Guided visualization is one of those practices that’s so easy to do and so enjoyable. If you struggle with meditation, guided visualization is an amazing option. Even if you’re a seasoned meditator, adding visualization to your practice can be quite enjoyable. Do you remember being read to as a child? Guided visualization has that same calming effect and stimulates your imagination in the same way. It’s the grown-up version of relaxing and having someone read you a favorite story.
Even more than that, guided visualization can be a powerful tool to help you achieve goals and improve your health.
The great news is, guided visualization is pretty much free and doesn’t have to take very long in order for you to experience the benefits.
Let’s explore guided visualization and how to use it to impact your health.
What Is Guided Visualization?
Guided visualization is a type of meditation — but it employs relaxing sounds and imagery to encourage your senses and your imagination.
Typically in meditation, you try to clear your mind of thought. You may use a chant or focus on one thing in particular to calm your mind.
But with guided visualization, you have someone else (or you can make a recording of yourself) lead you through a story. The guide will typically ask you to imagine doing certain things, like walking along a forest path. They will direct you to notice the moss growing on the side of the rocks and trees, and hear the trickle of a creek nearby. Sometimes, they will guide you through imagining certain aspects of your life in a positive light, like your career or your relationships.
Other times, guided visualization can be used by elite athletes. They envision themselves making that putt on the golf course or swimming the fastest in the pool. They engage all of their senses and make the experience as tangible as they possibly can. Many successful sports figures credit these kinds of techniques with their success.
Lately, business people have been getting in on this method as well. They start each day by imagining their business success and the outcomes they want to achieve.
Some wellness practitioners also encourage their patients to envision their healing process from disease or injury.
How Does Guided Visualization Work?
Your brain is an amazingly complex organ — and it demonstrates a preference for the visual. It seems as though your brain actually has a difficult time determining the difference between what is real and what is imagined visually. So when you picture yourself in great detail, engaging your senses along the way…it seems as if your brain doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagery.
Some very interesting things can happen when your brain visualizes things.
In one study, researchers found that simply thinking about exercising wrist muscles for 11 minutes a day, 5 days a week resulted in wrist muscles that were 2 times stronger than those of the control group.
Another study showed that imagining bicep curls resulted in an increase of strength by 13.5%.
Scientists theorize that when you create a mental image when in a relaxed state, the limbic system “accepts” that image as a kind of instruction. From there, it’s thought that the limbic system tells the hypothalamus to create physiological change.
Benefits Of Guided Visualization
The benefits of guided visualization certainly don’t stop with imagining that you’re working out and gaining muscle mass…(and just so we’re clear, I’m not suggesting you replace your workout with a guided visualization!)
Some of the other benefits of a regular visualization practice include:
- Stress reduction
- Coping with pain
- Reduced anxiety
- Lessened symptoms of depression
- Stroke recovery
- Increased immunity
- Decreased insomnia
There’s plenty of scientific evidence to suggest that guided visualization can be a very powerful tool to improve a variety of health outcomes.
It’s inexpensive, easy for almost everyone to do (including children), and can be rather enjoyable.
How Do I Practice Guided Visualization?
There are several ways to start a regular guided visualization practice.
One easy way is to visit the app store and search for a meditation app or guided visualization. You can listen to thousands of options on your phone. You can also easily google ‘guided visualization’ for many, many choices. There are also ones that are scripts that you can record yourself reading and listen to them regularly.
If you have specific goals in mind for your visualization, you can always just come up with your own script and record it yourself. Many people like to play binaural beats behind their recordings for an extra layer of relaxation and sensory activation. There are several options for binaural beats on the internet and YouTube.
I love to recommend this practice to my patients as part of their healing journey.
I hope that you experience the same kind of results that they do.
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