Visualization has moved out of the world of alternative medicine and self-help books and has become a serious tool used by high-performing individuals in sports, business and a number of other fields. As divers, we can apply it to our diving to help reduce air consumption and improve buoyancy.
Visualization is not a terribly complicated thing, and requires only a bit of practice to start using. Several studies have shown that performance level increases — especially in physical pursuits — through visualization. Our brains are not entirely able to discern between seeing something done, mentally, and actually doing it, so you can practice your dive before you even get wet.
Some time before a dive, find a quiet place and set aside 10 to 15 uninterrupted minutes. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a minute or two to calm and clear your mind; then take a few deep, slow breaths. Now start by visualizing a large mirror with a blue frame. See yourself in it, diving. Try to make the picture as close to realistic as possible, including any bad habits or anything you’re struggling with. Don’t linger too long on this image, simply see it, and register how it makes you feel. See yourself in the third person; try to view yourself from the outside.
After a few seconds, shift the mirror sideways to the left and change the frame to white. Now see yourself diving perfectly in this mirror — calm, in control, with perfect buoyancy and trim, doing everything right. See yourself be the diver you want to be. Note the positive emotions this engenders. Start out be seeing it in the third person, but gradually, move into the projection, seeing it as you would in real life. See the dive site, the coral, the fish, the vibrant color of the ocean, feel yourself in the water, completely weightless, hovering effortlessly, breathing slowly and steadily and feeling happy, relaxed and comfortable.
Linger on this projection, noting every detail, making the scenario as close to reality as possible. Focus on any dive elements that you find challenging — swimming over a wall and above an abyss, sending up a DSMB, tackling current —and see yourself executing it perfectly. If this part of the exercise stirs up anxiety, replay it until you can see yourself doing exactly what you need to do, comfortably and confidently.
If there’s something in particular that causes you stress, anchor your feelings of comfort and confidence during the exercise with a physical gesture, something you can repeat underwater, such as rubbing the tip of your thumb and first two fingers together. Replay the scenario a few times, each time putting these three fingers together (or making whatever anchor you prefer). If you’re facing the thing that stresses you in the water, repeat the anchor. The physical repetition (the three fingertips put together) will help you remember the calm you practiced during your visualization exercises.
Although it’s almost completely effortless, visualization can make a big difference in diving, especially if there’s something you want to improve. It may seem a bit new-age for some people, but athletes from all fields have expressed dedication to the technique. Becoming a calmer, happier and safer diver is nothing to laugh at.