Guided imagery is a relaxation strategy that can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, by helping us to find a sense of calm in both our minds and bodies. Through guided imagery, we can access the calming qualities of our real or imagined “happy” places by systematically imagining how these places feel through our 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, sound, and taste).
Although it may take some practice at first, guided imagery can be a powerful tool to find relaxation and calm wherever we may be. This relaxation strategy can lower blood pressure, reduce pain, and decrease feelings of worry or sadness.
Guided Imagery: Getting Ready
Because guided imagery exercises ask us to vividly imagine our “happy” places through all 5 senses, to maximize your experience, it is important to take a moment to prepare for the exercise before diving in. Prior to engaging in guided imagery, we want to be sure to do the following:
- Choose your real or made up “happy” place.
- Write down how you have felt or would feel in the place you have chosen, making sure you focus on describing how this place feels with all 5 senses.
- What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What do you taste? What are you touching?
- Find a quiet place and a comfortable position to close your eyes and relax for 10-15 min.
Guided Imagery: The Script
Most people who are just starting to practice guided imagery do so with the help of a live or pre-recorded script (Click here for a good example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ch88kmlls). Below, I have provided an example of a script that I use when introducing this skill to clients in order to further clarify what guided imagery can be like.
- With your eyes closed, imagine a beautiful, quiet, and peaceful place where you feel at ease and safe.
- You may stop at any time if you feel uncomfortable.
- Take a moment and look around.
- What can you see? What colors do you see? What else can you see?
- What do you hear? Can you hear waves or wind? Take a moment to listen to the sounds in this place.
- What can you smell? As you breathe in, let the smell of this place enter your body. Take a moment and focus on what you can smell.
- What do you taste? Is the taste sweet or sour or something else? Focus on what you can taste in this place.
- What is touching you and your skin? Perhaps you can feel the breeze on your skin or the sand between your toes.
- Take as much time as you need in this place. Relax and allow your body to feel safe. You can come back to this calm place in your mind any time.
- When you are ready, return to the present time and place. Take a deep breath, stretch your arms and legs, and slowly open your eyes again.
- Take a moment to reflect on how you felt before the exercise and notice how you feel now.
With practice, guided imagery can be an extremely useful relaxation tool with many benefits to those suffering with anxiety, depression, or other health issues.