Guided Imagery

What is Guided Imagery?

Do you have a happy place in your mind that you visit in difficult moments? For most of us, imagining a place, activity or a person soothes us creating a sense of safety and familiarity. This can either be a past memory, a dream vacation, or the sensations of hugging your loved one.

Imagining is something incredible when you think about it. Our challenge in the modern world is the difficulty to stay in the present moment, which also means that our minds are capable of traveling to the past or a hypothetical place in the future.

Staying present and being mindful of what is currently happening can be especially challenging sometimes. During those moments, we can benefit from the soothing and relaxing effect of visualisation. It is possible to create a relaxing sensation in our bodies by deliberately visualising certain images and bringing our attention to them. If the current moment is not peaceful, we can go to a safe haven of our minds to get rested and relaxed until we find our inner peace and strength to cope with difficult situations.

Guided imagery is a focused relaxation meditation that uses visualisation and it strengthens mind-body connection. In brief, you picture a relaxing setting for a while and that visualization makes your body relax. It has several benefits such as relaxing, coping with stress and anxiety, and pain relief. What makes guided imagery so appealing is that it is a very easy method that everyone can practice. It is also frequently used in serious clinical settings combined with other treatments.

Guided Imagery Benefits

There is scientific evidence supporting that guided imagery improves well-being, reduces stress, anxiety and negative thoughts. A study found that guided imagery exercises were effective in reducing perceived stress and heart rates of the participants. Another study showed that participants who did guided imagery exercises before MRI had lower levels of state anxiety during the scan. Guided imagery is also found effective in reducing food cravings and chronic pain management.  A pilot study found that guided imagery techniques were found effective in reduction of fatigue and sleep disturbances, and enhancing overall sleep quality.

Guided imagery has been used as an intervention for patients with depressive disorder and research shows that guided imagery intervention decreases symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression among patients. A study found that surgical patients who used guided imagery techniques had lower levels of postoperative anxiety and less inflammatory responses in their wounds. That is, guided imagery helped patients to recover faster after surgery. Another study showed that guided imagery reduced the negative impacts of chemotherapy among cancer patients such as nausea or physiological arousal.

In brief, the scientifically supported benefits of guided imagery can be listed as below:  

Guided imagery improves

  • wellbeing
  • sleep quality
  • relaxation
  • pain management

Guided imagery reduces  

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • negative thoughts
  • food cravings

Guided imagery is used in clinical settings to  

  • regulate heart rate  
  • buffer the negative effects of cancer chemotherapy
  • reduce symptoms of depression
  • reduce food cravings
  • support and fasten recovery after surgery
  • Guided imagery techniques

Creating a mental image of an experience stimulates the functioning of our bodies. For instance, your muscles get tense and your breath gets shortened when you imagine a stressful event. Similarly, thinking of a calm environment creates relaxation in your body.

You can either get the positive impact of imagery by visualizing a comforting and relaxing scenario by yourself, or you can listen to an experienced guide and let your mind follow the instructions. Guided imagery is a very unique experience. Each practice is different from each other even if you listen to the same instructions every time. It is a perfect analogy of how all live beings constantly transform. So either way, you get something very personal and different each time you engage in guided imagery. A successful guide will appeal to your feelings and guide you while you explore a personal place in your mind.

How to: Guided Imagery Starter Pack

Just like a mindfulness meditation practice, find a nice and comfortable seated position in a place where you feel safe. You may sit or lay down. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Notice if there is any distinct sensation in your body, a stiffness or soreness for example. Notice what is going on in your mind at that moment. You may listen to a calming background music if it helps you to relax and stay mindful.

Start following the instructions of the guide. Return back to your breath and the comforting voice of your guide when you notice you get distracted. It is perfectly normal to get distracted and lose track of the flow. You can take a few deep breaths to relax and to invite your mind back to the present moment. As you enter a peaceful and active mental state, think of where you want to be, what you want to do, or with whom you want to be. You can either revisit a nice memory, or imagine an ideal place that you want to be: a beach, a dinner table with your family, a romantic vacation with your spouse, a cozy cabin in the woods. Let the images and ideas come to the surface as you gently breathe in and out. Notice the environment, try to bring your attention to the weather, the sounds and the smell. Try to feel the wind in your face if it is a breezy location. If you picture yourself in the sea, try to imagine how your body would feel right now floating in the water. Let the guide help you almost feel all the sensations that would occur in this scenario.Try to visualize all the details of the setting you are picturing, including colors, shapes, sounds, or weather, which make your experience more realistic. Allow your mind to elaborate the picture and observe what ideas, goals or dreams pops up. Continue and wrap up your practice with the guidance of the instructions. Don’t forget to thank yourself for this experience.

Meditopia has a wide range of meditation practice that includes guided imagery. You can use these guided imagery techniques for relaxation, anxiety, sleep, pain management.

  • Guided imagery technique for relaxation
  • Guided imagery technique for anxiety
  • Guided imagery technique for sleep
  • Guided imagery technique for pain management

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