How Does Guided Visualisation Work?  

Guided visualisation, otherwise known as guided imagery, involves “concentrating on a specific object, sound, or experience in order to calm your mind”. It is a type of meditation in which rather than focusing on our immediate surroundings, our breath or our experience of sitting in our bodies, we create an imaginary setting or scenario to focus on. It is one of many great ways in which to practice mindfulness.

Many people find that having a set of guidelines gently instructing you on what to visualise is easier to do than focusing on the breath like in most meditations. It is a great starting point and just as effective. Through guided visualisation you induce a state of profound calm and relaxation.

Our bodies react to our thoughts. You’ll notice that if you imagine a stressful scenario, your body becomes tense. Your heart rate and blood pressure may even increase, and you’ll likely find it rather difficult to focus. Thus, it’s only logical that when you focus on pleasant scenarios your mind and body relax. You release muscle tension, and consequently your mind feels calmer and more at ease. When you’re in this state, you’re better equipped to deal with mental, physical and emotional stressors.

Research has shown that guided visualisation can help with a variety of common ailments, such as:

Anxiety and stress – a 2017 study proved that the anxiety relieving effects were equal to that of clinical massage. This is due to the fact that just as massage relaxes your muscles, so too does mindful visualisation.

Sleep issues – sleep quality is reduced when anxious and stressed, and thus guided visualisation before bed can be an incredibly helpful tool to help you fall and stay asleep through the night. There are a plethora of helpful apps that offer guided visualisation audios, such as Calm and Headspace.

Pain – stress decreases our ability to tolerate physical pain. There have been multiple studies testing the effects of guided visualisation on post-surgery pain, as well as cancer patients. In all cases it has proved to be significantly effective.

Depression – part of depression is struggling with negative mental images. It is clear to see how guided visualisation that encourages you to focus on pleasant imagery would be of service. A 2019 study tested the effects of guided visualisation on cancer patients experiencing depression as a result of their illness. It was reported that the practice helped in alleviating their depressive symptoms as well as their experience of physical pain.

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