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Stress Management: Doing Guided Imagery to Relax


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Have you ever been in the middle of a stressful situation and wished you could be somewhere else—like lying on a tropical beach? Guided imagery helps you use your imagination to take you to a calm, peaceful place.

  • Because of the way the mind and body are connected, guided imagery can make you feel like you are experiencing something just by imagining it.
  • You can do guided imagery with audio recordings, an instructor, or a script (a set of written instructions) to lead you through the process.
  • You use all of your senses in guided imagery. For example, if you want a tropical setting, you can imagine the warm breeze on your skin, the bright blue of the water, the sound of the surf, the sweet scent of tropical flowers, and the taste of coconut so that you actually feel like you are there.
  • Imagining yourself in a calm, peaceful setting can help you relax and relieve stress.

Guided imagery is a method that helps you use your imagination to direct your thoughts toward a relaxing or peaceful scene. Because of the way the mind and body are connected, when you use your senses to imagine a scene, you can feel like you are actually there. For example, if you are imagining a meadow in the morning, feel the crisp, cool morning air. And as the sun rises, feel the warmth on your face. You may see the dew sparkling in the sunlight, hear birds chirping, and smell the wildflowers.

Test Your Knowledge

Guided imagery uses the mind-body connection to make you feel like you are experiencing something just by imagining it.

True
False

Imagining yourself in a calm, peaceful setting can help you relax and relieve stress. Guided imagery may help healing, learning, creativity, and performance. It can also help you feel more in control of your emotions and thoughts and help improve your attitude, health, and sense of well-being.

Test Your Knowledge

Guided imagery can help you relax.

True
False

To give guided imagery a try, follow these steps:

  1. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.
  2. Start by just taking a few deep breaths to help you relax.
  3. Picture a setting that is calm and peaceful. This could be a beach, a mountain setting, a meadow, or a scene that you choose.
  4. Imagine your scene, and try to add some detail. For example, is there a breeze? How does it feel? What do you smell? What does the sky look like? Is it clear, or are there clouds?
  5. It often helps to add a path to your scene. For example, as you enter the meadow, imagine a path leading you through the meadow to the trees on the other side. As you follow the path farther into the meadow you feel more and more relaxed.
  6. When you are deep into your scene and are feeling relaxed, take a few minutes to breathe slowly and feel the calm.
  7. Think of a simple word or sound that you can use in the future to help you return to this place. Then, when you are ready, slowly take yourself out of the scene and back to the present. Tell yourself that you will feel relaxed and refreshed and will bring your sense of calm with you.
  8. Count to 3, and open your eyes. Notice how you feel right now.

It may help to have an instructor or audio recording to follow. You can also use a script (a set of written instructions), but hearing the instructions may be a better way to relax into the process.

Test Your Knowledge

You can do guided imagery with audio recordings, an instructor, or scripts to lead you through the process.

True
False

Other Works Consulted

  • Freeman L (2009). Imagery. In L Freeman, ed., Mosby’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine: A Research-Based Approach, 3rd ed., pp. 252–282. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerPatrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerSteven Locke, MD - Psychiatry
Last RevisedMay 15, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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