I always like to start my year off with a vision board. A vision board is a visual representation of intentions, goals and plans for the future. In accessing images, we create a roadmap for the future and visual reminders of the kind of energy + experiences we are seeking.
Vision boards can be created for lots of different scenarios: your personal life, work life, family life, financial life; and for all different timelines: what will life look like 2 weeks from now? 1 year? 5 years?
As an art therapist, I work with vision boards as tools for creating lasting change. Here's how:
What is the impact of vision boarding, and how does it differ from new years resolutions?
In my practice, I work with vision boards as physical representations of intentional and authentic living.
I find that resolutions are often shame-based, stating "here are the things that I need to change before I am worthy".
Think about how many diet resolutions we see in the new year, motivated by "new year, new me" mentality.
Vision boarding with intentionality and authenticity allows you to take a step back from this mindset and explore future possibilities from a lens of abundance. If a resolution says "here is what I need to take away", a vision board says "here is what I would like to add". Resolutions are often motivated by external societal standards, or what we want, whereas vision boarding is about how we will feel. It is absolutely okay to want things, but we look at the motivation behind these goals. For example, if you want a new car, what opportunities will this open up for you? Peace of mind? Easier access to your friends and relatives? The thrill of road-trip adventures? Get specific.
If we don't ask these questions of ourselves, someone else will answer them for us - media, our bosses, our families, friends all have opinions on how we should live our lives. A vision board is an opportunity to really focus on the reality you want to create, a visualization of your possible future, a connection to hope and a life that feels aligned.
How can vision boards help your mental health?
We are primed to view our lives and events through a negativity bias, focusing on what went wrong versus what went well. This is an adaptive survival strategy; focusing on negative events/experiences helps us avoid these experiences in the future to ensure our safety. For individuals who experience anxiety, this thinking style can become debilitating. Vision boarding can help offer anxiety relief in presenting an alternate scenario. While vision boarding, we are still engaging in imagined future realities, but instead of going to worst-case scenario, we are spending time with best-case scenario.
Having a vision board as a visual reminder of this imagined future is quite effective in giving our brains the feedback that not everything is scary, that there are opportunities and things that we care about. Our brains and bodies respond to images in our environment, so look at your vision board every day! With enough consistency, we can begin to reduce the prevalence of negativity bias in our daily lives.
I also always include some white space on my vision board, leaving room for unexpected things to enter. I find that this reduces the shame that sometimes comes up at the end of the year when I see that I didn't achieve all of my goals. Of course I didn't, there were things that entered that I didn't expect. Leaving room for possibility allows us to view our year with curiosity.
What are some techniques you can implement alongside your vision board to achieve growth in the new year?
A vision board is mainly visual, using images, so I always like to pair it with journalling and affirmation exercises. We can use these boards as a reminder of our intentions for the year. Having a visual representation of our intentions and goals helps to make decisions clearer when we are presented with choices and opportunities throughout the year.
In a journalling practice, we can think back to our vision boards and ask ourselves: Is this choice helping to support the life that I want to live? and What is 1 thing I can do to help me step closer to my vision today?
Integrating an affirmation practice in a daily routine can also serve as a reminder of your intentions and your values. While looking at your vision board, come up with I statements that correspond with the future self you have projected onto the board. "I allow rest", "I trust the process", "I am a worthy being just for being" are a few of my affirmation statements for 2023. Saying these statements out loud while looking at your vision board just strengthens those associations in our minds. Remember that your brain intakes and integrates all input it is given. After some time, these statements will be integrated into your identity, so get really clear on how you want to show up this year before creating your vision board and affirmation statements.