The Difference Between Visualization and Meditation

Before we launched the Veraki Personal Growth App, many people asked, “Aren’t visualizations and meditations the same?” Maybe you’ve asked this question too. Even though they seem similar, visualization and meditation are complementary practices that can be used together or separately. Let’s dive a bit deeper into each one.

What is Meditation?

The word originates from a form of contemplation. As a practice for self-awareness, meditation sets the stage for you to become the observer of self, surroundings, and the present moment. It moves you into a connection with the wholeness or oneness of everything. Think of it as a practice that leads you deeper into the present moment without the desire to change, want, or claim ownership to it.

If you’ve tried this practice, you know it takes consistency and, possibly, long durations per session to make it a habit.

What is Visualization?

Visualization can also draw upon the ability to observe and connect to the present moment, just like meditation. However, visualization uses thoughts with emotions to “see” and feel something specific. This connection creates a desired state of being, helping you take purposeful action in your life.

Visualization practice can feel more accessible for most people because it often uses familiar points of reference. Even people who say they aren’t visual learners can use this practice. Thoughts and emotions, without a mental picture can still elicit the benefits of this practice.

Is Meditation Better than Visualization?

Both practices have the benefit of calming the body and focusing the mind. By understanding their differences, you’ll know when one is needed more than the other.

Is one better than the other? Think of them as tools for different needs. Veraki’s Chief Content Officer, Sandy Dixon, has been a meditation instructor for years and she likes to guide students visually into a place of general focus before practicing various meditation techniques. She says, “Most people find the guided visualizations easy to follow. This becomes an accessible way to learn how to sit for longer periods, something commonly done in meditation.”

Dixon also likes to use visualization at the end of practice as a touchstone to that particular moment. “If your body remembers this emotional state, one that it enjoyed, then the practice will be easier to come back to again and again,” she explains. Visualization and meditation can stand alone as their own practices, or combined. The choice is up to you.

Why is it Important to Know the Difference?

Researchers have been studying the effects of meditation on the brain for decades. From these studies, we are learning which centers of the brain get activated when meditation is practiced over long durations of time. Although, the side benefits of meditation and visualization seem to overlap, the study of brain activity during meditation shows the utilization of different regions compared to when the brain is visualizing.

Visualization mainly activates the occipital lobe and helps the neurons of the brain to perform as if the visualized scene was occurring in that moment. While meditation, depending on the technique, increases connection between brain regions and increases grey matter, calming down the self-centered thinking tendencies of the mind.

When you recognize these differences, you can design your practice to fit your desired needs.

Making Your Meditation and Visualization Routines Purposeful

If you have a particular benefit that you’re wanting to experience, like better sleep, more motivation, or mental resiliency, you’ll begin to understand why you want to practice either meditation or visualization. Knowing your why can help you stay connected to the practice even when it doesn’t feel convenient or easy. Knowing the difference of each practice can help you use them in complementary ways so your routine remains consistent. Learn more about making your routine purposeful by using the Routine Building Kit in the Veraki app.