What Are Imagery Techniques And Their Benefits?

Imagery techniques are very powerful tools that can improve health. They go by many names — such as guided imagery and visualization — and utilize the creative power of the mind to build images that support healing and reduce pain (via Johns Hopkins Medicine). Painting a peaceful picture in one's mind involving the senses (e.g. sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste) can promote feelings of control and healing.

According to MentalHelp.net, guided imagery techniques lower stress, especially when paired with other relaxation techniques like massages and progressive muscle relaxation. Similar to guided meditation, cultivating an imagery practice allows you to detach yourself from unpleasant circumstances. One 2019 study in the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing found that practicing guided imagery for 20 minutes per day was an effective way to reduce anxiety, pain, insomnia, nausea, and depressive symptoms in those with cancer. Another study published in Critical Care Nurse found similar results among patients in a progressive care unit. Visualization also helps to lower blood pressure and promote a general sense of well-being (per Johns Hopkins Medicine).

How to practice imagery techniques

Because imagery techniques require no equipment, it's easy to cultivate a practice anywhere. Whether you're relaxing in blue spaces near the ocean, or taking a break while you're working from home, imagery can promote further relaxation. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, the two most common imagery practices are palming and guided imagery.

As the name suggests, palming is when you place each of your palms gently over your face, making sure to cover your eyes (per Johns Hopkins Medicine). While your eyes are closed, visualize the color you associate stress with, then change it to a new color that you associate with calmness, happiness, and relaxation. 

When it comes to guided imagery, you can find audio recordings online to guide you through the process. If you prefer to do it on your own, MentalHelp.net suggests starting by taking several deep breaths in, then gently closing your eyes and imagining a gorgeous location where everything is perfect. This could be your favorite spot in town or a beach you've dreamed of visiting. Visualize yourself relaxing, engaging all of your senses, and stay in this state as long as you wish (per PsychCentral).