By Duke Integrative Medicine Programs Team
Guided imagery, or visualization, encompasses several techniques meant to explore our beliefs and
attitudes about ourselves and the world around us by tapping into our subconscious mind. This exploration is intended to impact our physical and mental well-being, bringing about positive changes such as relaxation, better focus, and improved performance. Guided imagery has many uses that include: stress reduction, sleep improvement, pain management, promotion of healing with surgery or illness, behavior change (e.g., losing weight, smoking cessation), and enhancing performance (e.g., athletics, public speaking).
Guided imagery works by utilizing our imagination and the mind-body connection. It involves eliciting mental images that allow us to re-create memories or visualize future and hypothetical experiences. Using our senses – sight, sound, taste, smell, movement, and feeling – we invite our minds to imagine every detail related to our visions. In doing so, we can influence our behaviors and responses to help achieve the desired outcome.
The body tends to respond to visualization in the same way as if it were an actual experience. For example, we will soon begin to salivate if we imagine slowly sucking on a lemon slice with great detail – the sour, tart taste and the soft, juicy texture. Research has shown mental rehearsing or motor imagery to be as effective as physical practice in athletics or other types of performance.66-71 Guided imagery has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, pain, nausea, depression, fatigue, insomnia, and fear of medical procedures in patients with arthritis, cancer, sickle cell, and other chronic conditions.72-77
Guided imagery can be led in person by a trained practitioner or audio recordings to facilitate the technique with participants. No special equipment is needed, though cushions or mats may be desired if your practice takes place while sitting or lying on hard surfaces.
MIND-BODY TOOLKIT | CULTIVATING RESILIENCY | Copyright © 2017 Duke Integrative Medicine
About Duke Health & Well-Being Programs
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