The association of mental
imagery with body activity is shown easily enough. Picture in your mind, a hot
steaming pizza or another of your favorite snacks. Imagine the food's look,
smell and taste. Your mouth will immediately begin to water. A colleague of
ours has a fear of heights. He says that all he has to do to stir up anxiety
is to imagine himself looking over the edge of a cliff. The pit of his stomach
We are all aware of how
certain environments can be very relaxing, while others can be intensely
stressful. The principle behind the use of imagery in stress reduction is that
we can use our imagination to recreate a place or scene that is very relaxing.
The more intensely we use our imagination to recreate the place or situation,
the stronger and more realistic the experience will be.
is a potent method of stress reduction, especially when combined with physical
relaxation methods such as deep breathing.
Many people who practice progressive muscular relaxation will hold a
comforting image in their mind when fully relaxed. This helps to anchor the
feeling of relaxation in their memory. At other times of the day, they can
picture the image in their minds. This reminds them of the pleasant feeling of
calmness with which they associate the image.
We need to offer one
word of clarification about mental imagery. The human brain is a mass of nerve
cells. Our sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, etc.) convert signals from our
environment into nerve impulses. These feed into the areas of our brain that
interpret that environment. Imagery seeks to create a similar set of nerve
impulses that can feed into those areas of the brain that experience the
outside world. The therapeutic ingredient is not the vividness of the image in
your mind. Do not feel badly if you find that you do not form clear images.
Most important is the focusing of your mind inwards and the process of
imagining. Also remember that there are many different types of images. Some
people can hear or smell images better than they visualize them. This is a no
less helpful approach than picturing images in your mind's eye. In fact,
imagery is likely most powerful when you combine several of these sensory
Go Ahead ..... Imagine
a scene, place, or event that you remember as peaceful, restful, and happy.
You might remember a meadow or farm from your childhood, a waterfall, a
walk through the hills, a picnic site, a drive by the coast line, even a scene
from a movie or a friend or lover. Bring all your senses into the image,
with sounds of running water and birds, the smell of lavender, the taste of
cool spring water, the warmth of the sun, etc. Use the imagined place as a
retreat from stress and pressure. Your image can be anything that works for
you, as long as it feels peaceful such as lying on a beach in a deserted cove.
There you may "see" cliffs, sea and sand around you,
"hear" the waves crashing against rocks, "smell" the salt
in the air, and "feel" the warmth of the sun.
By focusing on the
image for even as little as a minute or two, you can achieve a drop in pulse,
heart rate and even blood pressure. Some people suggest closing your eyes and
placing your hands on your chest, cheeks or forehead while visualizing a
pleasant scene because this helps to connect your body with the image that you
conjure up. Whatever be the posture or setting, so long you feel relaxed feel
free to innovate. But do give imagery a try cause your time investment to get
a good return is minimal.