In guided imagery, you use your “mind’s eye” to picture the situation you are dealing with or the disease that is affecting you. Guided imagery connects the mind and the body by activating the parasympathetic response which results in relaxation. The body does not discern the difference between an image and reality and reacts with the same response of relaxation to imagery. In a state of total relaxation, the mind and body respond more to healing and growth. Research has found that athletes that use imagery as part of a comphrensive program for healing after injury healed feaster Ievleva and Orlick (1999).
Imagery involves using all of the senses to create an experience. There are two types of imagery: direct (when you choose a specific part in the body to heal), indirect (an image of something healing to promote a healing response in the body).
Using imagery in the medical field has been studied in different areas. For example, cancer research on using imagery (psychoneuroimmunology) has found that patients report improvement in mood, decreased anxiety, decreased pain after surgery and improvement in quality of life (Baider et al., 2001; Burns, 2001; Donaldson, 2000). Patients with cancer are asked to visualize an army of soldiers (macrophages in the immune system) surrounding an enemy of invaders (cancer) and eventually subduing them. In other cases, patients were asked to visualize more abstract non tangible images, like certain colors, or flowing water as a source of healing going through the entire body.Dr Martin Rossman (Integrative Medicine) lists some areas where guided imagery can used for, including preparing for surgery, coping with chronic illness, managing pain and gear.
How guided imagery works
Guided imagery can be done alone, listening to a recording or with an experienced guide. A guided imagery script usually include starting in a calm place, and has the listener imaging how s/he may approach a problem, or visualize the program change into something else. During this process, the person becomes active in their own healing process, rather than being passive.
Anyone can benefit from guided imagery, including adults and children. It may be harder at the beginning for adults to listen to a guided imagery as they tend to analyze the script. However, with continued practice, the benefits of guided imagery increase. Guided imagery is not meant to replace getting medical care or working with a healthcare professional, but is rather meant to enhance recovery and healing. People that have a history of trauma or psychosis should be cautious when using guided imagery and consult with a healthcare professional.
Some resources that you may want to check out are: