Each time you’re faced with a challenging task, do you play it in your mind before the actual execution? For instance, when you have a tough interview, you might play the possible questions and your responses to them in your mind. Or, if you’re going to travel, you might work out your itinerary in your head despite having it in detail on paper. This exercise gives you a sense of control over an unfamiliar situation. You condition your brain to manage it and signal your body to prepare for what’s coming next. Guided imagery works on precisely this principle.
What is Guided Imagery?
Guided imagery takes your imagination a step further from preparing you for life situations. It helps you create mental images so you can condition your body to heal itself. Guided imagery is also called “mental imagery” or “visualization.” When you sign up for the therapy, your therapist will show you how to create a series of images about the processes in your body. You’ll learn how to use your imagination to set off a series of positive events that will help heal the many ailments.
The fascinating thing about guided imagery is that as you continue to practice it, you’ll find that it becomes easier and easier. Anyone can learn how to perform the visualization since it only involves aligning the subconscious with the conscious mind. Even kids with their very vivid imaginations can learn how to use images to bring about mental and physical changes. To give you an example. Close your eyes and think of your favorite dish. Remember the aroma and the taste on your tongue. Immediately, you’ll start to salivate in anticipation of the dish.
Similarly, by thinking of good, happy events in your life, you can lift your mood and feel good about yourself. For instance, when you remember the joy of the Holidays you spent as a child. Just as you smile when you remember a funny incident or a joke. Or, you feel sad and angry when you think back at a situation when someone misbehaved with you. If images can alter your mood and emotions, they should also be able to bring about changes in the tissues of the body.
Benefits of Guided Imagery
Guided imagery can heighten your thought processes. You’ll enjoy music better, appreciate art and humor, and have better intuition. You’ll be able to understand and connect better with the people around you or clearly visualize abstract situations giving your creativity a boost. You will also find it easier to train and excel at any sport or artistic field you set your heart on.
In short, guided imagery can help you become a more confident, motivated, and stronger person. In many ways, the technique is similar to meditation, though easier to perform. You can also consider the technique to be a kind of self-hypnosis therapy because you enter into a kind of a trance where your senses are completely in tune with your surroundings.
In addition to the positive effects in your personality, guided imagery can have many good effects on your health. Users of the technique have talked about improvements like:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels
- Better immunity
- Fewer headaches and pain
- Success in attaining weight loss goals
- Lower stress and anxiety levels
- Fewer and lower degrees of after effects of chemotherapy such as fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and pain
- Lesser blood loss during surgery and faster recovery with the need for fewer painkillers
- Better success in overcoming substance abuse
- Relief from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
How to Get Guided Imagery Therapy
You can work with a certified professional to understand how to perform guided imagery. Once you understand how it works, you can continue to train your mind in the privacy of your home or any other comfort zone. Here are some of the factors you need to remember about the technique.
- Choose a location with a relaxed atmosphere where you feel secure and free.
You need not worry about getting the technique right. You can work with the method that works well for you.
- Work out the images that fit in with your beliefs and values. Adopt the ones that feel right to you and give you the results you need. You need not borrow the images that other people suggest to you.
- Aside from mental images, choose the symbols that are in tune with other senses as well such as the sense of smell, touch, or sound. For instance, you might find that music helps or aromas allow you to relax better. Or, you could hold some favorite object in your hands to build a connection with the self.
- You can work on guided imagery in the privacy of your home or in a group according to your comfort levels.
- It’s okay to get emotional. A display of feelings indicates that the guided imagery has touched a deep chord inside you and is working well.
- You might also sense other responses such as a heaviness in the body, muscle spasms, a tingling, warm sensation, the urge to yawn or cough or even to cry. All these responses are normal.
- You need not be a firm believer in the therapy. Even if you are mildly interested in giving it a try, the treatment could work for you.
- Build a connection with a specific gesture, word, or object that helps you relax. You can use the trigger in any setting like when you’re at work, shopping, or in a meeting that makes you anxious.
- You might find yourself drifting in and out of the conscious plane. Some people may also seem to fall asleep and enter a dream-like state. Even in the subconscious state, the therapy, sounds, and scents will continue to heal you.
- If you would prefer to stay awake, keep your eyes only half-closed or walk around the room slowly. Standing in one place also helps.
- If you find your mind wandering, that’s fine too. You will learn to concentrate better with practice.
At the end of a session of guided imagery, people have also sensed a deep stillness come over them. Their faces glow even as lines and wrinkles seem to get erased. Their voices also seem quieter and deeper. All these signs indicate that the session has had the desired outcomes.
Possible Side Effects of Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is an absolutely safe, non-invasive form of therapy and can be used by any person without any concerns of risks. However, like with all other kinds of complementary or alternative healing techniques, it is always advisable that you inform your medical practitioner before beginning the treatment. Also, take care never to use these techniques as a substitute for conventional treatments and remain regularly in touch with your doctor.
Naparstek. Staying Well with Guided Imagery. 1994. Healthjourneys. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Guided Imagery – Topic Overview.” WebMD. n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2017.
“Guided Therapeutic Imagery” GoodTherapy.org. 27 Apr. 2016. Web. 24 Feb. 2017.