A little stress is good because it keeps us sharp, focused, and alive. Unfortunately, more is not better. Chronic stress depletes us and can negatively impact our health. If you are experiencing chronic, overwhelming stress, you know how vicious the cycle can be—and how difficult it is to hop off the stress merry-go-round. It’s frustrating when people tell you, “Don’t stress,” or “Just relax” because it’s not that simple—but what if it could be?
Our brain perceives whatever we feed it—real or imagined—as real, and our body actually responds physiologically to the images that play in our brain. Guided imagery is a simple relaxation technique that can help you achieve a relaxed and focused state. It turns out that daydreaming might be good for us after all.
What is Guided Imagery?
The mind-body connection has been well documented. Guided imagery is a technique that utilizes all of your senses to help you engage in a vivid imagery exercise that allows you to feel like you are experiencing something simply by imagining it.
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Guided imagery is different than daydreaming because it is more directed and focused. In fact, there are several guided programs and audios available to navigate people through guided imagery sessions. During a guided imagery session, you may imagine yourself in a place—and then imagine the sights, sounds, smells, feelings, and even taste you would experience in such a location.
Guided imagery can be used for many purposes. Athletes use it to visualize the desired outcome of their performance. It is also helpful for overcoming phobias (such as the fear of public speaking) or achieving goals (such as weight loss). Guided imagery is an excellent tool for stress relief and has been shown to reduce blood pressure and promote relaxation. Imagining yourself in a peaceful setting can help you to relax and de-stress.
Using Guided Imagery
Guided imagery is safe, effective, and easy to learn. You may choose to use an audio program or engage the help of a therapist or instructor, but you can easily follow your own script to create your own peaceful session.
- Set aside 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted time in a place where you’ll be free from distraction.
- Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Take a few deep, cleansing breaths.
- Begin to envision yourself in a peaceful, relaxed setting. For some people, this might be a tropical beach and for others, it could be sitting around a campfire telling stories. Choose what feels peaceful and wonderful to you.
- As you begin to envision your peaceful place, start to engage all of your senses to complete the picture. If you’re at the beach, you might hear the sound of the surf, feel the sand in your toes, smell the ocean breeze, and taste the tropical fruit. Or, if you’re snuggled into a winter cabin, perhaps you can feel the warmth of the fire, hear the crackling logs, and taste the sweet hot chocolate. Get specific as you imagine your scene. Focus on the details.
- Stay in your “happy place” as long as you wish. Relax and sink into the peaceful feelings your imagery evokes.