This article contains affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer here
Imagination is the formation of mental images of situations that you have not experienced in your physical existence.
While this is an accurate short description of our imagination’s function, to learn how to train your imagination, it is essential to look at the science behind it.
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.
A more in-depth analysis of this correlation demonstrates that the process involved with long-term memory also contributes to higher creativity and imaginative skill levels.
These are many causes, but it’s influenced by how 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 brain areas 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. It also means that it is possible to amplify the perspective that we have about the world through imagination.
That being the case, training your imagination can yield many benefits that go beyond merely making your daydreams more interesting.
Improving your imagination can help lead you to increased creativity, work efficiency, planning skills, situational awareness, and analytical prowess, to name a few.
Getting started with an imagination training regimen doesn’t 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.
Getting in the Right Mindset
To begin training your imagination, you must prepare your mind for the practice. You can accomplish it 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.
It will help you lower any anxiety or stress that you may be carrying over from your daily routine. Physiologically it will help reduce 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 have mentally constructed in previous imaginative thought sessions.
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, to train and develop your imagination, it is vital 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 your imaginative space. Place pictures on a wall, change the room’s furniture and modify the decor’s color scheme.
For exterior spaces, imagine how it would look during different seasons of the year. Visualize the natural fauna of the imaginative 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 usually would not associate with that place.
You will be able to transcend your thought from the real to the surreal, and in the process, you will unlock levels of creativity and imagination that you may not have been aware of possessing.
The Connection Game
This exercise involves extrapolating associations between ordinary objects. Start by thinking about any item of your choosing.
Then proceed to think about other items that are connected or associated with it.
For example, if you start with a radio, you can associate it with headphones; in turn, the headphones can be associated with a person’s head, from there you can go to the hair, then shampoo, then a shower, then water, etc.
Another variant of this exercise involves 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, both require water to some degree to function, etc. The goal here is to try to formulate at least ten similarities for each pair. The more similarities you can develop, the more 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 you will rely on deeper memories.
This approach 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 your design until you fill the entire surface area of your workspace.
Using a single fluid motion and not pausing during the creative process, your mind begins to draw on its subconscious part to feed the drawing and stimulate your imagination.
If you completed this exercise on paper, save the 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 daily. 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 will become more fluid while engaging in routine tasks. You will also notice an increased creative flair in all that you do.
Knowing how to train your imagination can offer so much that there is no excuse not to do it.