By Neetu Bhandari, Psychological Wellbeing Therapist
If you were asked to visualise your ideal life, what would come to mind?
Maybe you are a business owner, or a musician, or perhaps you have already retired to a sunny beach somewhere.
Whatever lives in your imagination, it’s probably more achievable than you think.
Over time, we all fall into our own particular thought patterns. Sometimes, especially if things have been going badly, these make us underestimate ourselves or feel powerless – as if the things we want are completely out of our reach. We start to believe we can’t achieve the level of success or the quality of life we hoped for. We develop unconscious beliefs such as ‘I can’t do it – I’m not good enough’ or ‘I don’t deserve happiness.’
But an interesting thing happens when we recognise these patterns. We start to challenge them, and this changes everything. Vision boards are one way to help with this, which is why we have started doing them in our services.
A vision board is a piece of paper onto which you put images and words that represent your most magnificent, ideal life. You create the board and put it in a place where you can easily see it day-to-day. It then acts as a regular reminder of your aspirations; when you look at it everyday, your brain starts receiving messages that the messages on it are normal for you. It begins to normalise them, making them feel less scary and more achievable. With time you start to believe that you can have all these great things, and this makes it easier to take steps towards achieving them. It becomes feasible to make that phone call, send that email, go to the gym.
Imagine you have always dreamed of being a pilot. You love the idea, but you can’t imagine how to start, or you think that you can’t do it. Your vision board could include images of planes or pilots – maybe quotes about flying, or maps of where you want to fly to. You put the board somewhere obvious, and seeing it every day will gradually normalise the idea of being a pilot. It will feel less strange and move from some abstract idea into a possibility. You might one day feel so energised by this that you’re inspired to look up the steps involved in doing it. You might think ‘oh, I could take the first step towards this!’ and enrol yourself in a training course.
In this way, vision boards can help to break patterns of negative thinking that stop us from trying new things. Exposure to what we really want can energise and empower us, making it seem more manageable and even exciting.
If you have been forced into homelessness, you have probably had negative experiences that impact how you think about yourself. This can make it difficult to feel positive about the future. If you think nothing works out for you, it is hard to believe that you can achieve your goals or try things that will be successful.
When these negative thought patterns get deeply embedded, it can be a serious barrier. It can stop people taking steps to change their situation. Vision boards are certainly not a magical, catch-all solution to this, but they can be a valuable part of efforts to change how we think. When you have been through a lot and are struggling to imagine a new life for yourself, changing how you think is no small thing.
You can read more about the work of Neetu and our Health and Wellbeing team here.