Woman lying in a park relaxing

Guided Imagery: Techniques to Revolutionize Your Mind

We all feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Daily life can just rub you up the wrong way. You might be feeling stressed about something immediate like an up-and-coming meeting or dealing with something that has been around for a while. Guided imagery can help.

If you don’t take the time to stop it can affect your overall health, but it also makes it more difficult for you to actually stop and take a break.

Guided imagery is an easy way for you to relax and manage stress. It is a relaxation technique that involves focusing your imagination on something pleasant and peaceful. This could be a person, a place, or a general image.

Guided imagery is also known as visualization meditation and guided meditation. In this article, I’ll look at what guided imagery is, what it’s good for, and how you can practice guided imagery techniques.

What Is Guided Imagery?

Guided imagery comes under the category of focused meditation. With all meditation, we want to keep our mind in the present and we can use different anchors.

In guided imagery, your anchor is using your imagination to create a peaceful scene or an encounter with someone that brings you joy.

Peaceful scene in a forest - guided imagery

How Does Guided Imagery Work?

The part of the brain that deals with our flight or flight response (amygdala) can actually be fooled into believing that what we are imagining is real.

In the same way, when you feel stress about future situations and your body reacts to this stress, dwelling on positive imagery has a physical reaction that calms to mind and body.

Is Guided Imagery Easy?

The technique sounds easy; close your eyes, imagine somewhere nice, and feel relaxed. But as with all meditations, it’s not that simple. The main challenge is our ability to focus and believe in guided imagery.

Our minds love to jump from thought to thought, and when you’ve had a hard day relaxing becomes a challenge. And for an unpracticed mind, trying to enjoy feelings that are positive without our thoughts being hijacked by stress and anxiety can be a challenge.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Guided Imagery

Practice will make guided imagery easier, but there are some things you can do to help the process.

Use photos or sound recordings to get you prepped

It’s not cheating if you look at some photos to help you with the imagery. This could be a photo of a relaxing forest scene, with a forest audio recording in the background

Don’t overthink it

Overthinking the imagery can take away from enjoying the experience. The last thing you want to do is stress over something that should cultivate relaxation.

Really believe it

Guided imagery can feel a little silly at first, but try to really believe what you’re imagining. Let your mind be free to explore all the senses. If we use the beach scene for our imagery, try to imagine the sand and sea, but also imagine how the sand feels beneath our feet, the sound of the waves, and the smell of the salt air.

Start small

If you want to practice guided imagery on your own, start with five-minute sessions, and increase the time when you feel more comfortable.

Get some help

There is no shortage of sources to find guided imagery meditations. They are also called guided meditation or guided visualization. Why not try one of the ZenGuided guided meditations on my YouTube channel (and maybe give it a like and subscribe)?

Peaceful pathway surrounded by plantation - guided imagery

What Is an Example of Guided Imagery?

I’ve already referred to it a couple of times before, so why not try guided imagery that’s common in stress management by visualizing a beach scene?

Guided imagery is a powerful tool that can help manage stress and promote relaxation. It involves focusing your imagination on something pleasant and peaceful, which could be a person, a place, or a general image. Here are some examples of guided imagery:

Beach Scene: This is a common guided imagery exercise for stress management. Close your eyes and visualize a calming beach scene. Try to engage all your senses – the feel of the warm sand beneath your feet, the sound of the waves gently crashing on the shore, the smell of the salty sea air, the taste of the cool, refreshing water, and the sight of the endless blue ocean. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to the imagery.

Forest Walk: Imagine walking through a serene forest. Feel the crunch of leaves under your feet, hear the chirping of birds and rustling of leaves, smell the fresh, earthy scent of the forest, and see the sunlight filtering through the trees.

Mountain View: Visualize standing on top of a mountain, looking out at the vast landscape below. Feel the cool breeze on your face, hear the wind whistling past your ears, and see the breathtaking view of the valley below.

Incorporating the concept of loving kindness into guided imagery can enhance the experience. For instance, you could visualize sending love and kindness to every person you meet in your imagined scenario. Or, you could imagine a warm, glowing light of love and kindness enveloping you and spreading out to the world. This can foster feelings of compassion, empathy, and positivity.

Remember, the key to effective guided imagery is to truly believe in what you’re imagining and to engage all your senses. Start with short sessions and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable with the practice.

Try this: guided imagery

  • Try to be as comfortable as you can, wear comfortable clothes, and find a peaceful place to sit or lie down

  • If you like you can set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes

  • Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, after your third deep breath let your breathing return to a natural effortless rhythm.

  • Visualize a calming scene. I’ve said beach, but feel free to imagine any scene that gives you a sense of relaxation

  • Explore all of your senses and be fully aware of the feelings you are experiencing

  • If your mind wanders, just gently bring your attention back to the imagery

  • At the end, open your eyes and spend a moment to notice the mental calm that you feel.

Are There Any Negative Side Effects of Guided Imagery?

Guided imagery is a positive exercise and any risks are minimal. But as with any mindfulness technique, there may be risks. Any time we focus on our self-awareness, those that have a traumatic past may resurface these deep feelings.

Nothing substitutes professional medical advice, so if guided imagery deeply affects you in a negative way, speak to the professionals.

Idilic beach scene

What Are the Benefits of Guided Imagery?

Sleep better

When we think of these relaxing scenes it has a physical reaction in our body; increased relaxation, lower stress and blood pressure, and a lower heart rate. All these and a general sense of calm can help you fall asleep.

Feel less stress and anxiety

Guided imagery is commonly used as a stress management technique and regular practice can have a lasting effect on day-to-day stress management.

In a 2014 research study, women with fibromyalgia were split into two groups. Half practiced guided imagery, while the other half practiced the traditional care routines.

The study lasted for 10 weeks and the women that used guided imagery felt a noticeable decrease in stress, pain, tiredness, and also depression.

Helps to reduce depression

There are many routes to depression, and as someone who has experienced this mental illness, the mind is perpetually in a state of negative thought, or worse, no feelings at all.

Research has shown that regularly practicing any form of meditation helps transform the structure and connections of the brain to feel happier.

Whilst most forms of mindfulness focus on the present, guided imagery plants positive imagery in the mind, and focusing on these images helps us feel happier.

Guided imagery helps to relieve pain

If you’ve ever practiced mindfulness meditation and noticed a pain in the body, you’ll possibly experience how pain can move, get stronger, or even disappear.

In a medical study, patients with arthritis and other rheumatic diseases were asked to practice guided imagery. 287 participants were given guided imagery scripts as a recording to practice on their own.

The therapy showed benefits for all the patients with a significant reduction in pain and helping the patients relax.

General sense of well-being

Another of the benefits of guided imagery improvement of the sense of well-being. As we spend time exercising our minds to imagine and believe in these positive images, this peaceful feeling diffuses into our day-to-day lives.

Woman swimming at sunset

The Takeaway

Guided imagery is an effective form of stress management. By using imagery you can create a sense of relaxation, and calm. The results are reduced stress.

Why not try the latest guided visualization video from the Zenguided YouTube channel.

Will you use imagery for stress? Let me know if you have used this technique in the comments.

READ NEXT: Mindful Walking Meditation

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