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Less Stress: Guided Imagery

When you use guided imagery, you deliberately and consciously use the power of your imagination to create positive images (called healing visualizations) that will trigger healthful changes within. The whole concept of guided imagery works because in terms of the physiology inside your brain, picturing something and actually experiencing it are very similar.

Let’s pretend that last year you took a Caribbean vacation and remember the total bliss and relaxation you felt in the warm sun, lying on the beach, sipping a pina colada just handed you by that handsome waiter. This year, however, the trip is just not possible.

If you go into a quiet, darkened room and get into a very comfortable chair, you can actually transport your mind back to that beach. Brush aside all other thoughts, turn off the phone, breathe deeply (letting your belly rise and fall with each breath), and think carefully and completely how you felt that day. In a few minutes, you might recall the cool coconut flavor of the pina colada, the smell of your sunblock, the warmth of the sun on your skin.

If you’re heading in the right direction, you are recreating what your mind and body both felt that warm and lovely day one long year ago.

Psychotherapists routinely use guided imagery during patient sessions, with excellent results.

My own patients have done best using audio recordings that are available for just about every illness and human frailty imaginable. Simply allocate some time in a private place, don earphones, and lie back. You’ll hear soothing music, and then a very relaxing voice guides your imagination to a place of healing and wellness. You may even fall asleep (never listen to a guided imagery tape while driving).

Soon you’ll be able to reach that relaxed state without the tape, and even without the comfortable chair in your darkened room.

Among the numerous (and many very good) guided imagery tapes available, my patients have used two series with excellent results. One is recorded by Belleruth Naparstek and the other by Alexandra Dickerman.

Belleruth’s catalog is online here, with topics ranging from depression and heart health to fertility and stress. Alexandra (click here) offers CDs for deep relaxation, preparation for surgery, and weight loss.

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