Guided imagery is a program that guides your thoughts and suggestion towards a relaxed focused state. Guided imagery can be used anywhere but I would suggest you use it at home when you are able to lay down, relax, and where if you fall asleep there will not be negative consequences. I use this technique after a difficult day, especially when I am having difficulty falling asleep because the stressful events keep racing through my thoughts after I laid down to attempt to go to sleep.
Did you ever see the movie Happy Gilmore starring Adam Sandler? He is instructed by his golf coach to go to “his happy place.” I am going to show you how to do guided imagery by asking you to choose a happy place. Since all of us are different and we will all have different happy places, I am going to take you to my happy place as an example.
One word of precaution, this technique should not replace the sound advice you could get from a mental health professional that knows you or your medical doctor.
The first thing you must do is find a place to lay down and relax where you will not be disturbed. Turn off television, radios, video games, and the lights. Lock the door and turn off your phone if you have to. Close your eyes and start thinking about your feet. In your mind, tell your feet to relax. Feel the feet relax. Move up the body telling each part to relax and feel the relaxation come across your body like you were getting into water as the water is moving up the body part it should be relaxing. Make your body feel light as a feather. Do not be stiff as a board. Relax and pay attention to the blood moving through your body. Pay attention to the tiny hairs all over your body. Completely relax your body. Now completely relax your mind. Try to only thinking about yourself lying on a cloud. Feel yourself being lifted into the air on a cloud. Actually try to imagine a soft fluffy cloud that could lift you up into the air and carry you off to your “happy place.”
Now I am going to take you to my happy place. Of course, choose your own happy place. This place should be a place of relaxation, calm, and serene. Someplace that only you know of and are not disturbed by anyone or anything else. Now to my place.
Imagine the cloud carrying you away from your place in your town, city, or home. You travel a great distance but you feel relaxed in body and also relaxed in mind because you are leaving the hustle and bustle of your daily life far away. You are going to a place where there are no people bothering you, no daily struggles, and no traffic of people or vehicles. The cloud slowly starts to descend and I want you to feel the cloud slowly coming out of the sky. You are still relaxed and but preparing yourself to land softly.
The cloud lands on the ground and you step off. You look around 360 degrees. There are no city skyscrapers, no people, and no worries. Your only decision to make is which direction to walk in. You choose and start going that direction. You choose the direction opposite of where the sun was coming up. Feel the sun shining on your neck, gently warming, and the tiny hairs on the nape of your neck. Feel them standing up and saluting the sun. In the distance you can hear the ducks “talking” to each other communicating that the day has begun and their journey has started. You feel the cool breeze blow through your hair like the fingers of a mother comforting you when you lay down to sleep. You smell the fresh cut grass and wonder who does that when no one is present.
You are continuing to walk and now the sun is rising to its zenith and you come upon a creek. You take off your shoes and roll up off the socks. You step onto the banks of the creek and feel the tiny pebbles massage the bottom of your feet. You touch the water and notice that even though it is running water it is not too cold and feels just right. You cup your hands and drink the water, which feels cool now as it runs down your throat, quenching your thirst. Your step into the creek and the mud squishes between your toys caressing them like massaging hands. You can hear the running water flowing as the creek water tickles your ankles.
Now you step out the other side of the creek and make your way in the same direction as you have been going. Ahead is a golden field of wheat, swaying back and forth in the cool gentle air. The sun provides the warmth to the top of your head. You can hear the bird chirping, the wind blowing the wheat, and a pheasant flushed out of the wheat in a distance. You grab a blade of the wheat and chew on it. It is not bitter as you imagine as it wrestles with your tongue. You feel the wheat rubbing up against your legs as if it was pushing you along to your destination.
As you leave the wheat field, you see your destination in the distance. The green grass is a carpet leading to a small hill with a tree perched on top of it. You walk for a little bit enjoying the smells and visuals of the countryside. You start to ascend the small incline of the gentle rolling hill and make your way to the tree. You already knew it was an apple tree but now can see the shiny red apples dangling from the branches. The sun is going down and causing you to squint a little. You look like you are smiling and in reality you are.
You reach up grab the biggest apple you see, roll it in your hand and you sit down by the tree. You can feel the bark of the tree as you lean against it. A line of ants are moving away from you just a few feet away from your hand. They follow each other and some are carrying crumbs of something back to the colony. You notice the sun is kissing the horizon now. The ducks that were in the distance make their way back to where they were going this morning. You can hear them honking away. You eat the apple as a drip of apple juice seeps out of your mouth, makes its way down your chin and falls onto the ground. The ground soaks up the drop without hesitation just as you take another bite in much the same way.
The sun seems to be going down faster now and is halfway gone. You can still feel some heat warming your face, but can also feel the dampness of the night air moving in over your body. The stars are twinkling at you through the red and purple notes of colors making their way from the horizon as the sun winks at you from its resting place beneath the horizon.
The same cloud that delivered you this morning starts to descend next to you. You know it is time to go and without reluctance because you know you can come back anytime you want. You crawl onto the cloud and it ascends making you feel light as a feather again. You pass over the same area you trekked to get to the apple tree. Everything looks like a miniature scale Lego version of what you seen before.
It is getting darker when you start to descend back to the ground. The cloud stops and you feel your body getting off the cloud. You are back to your starting point but somehow you are not the same person that left on the voyage. You are relaxed. Your body and mind are clear and you feel rejuvenated. You open your eyes and realize your mind is open too.
Example of Guided Imagery
Another Guided Imagery Session
You feel like you can achieve what you need without the stress that your body and mind was consuming earlier. That, my friends, is guided imagery. If done right, I usually go to sleep about that time. You can do it too. You can effectively use this technique to reduce stress. This technique is very powerful and will help you control the stress in your life. As I said in the beginning, this is not a substitute for help you may need from a mental health professional or your medical doctor.
My advice for good mental hygiene is to do guided imagery at least once a day. Guided imagery can take from 20-30 minutes. It may be that you do not have to do it every day, but if stress is a factor, this will help you alleviate it.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation and Diaphragmatic Breathing techniques are also a great way to reduce stress.
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