head, from there you can go to hair, then shampoo, then a shower, then water, etc. Another variant of this exercise involves you thinking about the similarities between two seemingly unrelated objects, such as similarities between a fish and a coffee cup. These could include that they both can be found in a seafood restaurant, that they both require water in some degree to function, etc.
The goal here is to try to formulate at least ten similarities for each pair. The more that you can come up with, the more that you will stimulate your imagination engine.
These activities stimulate your memory, especially the long-term memories associated with imagination. While the first connections or similarities of each series will be relatively easy to formulate, you will find that the deeper you go, the more that you will rely on deeper memories. This eventually leads to creative constructs emerging from your imagination in order to continue with the series of similarities.
Paint or Doodle
When we are children, drawing is not so much an attempt at artistic expression, but rather it is a vehicle to expand the imagination. Sadly, most of us disconnect from this technique as we leave childhood. Recapturing this imagination-enhancing activity is a great training technique to have in your arsenal.
On a clean surface, be it a notepad, whiteboard, computer screen, etc., start drawing the first thing that comes to mind. Don’t quibble about artistic quality. Remember, nobody has to see your final work. The important thing is to be fluid with your creation. Keep expanding on your creation until you fill the entire surface area of your work space,
By using a single fluid motion and not pausing during the creative process, your mind begins to draw on it subconscious to feed the drawing and stimulate your imagination.
If you completed this exercise on paper, save the end result. In future sessions look at your previous work with an analytical eye. Focus on it, then begin to expand upon whatever doodle or image you have in front of you by using your mind. Add to the image through visualization. Ideally, you would engage in these imagination training activities at least once on a daily basis. Each training session should consist of one or two of these activities, with each session occupying a minimum of fifteen minutes.
After just a few sessions you will find that your thought process while engaging in routine tasks will become more fluid. You will also notice an increased creative flair in all that you do. With so much that knowing how to train your imagination can offer, there is no excuse not do it.