Guided imagery is a form of focused relaxation that helps create harmony between the mind and body. It is a way of focusing your imagination to create calm, peaceful images in your mind, thereby providing a “mental escape.”
Guided imagery provides a powerful psychological strategy that enhances a person’s coping skills. Imagery involves all the senses, as well as one’s whole body and emotions. It is a way of viewing your ideas, feelings, experiences and interpretations. Imagery can stimulate changes in bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and respiratory patterns. It can help you tab inner strengths to find hope, courage and other qualities that can help you cope with a variety of conditions.
Almost anyone can use this technique. Patients participate in a guided imagery experience with qualified practitioner. Calm, soothing music with or without nature sounds may be used. Patients also learn how to create their own images and/or use previously created tapes.
Benefits of Guided Imagery
Lifestyle changes or conditions that require medical or surgical interventions often cause patients to feel out of control, scared or overwhelmed. Fear of pain is a commonly expressed concern. Clinical studies show that anxiety can effect pain, prolong recovery time and lower the immune system. Guided imagery can bring about the state of mind and body most conducive to healing – deep relaxation and positive focus.
What Guided Imagery Treats
Guided imagery may help:
- Increase control
- Decrease depression
- Decrease stress and anxiety
- Decrease pain
- Decrease side effects
- Enhance sleep
- Enhance quality of life
- Increase relaxation
- Decrease nausea
- Decrease blood pressure
- Enhance healing
- Improve immune system
- Decrease respiratory difficulties
- Decrease hospital length of stay
- Enhance self-confidence
Patients should avoid guided imagery if they are:
- Actively psychotic
- Not able to think abstractly
- Not able to distinguish fantasy from reality
- Having hallucinations or delusions
- Have dementia or delirium
- Unable to communicate
Research Studies on Guided Imagery
More than 200 research studies in the past 30 years have explored the role of mind-body techniques in helping people prepare for surgical and medical procedures and in helping them recover more rapidly. These studies show that guided imagery can dramatically counteract a loss of control, fear, panic, anxiety, helplessness and uncertainty. It can help people overcome stress, anger, pain, depression, insomnia and other problems often associated with illness and medical/surgical procedures.
Guided imagery has also been found to decrease side effects and complications of medical procedures, reduce recovery time, shorten hospital stays, increase self-confidence and self-control, strengthen the immune system and enhance the ability to heal. In addition, guided imagery is also able to help patients undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, in-vitro fertilization and other treatment procedures.
Mind/body techniques such as guided imagery, meditation, hypnotherapy, progressive relaxation, and paced breathing have been shown to reduce stress, balance the immune response, manage acute and chronic pain, reduce chemotherapy side effects, promote sleep and reduce fear and anxiety. Overall, the techniques can increase a sense of calmness peace of mind, and positive energy.