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Guided Imagery and Other Practices

30 Oct

Guided Imagery is a kind of deliberate, directed daydreaming that uses soothing music and narrative to evoke multisensory memory, symbol and fantasy. This combination gently guides the overactive mind into a relaxed, immersive state of healing reverie. It works easily and powerfully for most people, and doesn’t require much from them – just some basic imagination. Many people who have trouble meditating or relaxing do really well with guided imagery.

 Tips for Guided Imagery:

  • Listening once or twice a day for several weeks makes a difference.
  • Imagery involves using all of your senses, not just visualizing.
  • The best times to listen are when waking up and falling asleep.
  • Even if you keep falling asleep while listening, you still benefit.
  • Imagery that evokes emotion and sensation has more impact.
  • You don’t have to believe in its impact for it to work.
  • The more you use imagery, the better at it you get.
  • Guided imagery works even better in a group than alone.
  • Imagery doesn’t compete with other forms of treatment.

Hypnosis is a way of accessing an altered or “trance” state for healing, and uses imagery or verbal suggestion after an initial “induction” that helps quiet the thinking brain and encourage reverie. The language is usually more directive and less choiceful than imagery, and some people prefer it that way. Imagery is actually a kind of hypnosis, and people who respond well to imagery generally do well with hypnosis too. Research shows that they are both very effective.

Meditation and Breathwork train us to focus our minds on something very specific and narrow, and thus help us clear the decks of thought-clutter. Mindfulness meditation has us continuously observe and release our thoughts, our breath, our sensations and our feelings, in order to provide us with healthy detachment from our own reactions and an astonishing ability to handle stress. Other kinds of meditation have us focus on counting our breaths or repeating a simple phrase (mantra) or watching a flame or even a spot on the wall. For people who like quiet and stillness, or who have trouble imagining things, meditation is preferable to imagery. But, unlike imagery, it takes discipline and practice to use it effectively. Research shows that meditation is highly effective, too.

Yoga and Qigong (pronounced “chi gung”) are both forms of moving meditation. Yoga involves focused awareness and conscious breathing while stretching into specific poses (asanas). Qigong involves moving in prescribed, flowing ways with great awareness, while focusing on imagery and the breath. Both are deeply relaxing and very powerful healing tools, and they are especially good for fidgeters who loathe sitting still. In addition, the movements themselves tone muscle, build strength and enhance immunity.

Of course, most of the superb, carefully chosen titles available at the Health Journeys web site use more than just one approach. By combining two or more of these synergistic resources, with their varying styles and methods, you can catalyze even stronger benefits for yourself. The gifted practitioners collaborate beautifully with each other, and more importantly, with you.

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award