How Visualization Cured My Insomnia
Some nights, after I settle down into the meager square footage my sleep-talking husband and snoring puppy have left for me in bed, I leave my body. I fly over the twinkling hills of Los Angeles, past the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, fingertip to wing with migrating birds gliding along warm currents of wind. I’m looking for my island. An emerald jewel thick with lush greenery and hidden gardens winding across its rugged landscape.
Sometimes I fall asleep before I land on the coastline, but other times I take a walk. Times when I’ve read about young black people, people who look like me, dying at the hands of police, or spikes in COVID-19 cases cropping up across the country.
When my mind is wrestling with how to reconcile all the shitty shit happening in the world when it should be settling down for sweet dreams, I set it free through visualization, and I’ve never slept better.
I started to build my island a few years ago after my male, white boss at the time commented on how beautiful my tan skin was after a long Saturday in Malibu. “Smile,” he told me. I did. “That’s my girl,” was his reply. These comments were just the beginning. I couldn’t sleep, so I started building my island instead, and every night I found myself drifting off into unconsciousness at some point during my garden walk.
Now, I call this visualization, but it’s closer to meditation. Actually, it’s closer to something you probably did a long time ago but haven’t allowed yourself the luxury of doing as an adult - using your imagination.
Your imagination is a powerful tool. It can even affect you in physical ways.
For example, if I see a particularly nasty looking bug in the house, and it manages to elude me, it’s impossible for me to keep from imagining that bug rubbing its gross, little, crispy bug hands together, waiting for the moment I let down my guard and open my mouth wide enough for it to jump in, and lay eggs in my throat.
If you’ve ever felt your mouth watering in anticipation of your favorite meal, that’s your imagination at work. Even though you can’t taste the fully loaded nachos with marinated meats and savory toppings, your imagination gets you halfway. There’s even research to suggest visualization can help release endorphins, the good feeling brain chemical.
So, the next time you’re having trouble drifting off into dreamland, don’t sweat it. Just close your eyes, and start building your island. Or your castle. Or an exquisite dinner party on an alien planet paradise with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry as your honored guests. That doesn’t have to be it. I just feel like those two could use a break.
Wherever you decide to go, let me know where your imagination takes you in the comments! In the meantime, I’ll be cultivating my peonies on Isle Rachel. Hit me up if you need gardening tips.
- Headspace staff. “Visualization Meditation.” Headspace App. Accessed July 27th, 2020.
- Andre and Means, “Rate of imagery in mental practice: An experimental investigation,” Journal of Sport Psychology, 8, 1986, pp. 124-128.
- Smith, D.B. “The Power of the Mind: The Science of Visualization.” Science Abbey. October 14th, 2018.
- Powell, Alvin. “When science meets mindfulness.” Harvard Gazette. April 9th, 2018.
Name: Rachel Kane is a Blewish (half black/half Jewish) writer living in L.A. with her dog, cat and husband. Her favorite film is “Showgirls” and her favorite word is “yes.” Follow Rachel on Instagram @WTForever21