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What is imagery?

The mind is a powerful healing tool. Imagery has been used to harness the power of the mind through different methods for centuries.

By creating images in the mind, pain and symptoms linked to certain health conditions can be reduced. The more detailed the image, the more helpful it can be. Imagery uses certain sights, sounds, smells, tastes, or other sensations that resonate with the person. This is sometimes described as feeling as though one is in a daydream and helps to distance a person from their current situation for a while. It can also increase a person's sense of control.

Studies are providing support for using imagery for chronic pain relief. The underlying belief is that it helps to rewire the brain. Imagery has also been shown to help with anxiety and coping with stress.

Imagery often includes a program with certain aims and goals. You are guided to visualize your goals and work toward them.

Types of imagery

Two imagery methods are widely used today:

  • Palming. This is about visualizing color. Put your palms over your eyes. Then picture the color you think of with stress. This is often the color red. Then change the color to a more relaxing color, such as blue. It's thought that changing colors in the mind helps you relax.

  • Guided imagery. This involves thinking of a certain goal to help cope with health problems. Guided imagery is most often used as a relaxation method. For this, you may sit or lie quietly and imagine yourself in a favorite peaceful setting. This may be a beach, meadow, or forest. Imagery is often guided by direct suggestion from a qualified imagery provider. Imagery can also be used to support the healing process for people with cancer. This can take many forms. One popular method is to imagine small Pac-Man figures running all over the body and eating bad cancer cells.

Does it work?

Studies have shown that imagery can help the mind and body relax. It has also been shown to help:

  • Manage anxiety, stress, and depression

  • Reduce pain

  • Lower blood pressure

  • Lessen nausea

  • Give you a better sense of control and well-being

Online Medical Reviewer: Bianca Garilli MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Heather M Trevino BSN RNC
Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Date Last Reviewed: 4/1/2023
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