The Power of Imagination

 I have been told that I have quite the imagination. If I think something will go wrong, my mind takes it to the next level. I go from a concerned level to disaster level pretty quickly.

As I sit in class doing guided imagery, and read the research on how visualization can help improve a patient’s response to treatment and surgery, It hits me; we have the power to change our body’s chemistry through our thoughts?!

Sounds a little crazy doesnt it?

So what does “guided imagery” mean?

The Academy for Guided Imagery (AGI) classifies the therapeutic application of guided imagery into three categories:

  1. Stress reduction and relaxation
  2. Active visualization or directed imagery – for improving performance, changing behavior, or influencing an outcome
  3. Receptive imagery – in which words and images are brought to consciousness to explore and give information about symptoms, treatments, moods or illnesses

Guided imagery is the process of listening to someone’s voice guide you through a mental picture. Our minds (conscious and subconscious) can create images in our waking or sleeping (dreaming/daydreaming) lives. Guided imagery helps to harness this natural and amazing ability to CHANGE our physiology.

Amazing, right?

Years of clinical research confirms this. There are studies that show nurses doing a guided imagery with a patients before surgery. The patients decreased their stay in the hospital after surgery, and healed faster than the patients who did not participate in guided imagery.

How many times have you been sleeping and wake yourself up because you dreamed that you were falling? In your dream you may experience fear, excitement, rush of adrenaline. You wake up and notice that you are sweating and your heart is racing. Why, you weren’t actually falling? But you produced a physical response.

Guiding your imagination is a tool you can use but you have to be willing to give it a try. We already use it, we just have to learn how to use it to our advantage.

Professional athletes and olympic swimmers use it to help them focus on their goal. Imagine the possibilities in what you can accomplish if you just imagine that you can and you will!

The Mind-Body Connection

I am guilty of going about my day without thinking about how my actions impact my body and mind. There are days that go by without any self-care practices. When I finally take the time to just sit and breathe, practice yoga or get an acupuncture session I notice the difference instantly. My body is more at ease, my mind and spirit are calm, the back pain I experience is gone and my headaches subside. What is most surprising is what difference it makes in my interactions with my husband, co-workers and strangers I encounter on the road.

Though I have been practicing yoga for years now, I did not make the mind body connection until I practiced self-care for one week straight. As part of a movement awareness class I practiced qi gong, yoga and soft-belly breathing for seven consecutive days. I went online and found a couple of free 20 minute videos and  began my practice. Within the day I noticed a significant change not only in my body, but my mind was clear, my mood was lighter and my spirit felt at peace because I wasnt so worried or caught up in the daily grind.

I am a “worry-wart” by nature and I tend to rush because if I am not running late I have a long to-do list.  I am also a control freak and want to make the most of my day by cramming in as much as I can. Which, come to think about it is a little counter-intuitive for someone wanting to live with less stress.

Needless to say that despite my controlling characteristics I am learning to live more in the “calm and at ease” space that I discovered during my week of self-care.

Instead of living in the constant “fight or flight” state and doing damage to our adrenal glands why not take three long breaths?

Our bodies are capable of creating and living in a state of relaxation, why not take advantage of these free tools? Below are some easy steps you can take on a daily basis to kick start your journey to less stress.

1. Before opening an email take three deep breaths from your belly (you should feel your belly expand with every inhale).

2.  During your lunch break go outside (weather permitting), sit comfortably with your back against a wall or bench and your feet on the ground. Let your arms relax and close your eyes gently. Begin to breathe, in through your nose and out through your mouth. Take 5 minutes and increase as needed.

3. Go for a walk! Walking meditations are easy and free. Instead of bringing your phone and checking it as you walk, plug in some of your favorite music OR go without media and bring your awareness to the sights, smells, what you hear. Feel the wind against your hair and the sun on your skin. How does this feel? Bring your awareness to your surroundings while walking in silence

If you need a guided soft belly meditation I would recommend Dr. James Gordon’s soft belly meditation.