Guided Imagery or Visualization
Your thoughts have a direct influence on the way you feel and behave. If you tend to
dwell on sad or negative thoughts, you most likely are not a very happy person. Likewise,
if you think that your job is enough to give you a headache, you probably will come home
with throbbing temples each day. This is just another clear example of the power the mind
exerts over the body.
Your imagination can be a powerful tool to help you combat stress, tension, and
anxiety. You can use visualization to harness the energy of your imagination, and it does
not take long-probably just a few weeks-to master the technique. Try to visualize two or
three times a day. Most people find it easiest to do in bed in the morning and at night
before falling asleep, though with practice you'll be able to visualize whenever and
wherever the need arises. See Guided Imagery for a
To begin visualization, sit or he down in a comfortable position and close your eyes.
Scan your body for any muscle tension and relax the areas that need it. Once you feel
relaxed, begin to visualize a scene, object, or place that is soothing and pleasing to
you. Imagine every aspect of the scene, involving all of your senses. For example, if you
like to visualize a waterfall on a mountain, imagine first what this looks like: the
rushing water, the stream flowing from it, the size and thickness of the trees all around,
the sky above and the sun filtering through the branches, and so on. Then imagine how this
place would smell-damp and musty or fragrant pine. Next listen for the sounds you would
hear if you were there: the water rushing over rocks, the hush of the wind rising and then
quieting down, birds singing and crickets chirping. How does the ground feel beneath your
feet? Is it rocky and rough, or soft and smooth from pine needles or moss? Imagine chewing
on a blade of grass, or taking a long, cool drink from the water- fall. How do these
As you become more involved in your visual image, your body will relax and you will be
able to let go of the problems or worries that you'd felt before. To encourage this
relaxation to occur, you can punctuate the images with positive statements, such as
"I am letting go of tension" or "I feel calm and relaxed."
Using the subject of your favorite place, here is an example of a visualization
exercise that you can tape record. If you do record it, or something similar to this, be
sure to speak slowly and allow generous pauses so your visualizations can form.
Sit or lie down, close your eyes, and take deep breaths. Scan your body for tension and
try to relax those muscles. (long pause) Once your body feels relaxed, go to your favorite
place . . . it is calm and safe, a place where your worries disappear. Look around at
this place and take in all the sights. How does it feel to be here? You are safe and at
peace. Notice what you hear in this special place. What do you smell? Walk a bit farther
into your favorite place. Look up, and down, and all around. Notice what you see and how
it makes you feel. Say to yourself, "I am relaxed . . . my worries are gone . . .
tension has flowed out of my body." Take in all of the sights, sounds, smells, and
feelings of this special place. You can return here whenever your want to. Repeat to
yourself, "I am relaxed here . . . this is my favorite place."
When you have thoroughly visualized this place, open your eyes but stay in the same
comfortable position. Continue to breathe smoothly and rhythmically, and take a few
moments to experience and enjoy your relaxation. Rest assured that your special place is
avail- able to you whenever you need to go there.
Using Imagery to Remove Stress
Another type of visualization involves an image that you associate with tension which
you can replace with an image for relaxation. For example, you might visualize tension as
a taut rope, the sound of thunder, the color red, pitch darkness, persistent hammering, or
blinding white light. These images of tension can soften and fade into images of
relaxation. For instance, the taut rope loosens, the thunder subsides and is replaced by a
light rain, red turns to orchid, the darkness begins to lighten, the pounding hammer is
replaced by the murmur of cicadas and crickets, the blinding white light softens to a
When you feel a muscle becoming tense, imagine that it is one of these tension images.
Then let it transform into a relaxation image as you repeat to yourself, "I can relax
. . . the tension is slipping away."
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