Guided imagery is used to focus the mind, induce relaxation & shift attention away from the external environment, which can help to reduce anxiety, manage stress, and sleep better.
There is scientific substantial evidence that guided imagery can boost the immune system. Visualisation and Mindfulness Meditation exercises help to control symptoms & treatment side effects in people undergoing cancer treatment. Evidence shows an improvement in emotional & psychological states helping to ease anxiety and fears about radiotherapy & surgery.
In 2012 an American study looked at guided imagery for patients having radiotherapy for breast cancer. The study found that patients who had guided imagery had lower blood pressure, lower pulse rates, lower breathing, higher skin temperature…which showed that they felt more relaxed. Hot flushes were reduced, less anxiety and quality of life improved.
Psychoneuroimmunology is the scientific study of the interaction between emotions (psyche), the neurological system (the brain, spinal cord & the nervous system) & the immune system. This is based on research discovery, by neurobiologist Candace Pert, in the 1970’s. She found that the brain & body were linked chemically and the immune system is influenced by this connection…
“When you are in a state of mental anxiety or stress for long periods of time, the immune system becomes suppressed due to high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to chronic illness such as cancer”
Here is an example of one of the visualisation and guided imagery techniques I might use with my clients.
I tailor my psychotherapeutic methods to the emotional needs and symptoms of each client, often combining modern psychology with ancient shamanic practices…
- Guided Imagery: ‘A Special Place’:
“Prepare yourself for an experience of peace & calm… sit or lie down in a comfortable position. Loosen any constrictive clothing & begin to shed the cares that keep you from feeling at your best. Take a deep breath in through your nose & hold it for a few seconds…& let it out through your mouth with a sigh… Again inhale through your nose & let go of the breath with a relaxing sigh… Do this a few times & each time, let the relaxation that you are beginning to feel grow a little deeper…
Now use your mind to scan your body for tension. Starting at the top of your head & slowly working down to the soles of your feet, notice whenever your muscles are holding on. If you feel tightness or hardness, invite in looseness & softness. Your muscles have no need to work hard right now..so let them have some time off. Invite your muscles to become soft & flexible. They are strong when they need to be but right now they rest with the gentleness of a flower floating on water…
As you scan your body, let go, & your body settles into a comfortable position with no holding on, no grasping, just peace & alignment with the forces of nature. Your breath is calm & relaxed.
Your head & arms & legs & torso have settled in gently to a position of complete relaxation.
Now create in your mind a beautiful place. This is a special place that you can go to in your mind to find refuge from your cares. You might select a tropical beach, a mountain meadow, or a forest glade.
Maybe it is a lovely garden or some other safe, peaceful place you enjoy. SEE yourself in this place on a perfect summer day, the sky is blue & there are a few white puffy clouds. You can FEEL a gentle breeze on your skin.
The temperature is just right for you to be perfectly comfortable. You can HEAR nearby the sound of water. Take a moment to LISTEN. What else can you hear? Perhaps you can hear the gentle call of birds or the rustling of leaves. What can you SMELL in this place? Is there a scent, perhaps of flowers in the breeze?
Spend as much time as you like in this place. Rest. Be at peace & know that you can always come back here any time you wish for respite & relaxation…
When you are ready, in your mind, look for a foot path that leads away from the spot where you have been resting. Take a walk on this path. It will take you to another place, also peaceful place, but this is a place to meet someone very special. Here you will meet a being of great wisdom & love. Follow the path in your mind until it comes to an open space. SEE this place as covered with grass, & on the grass is an exquisitely woven carpet. Upon the carpet rest a number of beautiful silk pillows. You know in your mind that you are going to make yourself comfortable on the carpet & pillows. So situate yourself in this meeting place & know that everything there is for you to use as you see fit. Look around & see what is there. SEE this place as filled with wonderful crystal clear light. Everything is bright & colourful. You see green grass & green leaves. Flowers bloom & their scent is very pleasant.
Imagine now that you are inviting into this wonderful place a being of great wisdom & compassion. Because you are seeking understanding, this being is pleased to come to you. Soon you find that seated across from you is someone whose heart is full of love & whose mind is pure & wise. You look into their eyes & see love. It is as if their whole body radiates light & love. From the area of their heart a bright light shines directly into your heart. You feel in that light a warm & kindly energy. A sense of well-being builds up in your heart & spreads through your whole body. From top to bottom you are filled with a loving light that glows into every cell in your body. Every cell, every muscle in your body is touched by healing love.
Now perhaps you have a question for this wise one. Perhaps something has been troubling you & you need an answer. Perhaps some thought or emotion has been a stumbling block to your development. You are free to ask whatever you would like. Form your question & then listen very carefully.. Take as much time as you need.
It is possible that this is not the time for you to have an answer, but if it is time, see what presents itself. The answer may come as a thought. You might hear words in your mind or see an image. Be open to whatever arises from the source of wisdom.
Feel free to have a dialogue with this friendly being with whom you share this special place. Perhaps you would like to spend time with them quietly. When you feel that you are finished, prepare to leave this place.
Return your attention to your body. As I count 1 to 5
( 1,2,3,4,5!) Feel yourself in your body. Take a deep breath and let it out. Clench you fists. Stretch your arms and legs and open your eyes.
Fully back to every day consciousness…wide awake, alert & feeling wonderful!
I hope that you have enjoyed this beautiful guided meditation & visualisation…. which is an example of the relaxing, calm approach I use in therapy sessions.