Using visualization following a stroke can boost stroke recovery. Visual imagery is the formation of images in your mind. In other words, imagining yourself moving the way you want without limitations. This type of mental magic can assist with stroke recovery. Just as athletes visually prepare for their best routine or game, stroke survivors can practice this as well.
HOW DOES VISUALIZATION WORK?
Following a stroke, certain parts of the brain are damaged, depending on where and what type of stroke occurred. After a stroke, the neuroplasticity or rewiring process comes into play. One key element to rewiring is a high number of repetitions during exercises. Studies have shown that mental imagery performed with exercises is more effective than exercises alone. Each time you repeat certain movements, your brain works at forming new connections. Just like athletes, the more your practice the better you become.
By performing visual exercises, you stimulate the brain just like physical movement stimulates the brain. For example, if your right arm was affected by a stroke, visualize yourself using your right arm doing tasks you would normally perform during the day. This will stimulate the connections, or pathways, in your brain that controls the right arm and may help it to slowly regain movement.
HOW DO I PRACTICE VISUAL IMAGERY FOLLOWING A STROKE?
Visualizing yourself moving your weak side has great benefits after a stroke. Follow these easy steps:
1. Find a quiet comfortable area
2. You can sit or lie down on your bed, wherever you can easily relax
3. Simply close your eyes and take 2 or 3 deep breaths
4. Visualize yourself moving the way you did prior to your stroke
Picture yourself using your arms and legs, without any limitations. Imagine yourself reaching, bending, lifting, and turning. Incorporate sensory details as well. For example, if you like to work in your garden imagine yourself outside. Feel the warm sun, smell the fresh air, see the beautiful flowers, and feel the breeze through your hair.
Being creative with your visualizations will help “exercise” your brain. This powerful tool will also help with the neuroplasticity and rewiring needed for recovery. Begin to add visual imagery to your daily routine, starting today! At least 5 minutes a day is all you need. If you can’t perform 5 minutes one day, any little bit will help!