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Guided Imagery: How is it Done and What are its Benefits?

What is Guided Imagery?

Guided imagery is a relaxation technique involving dwelling on a positive mental image of a scene. It is also called visualization. Guided imagery helps in reducing stress and improving the sense of well-being.

What is Guided Imagery?

It involves trying guided imagery to picture events, scenes, and other things that cause a feeling of relaxation and calm. The aim of Guided imagery technique is to stimulate the body’s natural relaxation response. (1) This response leads to physiological changes:

Guided imagery intentionally makes a person think about a peaceful place or scenario that promotes relaxation and mindfulness. The idea is to make the body react to its own thoughts.

For example, in a stressful situation, the body becomes stressed and tensed and the heart rate increases, blood pressure increases, and a person starts feeling jittery and unfocused. In such cases focusing attention on pleasant scenarios relaxes the mind and body. The muscles may feel less tight and the mind may feel calmer and more at ease. A calm mind and body are able to cope better with physical, mental, and emotional stress.

How is Guided Imagery Done?

How is Guided Imagery Done?

Guided imagery is done step by step in the following way:

  • The first step is to sit or lie down in a comfortable position
  • Then close eyes and take deep breaths.
  • Do deep inhalation and exhalation and keep breathing deeply.
  • Imagine a peaceful situation such as a lush forest, a majestic mountain, a tropical beach, or any place or situation you like.
  • Think about the place in detail and imagine the sounds, scents, and sensations of being in a peaceful and calming place.
  • Envision a path and imagine yourself walking on it.
  • Relax in the scene for several minutes and continue breathing deeply.
  • After 15 minutes, open your eyes slowly with a count of 3.

Guided Imagery

Benefits of Guided Imagery

Guided imagery affects health positively and hence can benefit health in many ways.

  • Reduces Stress and Anxiety

    Guided imagery can be helpful in reducing stress and anxiety.

    A study was done in 2014 on females with fibromyalgia. They were divided into two groups, one practiced guided imagery on a daily basis while the other group practiced their usual routine. At the end of the study, the group practicing guided imagery had a significant decrease in the feelings of stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression. (2)

    Another study compared the stress-relieving benefits of guided imagery with the clinical massage. In the study patients in the progressive care unit were involved. It was observed that 30 minutes of guided imagery had a result similar to 15 minutes of massage. (3)

    Guided surgery may be helpful in decreasing pre-surgery anxiety and also pretest anxiety in children. (4,5)

  • Helps in Improving Sleep

    When a person is stressed or has anxiety, his sleep may be affected.

    Several studies show that guided imagery can be helpful in improving sleep in such cases. A 2017 study showed that the participant had improvement in sleep. (3)

    Another study involving older adults found that mindfulness practice along with guided imagery helped in the improvement of sleep quality. (6)

  • Decreases Pain

    Research shows that stress can worsen the perception of pain. (7) Studies also found that guided imagery was useful in managing pain after orthopedic surgery and post-surgery pain in children. (8, 9)

    Also, in a study, it was found that guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation helped in easing pain in patients with cancer. (10)

  • Reduced Depression Symptoms

    Depression is associated with negative mental images and guided imagery helps in creating positive images and reducing depression. (11)

    In a study, it was found to be associated with reduced depression symptoms in people with cancer and also in reducing pain and anxiety. (12)

    Guided imagery is a relaxation technique that helps in improving health and well-being. There are many benefits associated with it and is also easy to do. Those with anxiety, stress and depression need to speak with a psychiatrist before going ahead with any type of therapy.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 3, 2022

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