So far in this blog series, we’ve reviewed the benefits of meditation for children, including progressive relaxation exercises which focus on the breath. Then we discussed seated meditation and “The Monkey Mind.” In today’s post, I’d like to introduce you and your child to the practice of creative visualization. Combined with meditation, creative visualization can be a powerful tool in your child’s life.

CREATIVE VISUALIZATION (or Creative Imagination)

Creative visualization goes by a number of names: creative imagination, visualization, visual imaging. Whatever the name, the process involves calling up images, sounds and/or feelings that calm the mind and body, and focus the attention on a specific task.

The idea is simple: if you can imagine yourself carrying out a task or goal, if you can actually see and feel yourself doing it step-by-step, you will be well on your way to actually achieving that goal. The process works whether your goal is simply to do better at school or to train for the Olympics.

Many people believe that if they simply will themselves to achieve a goal, they should be able to accomplish it. Then they are surprised when it doesn’t work. Success in achieving goals is not simply a matter of will power. It is a matter of using the will combined with the power of the imagination, as well.

That is where creative visualization comes in. It combines both the left brain activities of language, logic, and will, with the right brain’s domain of dreams, creativity, and visual images.


Visualization has two parts: first, you relax; then, you see yourself achieving your goals. Almost as if you were watching a movie, you can see yourself carrying out all the steps in an activity that you have specified as your goal. You might be winning a tennis match, or performing in a play, or taking a test that you get an A on effortlessly.

Once your child becomes familiar with this technique and applies it to specific goals, he will be able to use it to enhance performance in everything from sports to schoolwork. This technique works for relaxation (or raising energy levels, if that is desired), memory improvement, changing behavior, relieving pain, and achieving whatever goals your child sets before himself.

Visualization also is being used effectively in a variety of medical contexts. Cancer patients of all ages – children and adults – have been taught to visualize their protective white blood cells killing off their cancer cells, as if they are witnessing a video-game battle. The results have been impressive: tumors have been shown to shrink. Patients have also been able to minimize the side effects of cancer medications and thus feel stronger and more in control of their healing.

Research at Johns Hopkins University with cancer patients supports this idea that the mind can have a powerful effect on the body. In one study, researchers gave placebo medication to patients who were told it was chemotherapy. Those on placebo reacted as if they were really on chemotherapy: they became nauseated and their hair fell out. In another study, others were given chemotherapy but instructed on how to vividly imagine the medicine as an ally in their fight against the disease. These patients were able to reduce the usual unpleasant side effects.

Not only can the mind affect the body, actions that begin with your body can affect your mind. For example, if you hug yourself, the body can’t really tell who is giving the hug – you or another person. Your body experiences it as a hug, with all the positive effects that usually brings: a feeling of warmth and pleasure.

The same happens when you smile. Even if you are not genuinely happy at the moment, the signal that goes to the brain as a result of that familiar facial gesture is one of a feeling of well-being (if not outright happiness). So no matter what your mood, you will find that feel slightly better as a result of the physical act of smiling.


The use of creative visualization in sports has gotten a lot of attention in recent years because it is being used by Olympic and professional athletes alike as an integral part of sports training. It even has a name: autogenic training.

Jim Thorpe, the great Indian Olympic gold medal winner in 1912, was one of the first to hit upon the effectiveness of visualization. Before the Olympics, his coach found him leaning back on a deck chair, gazing out at the sky. The coach got mad and asked him why he wasn’t out there training. Thorpe replied: “I am. I am watching every step I am going to take in my mind.” Of course, there is no substitute in sports for actual physical training. But visualization can help an athlete go beyond the limitations of what his body can achieve with physical activity alone.

Visualization is also being used by amateur athletes. W. Timothy Gallwey has written a very popular series of books describing how to use this technique for every sport you can name. There is Inner Golf, Inner Tennis, Inner Skiing, and more. In all his books, he explains that the inner game, or mental attitude and mental training, are as critical to performing at your peak as are physical practice and skill.

Whatever your child’s aim, visualization can help him to learn faster and remember better. It works no matter what your child’s IQ.

In next week’s blog post, I will teach you how to help your child learn the basics of creative visualization.


  • Dr. Gail Gross

    Author and Parenting, Relationships, and Human Behavior Expert

    Dr. Gail Gross, Ph.D., Ed.D., M.Ed., a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) and member of APA Division 39, is a nationally recognized family, child development, and human behavior expert, author, and educator. Her positive and integrative approach to difficult issues helps families navigate today’s complex problems. Dr. Gross is frequently called upon by national and regional media to offer her insight on topics involving family relationships, education, behavior, and development issues. A dependable authority, Dr. Gross has contributed to broadcast, print and online media including CNN, the Today Show, CNBC's The Doctors, Hollywood Reporter, FOX radio, FOX’s The O’Reilly Factor, MSNBC, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Times of India, People magazine, Parents magazine, Scholastic Parent and Child Magazine, USA Today, Univision, ABC, CBS, and KHOU's Great Day Houston Show. She is a veteran radio talk show host as well as the host of the nationally syndicated PBS program, “Let’s Talk.” Also, Dr. Gross has written a semi-weekly blog for The Huffington Post and has blogged at since 2013. Recently, Houston Women's Magazine named her One of Houston's Most Influential Women of 2016. Dr. Gross is a longtime leader in finding solutions to the nation’s toughest education challenges. She co-founded the first-of-its kind Cuney Home School with her husband Jenard, in partnership with Texas Southern University. The school serves as a national model for improving the academic performance of students from housing projects by engaging the parents. Dr. Gross also has a public school elementary and secondary campus in Texas that has been named for her. Additionally, she recently completed leading a landmark, year-long study in the Houston Independent School District to examine how stress-reduction affects academics, attendance, and bullying in elementary school students, and a second study on stress and its effects on learning. Such work has earned her accolades from distinguished leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who presented her with the first Spirit of Freedom award in 1998. More recently, she was honored in 2013 with the Jung Institute award. She also received the Good Heart Humanitarian Award from Jewish Women International, Perth Amboy High School Hall of Fame Award, the Great Texan of the Year Award, the Houston Best Dressed Hall of Fame Award, Trailblazer Award, Get Real New York City Convention's 2014 Blogging Award, and Woman of Influence Award. Dr. Gross’ book, The Only Way Out Is Through, is available on Amazon now and offers strategies for life’s transitions including coping with loss, drawing from dealing with the death of her own daughter. Her next book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, is also available on Amazon now and teaches parents how to enhance their child’s learning potential by understanding and recognizing their various development stages. And her first research book was published by Random House in 1987 on health and skin care titled Beautiful Skin. Dr. Gross has created 8 audio tapes on relaxation and stress reduction that can be purchased on Most recently, Dr. Gross’s book, The Only Way Out is Through, was named a Next Generation Indie Book Awards Silver Medal finalist in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the categories of Death & Dying as well as Grief. Her latest book, How to Build Your Baby’s Brain, was the National Parenting Product Awards winner in 2019, the Nautilus Book Awards winner in 2019, ranked the No. 1 Best New Parenting Book in 2019 and listed among the Top 10 Parenting Books to Read in 2020 by BookAuthority, as well as the Next Generation Indie Book Awards Gold Medal winner in 2020 and Winner of the 2021 Independent Press Awards in the category of How-To. Dr. Gross received a BS in Education and an Ed.D. (Doctorate of Education) with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Houston. She earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Psychology from the University of St. Thomas in Houston. Dr. Gross received her second PhD in Psychology, with a concentration in Jungian studies. Dr. Gross was the recipient of Kappa Delta Pi An International Honor Society in Education. Dr. Gross was elected member of the International English Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta.