Love yourself first, and everything else falls in line. – Lucille Ball
Guided imagery and healing = an excellent form of self-care
By Nancie Vito, MPH, CHES
My clients often ask me for guidance on relaxation and stress reduction techniques, and I wanted to share one with you that has been in my toolbox for several years, since my days of leading workshops for people with chronic health conditions. Participants would absolutely love being "walked" through a peaceful country garden, for example.
Guided imagery is one of many different types of relaxation techniques that can produce a relaxation response. All relaxation techniques have a common goal: to produce physiological changes in the body order to lower blood pressure, decrease pain and reduce effects of stress or illness. Basically, with guided imagery, individuals visualize pleasant images in their mind in order to replace negative, stressful or unwanted thoughts and feelings. This process and “reprogramming” of the subconscious mind often results in an overall sense of calm. Imagery combines all senses, not only “seeing” or creating images in the mind, but truly feeling, smelling, etc. When we create images that we find pleasant in our “mind’s eye,” the process can also be meditative in nature since it goes deeper than the level of consciousness in which we operate in our daily activities. Memory is one example of a form of imagery. Dreams are also a good example of images being created in the mind, as the subconscious and unconscious are communicating with our conscious mind. (A main difference with guided imagery is that individuals are purposefully and consciously creating desired behaviors or situations in their mind.)
Individuals can learn guided imagery a self-directed exercise, with a “live” facilitator, or by using CDs, DVDs, MP3s, phone applications, and online programs. Fortunately, guided imagery is much more accessible in recent years that it once was.
Research has come a long way in developing evidence for the effects of guided imagery as in last few decades, as thousands of studies have shown guided imagery to have positive effects on cancer, depression, anxiety, pain, asthma, PTSD, chronic tension-type headaches, addictive behaviors, menopausal symptoms, and host of other conditions. It has been shown strengthen the immune system and even have positive effects on pregnancy. Some hospitals are starting to use it to help patients relax before surgery.
So here’s the deal: guided imagery can be beneficial for just about anyone and any situation where positive outcomes are desired. The bottom line of how it works? It helps to decrease stress as you can turn your focus towards something that is pleasing to you.
Some people use imagery to help make a personal goal a reality. This is also super duper helpful, for example, before public speaking. Really FEEL how you want to feel upon reaching the goal. The key to visualizing the desired outcome of a goal is to be sure to take action along with it. :)
SO…for positive outcomes for your health and overall well-being, this week why not check out some of the tools out there that are available to us online or via apps? Let me know how it goes by posting your insights below! I love to hear from my dear readers.