Guided imagery and how it can help with stress reduction

Guided imagery can be a healthy outlet to help you feel more in control of your emotions and thoughts and to help improve your sense of wellbeing.

Guided imagery is a method that helps you use your imagination to direct your thoughts toward a relaxing or peaceful scene. Because of the way the mind and body are connected, when you use your senses to imagine a scene, you can feel like you are actually there.

For example, try this scenario:

Imagine a meadow in the morning, feel the crisp, cool morning air. As the sun rises, feel the warmth on your face. You may see the dew sparkling in the sunlight, hear birds chirping, and smell the wildflowers.

Imagining yourself in a calm, peaceful setting can help you relax and relieve stress. Guided imagery may help healing, learning, creativity and performance. It can also help you feel more in control of your emotions and thoughts and help improve your attitude, health and sense of wellbeing.

To give guided imagery a try, follow these steps:

  • Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.
  • Start by just taking a few deep breaths to help relax.
  • Picture a setting that is calm and peaceful. This could be a beach, mountain setting, meadow or a scene that you choose.
  • Imagine your scene and try to add some detail. For example, is there a breeze? What does the sky look like? Is it clear, or are there clouds?
  • It often helps to add a path to your scene. For example, as you enter the meadow, imagine a path leading you through the meadow to the trees on the other side. As you follow the path farther into the meadow you feel more and more relaxed.
  • When you are deep into your scene and are feeling relaxed, take a few minutes to breathe slowly and feel the calm.
  • When you are ready, slowly take yourself out of the scene back to the present. Tell yourself that you will feel relaxed and refreshed and will bring that sense of calm with you.
  • Count to three, and open your eyes.

It may help to have an instructor or audio recording to follow. You can also use a script (a set of written instructions), but hearing the instructions may be a better way to relax during the process.

For more information about helping with stress reduction, consider enrolling in the Michigan State University Extension online class called RELAX: Alternatives to Anger.

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