About Health Journeys (2)
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.
Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular, 55-title, Time Warner Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her first book, Staying Well with Guided Imagery (Warner) is a widely used primer on imagery and healing. Her second book, Your Sixth Sense (Harper Collins) has been translated into 9 languages, with a new 2009 edition just released. 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 and was released in paperback January of 2006. Highlighted in their 20th anniversary edition of their seminal book, Courage to Heal, Ellen Bass and Laura Davis call Invisible Heroes “the most useful book for trauma survivors to be published in the last decade”.
As Prevention Magazine recently noted, Belleruth has been quietly creating an underground revolution among mainstream health and mental health bureaucracies, by persuading major institutions such as the U.S. Veteran’s Administration, the U.S. Dept of Defense, The American Red Cross, Aetna U.S. Healthcare, Kaiser Permanente, Blue Shield of California, United Health Care, Oxford Health Plan, GlaxoSmithKline, Ortho Biotech, Roche, Abbott, Amgen, and nearly 2000 hospitals, mental health centers, recovery clinics and vet centers to distribute her guided imagery recordings, in most instances free of charge to recipients.In addition, her audio programs have been involved in over two dozen clinical trials, with nearly a dozen studies completed to date. Efficacy has been established for several psychological and medical challenges, most recently for PTSD at Duke University Medical Center/Durham Veterans Administration Hospital.
Naparstek received both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Chicago. She maintained her psychotherapy practice for over 30 years and for several years taught graduate students at The Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, Case Western Reserve University. Earlier in her career, she supervised psychiatry residents at Cambridge Hospital/Harvard Medical School and was Chief of Consultation & Education at the Woodburn Center for Community Mental Health in Fairfax County, VA. She also did a brief stint as a musical comedy actress at Second City and The Tip Top Tap of the Allerton Hotel in Chicago, and says that her musical comedy skills sometimes come in handy for teaching.