This mindfulness technique uses the power of visualization and your five senses. It can promote relaxation, increase motivation, improve mood, etc.
Imagine that you are in a place where you feel totally relaxed. For example, you may be sitting on a calm, quiet beach. Imagine the waves lapping on the shore. Hear the sweet noise they make and smell the salty air. How does the breeze feel on your skin? How does the sand feel between your toes? This is guided imagery at work, and short, regular breaks like this can help you feel more comfortable.
Guided imagery, a meditative mental health practice, can be used in a variety of ways for its possible health benefits, from regulating everyday stress through mindfulness apps to aiding in therapy for trauma in a clinical setting. Ultimately, this mind-body technique can shift the body from a stress response to a relaxation response.
In essence, your mind can be an important visualization tool, which in turn can impact your physiological responses. For example, in guided imagery, imagining a peaceful place in detail can deepen and slow your breathing, reduce your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure. Using nature imagery can be especially powerful for some, a study finds. And all of these potential benefits can influence your perceived stress levels and quality of life, research shows.
Guided imagery uses the power of our own imagination to promote healing in body and mind. This simple and accessible practice can help you de-stress, improve your performance, concentrate, manage fatigue, etc.
Here are 5 possible health benefits if you start practicing guided imagery.
1. Can Improve Your Mood
Contact with nature is an often-recommended antidote to anxiety, as it is known to calm the nervous system. Just consider getting outside, away from distractions: You may feel like life is less rushed or you can breathe more deeply. But, as researchers in one study point out, you don’t always have time to go to a park or go for a hike. Often life circumstances force you to calm down at the office, at home or in the supermarket queue. Guided imagery can help you transport yourself to nature, through your imagination, and achieve a calm similar to what you get from actually being in nature. This study found that while both types of guided imagery (nature and urban) were effective, a nature-based guided imagery session reduced anxiety more significantly than urban visualization.
Other scientific work provides evidence of the benefits of guided imagery for mood problems associated with chronic diseases. In a systematic review that evaluated multiple interventions for people with inflammatory bowel disease, including guided imagery, and a separate trial for people with multiple sclerosis exploring the effectiveness of guided imagery by healing light, the authors found that these relaxation techniques can improve anxiety or depression in both groups. That said, a review of studies of various types of guided imagery on younger participants (ages 12 to 24) pointed out that while research shows promise for using this technique to help treat anxiety or depression, it is mainly used in addition to traditional psychological care. Overall, treating mood and mental health disorders can require a variety of tools (like talk therapy and medication), and guided imagery can be one of those approaches. . Work with your therapist to establish a care plan that works for you.
2. May Help Heal Trauma
If you are undergoing trauma therapy, guided imagery can help you do this work. Its purpose is to create a safe environment to relax and ground in during trauma intervention. Working with trauma patients involves teaching them coping skills, but that these skills may not be enough if they have a traumatic flashback during therapy. In this case, it can be helpful to redirect your attention to something comforting and peaceful. Guided imagery is a technique that allows us to deliberately change our way of living in the present moment.
3. Can support you in stressful times
We all have periods of life that are particularly stressful. You may be approaching an important deadline, caring for a sick family member, grieving after a breakup, or some other stressful transition. For students, end-of-year exams and mid-term exams are a source of stress, for example. Once you have learned the steps of Guided Imagery, you can tap into the special place you visit during Guided Imagery Meditation to infuse everyday stressors with a sense of calm and focus. Guided imagery can be repeated upon waking to set the tone for the day or before bed to relax. It is also useful throughout the day. Guided imagery allows your mind to hold on to something positive rather than sinking into the negative.
4. Can help you relax before a medical procedure
Whether it’s getting blood drawn, waiting for surgery, or receiving chemotherapy, guided imagery can get you out of trouble and help you feel great. Often guided imagery is used both in anticipation and during a stressful medical event. It can even be used medically to divert attention from the discomfort of the moment, such as when changing the dressing of a wound or putting on an IV. A study of hemodialysis patients showed that the group that received guided imagery was less anxious and less depressed after the procedure than the control group. When it comes to cancer treatment, research has shown that listening to guided imagery for 20 minutes a day for a week reduces anxiety and depression, and improves pain, insomnia, appetite and nausea, more than a control group, in people undergoing chemotherapy for different cancers. Previous research on people undergoing treatment for breast or prostate cancer has also shown that guided imagery improves pain management better than control groups. If you are unfamiliar with guided imagery, your hospital or center may have a nurse who can help you calm down through visualization.
5. Can improve performance
Athletes, artists, and even people who are nervous when speaking in public can use visualization to improve their abilities on the field or on the stage. Outside of special events, people can use guided imagery for activities they have planned for that day to boost motivation, a study found. Compared to control groups (who received reminders of activities or nothing at all), those who practiced a technique called guided motivational imagery reported being more motivated and expecting to have more fun and reward in anticipation of enjoyable or routine activities. The authors call mental imagery a “motivational enhancer,” because the tool reinforced participants’ belief that they would feel positive emotions while doing each activity, which improved their motivation.
Another finding: The more vivid your imagination, the greater the effects. To dream is to believe.