It might sound counterintuitive to combine visualization and meditation. After all, meditation is all about letting thoughts come and go rather than consciously directing them toward a particular result, right?

When you visualize, you focus on something specific — an event, person, or goal you want to achieve — and hold it in your mind, imagining your outcome becoming reality.

Visualization is a mindfulness technique on its own, but you can also use it to enhance regular meditation. Adding visualization into your meditation mix allows you to better direct your relaxed mind toward specific outcomes you’d like to see.

Plus, visualization is linked to many potential health benefits, including:

Interested in adding visualization to your meditation or mindfulness practice? Here are five techniques to get you started.

This visualization technique can help with stress relief and general mood improvement.

To start, think of something you want to bring into yourself. This could be a specific emotion or just positive vibes. Now, assign this feeling a color. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but consider choosing a color you like or find soothing.

You can use color breathing as part of any meditation, but you can also take a few moments for color breathing even when you don’t have time for a full meditation.

Also called loving-kindness meditation, this visualization exercise can help you foster feelings of compassion and kindness toward yourself and others.

This type of meditation canbe helpful if you’re dealing with feelings of intense animosity toward someone and are looking for ways to let go.

This visualization exercise can help ease stiff or tight muscles, which you might experience with anxiety and stress.

Relaxing your muscles can relieve physical and emotional tension, improving your mood and helping you get better sleep.

Progressive muscle relaxation can help you increase your awareness of physical pain and stiffness in your body.

If you notice a tense area, you can briefly use this technique to visualize the muscle relaxing and the tension leaving your body. As this tension eases, so might any associated feelings of stress.

You’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m in my happy place” before. Well, that’s basically guided imagery.

This technique can help you visualize positive scenes and images, which can help you relax, cope with stress or fear, and feel more at peace. It’s also a great way to boost your mood or unwind before bed.

Here’s a little secret about your brain: It can’t always tell the difference between something you’ve imagined and something that’s actually happened.

That’s partially why visualization works. When you visualize yourself achieving goals, you brain may eventually believe you’ve already done those things. This can help you feel more confident and make it easier to achieve those goals in reality.

Visualization also helps create new pathways in your brain over time through a process called neuroplasticity. Say you visualize yourself getting a promotion at work and feeling excited and thrilled about it.

This image can help your brain start associating optimism and other positive feelings with the thought of a promotion, instead of feeling insecure about your chances of moving up.

Goals visualization works much the same way as guided imagery. But instead of creating a scene in your imagination, visualize the specific moment of achieving your goal.

Adding visualization exercises to your mindfulness practice can help you drive your brain where you want it to go, whether that’s a peaceful stream through a forest or a belief that you can (and will) achieve specific goals

It doesn’t come easily to everyone, and it might feel a little awkward at first. But with a bit of consistent practice, it’ll start to feel more natural.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping decrease stigma around mental health issues.