The benefits of guided imagery on our mental health
Guided imagery is a form of meditation that uses visualisation to create a calming mental image. It is based on the connection between the mind and body, allowing individuals to manage stress and anxiety and promote well-being through positive, calming images and sensations.
Stress is one of the less pleasant parts of life that we all have to deal with on some level or another. Too much of it for too long, though, and both our physical and mental health suffer. It’s important for all of us to manage stress and give our brains regular breaks from it.
Guided imagery is an excellent way to do this. You can practice it whenever and wherever you want, and it doesn’t cost a thing.
What is guided imagery?
Guided imagery is a focused relaxation technique where you think of a peaceful place or setting. We know our bodies respond to our thoughts, so by deeply immersing yourself into your imagined environment, you can evoke a strong sense of calm both in mind and body throughout the experience.
Benefits of guided imagery
Aside from significantly reducing stress, guided imagery also comes with a host of other benefits. Studies have shown that it has the power to reduce anxiety, improve sleep, decrease pain and reduce symptoms of depression.
What equipment do I need?
None! All you need is a few minutes of time, a comfortable place to sit or lie and, ideally, some quiet around you (or noise cancelling headphones).
How to do it
There are a few ways to practice guided imagery. Some people like to use a recording or an app with a guide talking them through the process, but for an authentic, personalised experience you can choose your own imagined adventure.
- First up, get yourself comfortable somewhere you’re not likely to be interrupted. You can either sit or lie down, and you can add in a cosy blanket if you like.
- Gently close your eyes and take a few long, deep breaths. Focus on your breathing for a few moments, you’ll need to inhale and exhale deeply throughout the experience.
- Start to imagine your peaceful setting. It could be a fireplace in a log cabin in majestic mountains, a warm, sandy beach or a cosy cottage porch among fields of lavender.
- As you start to feel settled in your new environment, begin to notice the details in it, the sounds of the crackling fireplace, the sensation of warm sand against your skin or the scent of lavender in the breeze.
- Fully immerse yourself by exploring of what each of your senses – vision, taste, hearing, smell and touch – is experiencing in this calm, relaxing setting. Using all your senses enriches the experience and is what differentiates guided imagery from visualisation or meditation.
- You might like to envision moving around in your scene, paying attention to how the details change for each of the senses in different areas of the scene.
- Relax and enjoy your new environment for as long as you can, at least several minutes, all the while breathing deeply.
- When you’re ready to finish, count to three and slowly open your eyes.
Top tips for beginners
- You might like to start with a few minutes and gradually increase the time of your guided imagery. Just make sure you practice regularly, daily is best if possible.
- If you have trouble thinking of a setting and don’t want to use a recording, have a look on the internet or in books for a relaxing image for inspiration.
- Remove as many distractions as possible. Turn off the phone and other electronics so you can keep your focus on the beautiful, serene new world you’re stepping in to.
- Lastly, don’t stress if it doesn’t go to plan and you find your mind wandering back to worries or to-do lists. Like many things, guided imagery takes practice so start small and build from there (see Top Tip 1).
WHY STUDY AT ACAP?
We know that to help others with their mental roadblocks, our students need to understanding the role stress plays in people’s live and the tools, processes and treatments available to overcome these challenges.
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