Guided Imagery

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The use of directed thoughts to create an imaginary experience, with the goal of reaching a peaceful, focused state of mind. It can be used to decrease pain, enhance sleep, relieve anxiety, strengthen the immune system, and increase a person’s sense of control. By reducing stress, it can even lead to better blood glucose control.

Guided imagery may take the form of another person talking, narrated tapes or CDs, or “self-talk.” To achieve a relaxed state, the person may be instructed to visualize himself in a “safe” and pleasant setting, such as a sunny beach, a placid pond, or a shady garden. If the visualization is successful, the body responds as if the person were actually in that setting, slowing down the pulse and breathing.

Guided imagery can be especially useful in helping people stay calm before, during, and after stressful medical and dental procedures. Before the procedure, the person may be instructed to identify any negative feelings or worries and replace them, through images that represent tranquility and renewal, with peace of mind and feelings of health and strength.

During medical procedures, people can play guided imagery tapes or CDs to help them focus away from any pain or anxiety. They may continue to use recordings or seek another source of imagery while recovering. The use of guided imagery following medical procedures has been shown to speed recovery and reduce the need for pain medication.

Originally Published April 1, 2011

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