5 Guided Imagery Scenarios to Help Reduce Stress

Tune into the part of your mind that holds inner calm and joy, where you are energetic, vibrant, and well.

June 13, 2016
woman meditating at work

Guided imagery is a powerful tool to help you reconnect with optimism, positive thoughts, and all the ways in which your body is working well. According to the prestigious Cleveland Clinic, "guided imagery is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It's a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind, thereby providing a 'mental escape.'"

More: 6 Undeniable Reasons Why You Should Meditate

Research has shown that guided imagery can reduce depression, pain, stress, and anxiety as well as deepen your sleep, increase relaxation, and enhance healing and quality of life.

You can harness the power of guided imagery anytime, anywhere, even in the midst of acute stress. In fact, you have probably engaged in guided imagery all of your life—for example, salivating as you imagine your favorite food or getting excited thinking about someone you're sexually attracted to. These are instances of your psychology influencing your physiology.

More: 6 Weird Signs That You're Way Too Stressed Out

To get started, try any of these guided imagery scenarios that you can customize to appeal to you. The key is to find images and scenarios that you enjoy and that are relaxing for you. There is no dogma or "right" or "wrong" way to engage in guided imagery. It's simply a strategy to help you tune into the part of your mind that holds inner calm and joy, where you are energetic, vibrant, and well.

woman meditation breathing
Breathing in Peace

Imagine a relaxing, peaceful setting, and with this image in your mind, focus on your breathing, keeping it deep, calm, and unhurried.

man meditating breathing deep
Slow and Soften

Focus on slowing your heart rate and reducing musculoskeletal tension, as if your bones have turned to Jell-O and all of your tender points have softened. 

More: 10 Quick and Easy Ways to De-Stress

woman meditating meadow
Five Senses Centering

Picture yourself in a calm and beautiful place to instantly shift stress. Now, in your imagination, try to incorporate input to all five senses. See the place, hear its natural sounds, feel the breeze on your skin, smell the nearby plants or flowers, taste the water in that nearby brook. Integrating the sensory input makes the experience more tactile and may help you more deeply engage in it and relax.

relaxing bubble bath
Bubble Bath Sensations

Imagine yourself in a bubble bath. Feel the warm, soapy water dissolving the tension in your body. Smell the fragrance and visualize the soft, amber glow of the candles you've lit in the room. Maybe there's some soft classical music playing, and you can hear that while you taste the wine or dark chocolate you're treating yourself to. 

More: 3 Simple Strategies for Keeping Stress In Check

hands summer rain
Sweet Sounds Relaxation

You might find that you can access your "inner sanctum" more easily in the presence of calming sounds. Pick ones that appeal to you, such as a gently rolling stream, a summer rain, song birds in a forest, or calming Native American flutes.

Remember, when it comes to guided imagery, there are no hard-and-fast rules. The only requirement is finding something that works for you and doing it consistently for about 10 minutes every day. The point is to relax and de-stress. If you find yourself feeling more agitated because you think you're "doing it wrong," please try to remove feelings of self-judgment. You are in a process of healing. Be kind to yourself. Guided imagery and relaxation exercises can be done for 20 to 30 minutes a day. 

Above all, be patient with yourself. It may take some time before you are able to identify tense versus relaxed muscles or to walk yourself through a pleasant scenario in your mind. The important thing is to do these exercises in a way that works for you—or consider seeking alternative stress reduction and relaxation methods, such as meditation, tai chi, or yoga.

New patterns of physical movement--walking, riding a bicycle, dancing—become second-nature after an initial period of learning and practicing. So will the new patterns and responses you cultivate through this plan. Even in the midst of a stressful situation, you'll be able to preserve peace and calm in your body and mind.

Adapted from The Fibro Fix

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