“My counselor recommended visualization sessions. Yeah, right! I can’t sit still for more than 10 seconds.”
Well, hold on Ms./Mr. Ants-in-Your-Pants…guided imagery to the rescue! And I’ll even toss in a script that will work wonders for you.
Oh, this is one long article. But if that’s what it takes, so be it. Print it!
“What’s guided imagery?”
The body will react to the mind’s direction whether it’s based in fact or imagination. The concept of guided imagery posits that one can use this amazing dynamic at will for purposes of providing a foundation for all sorts of activities – relaxation, fear and anxiety management, visualization, learning, healing, creativity, and performance.
The “guided” part of the equation suggests that the entire effort is enhanced by some sort of director that aids in establishing and sustaining the mental focus required to perpetuate the desired state of mind.
This director could be a live instructor, an audio tape, a CD, or YOU! Your call.
A Guided Imagery Exercise
I’d like you to make an audio recording and, in this particular case, use it for purposes of relaxation. Here’s a script you’ll find useful. It’s a progressive muscle relaxation regimen developed in the 1920s by a physician named Edmund Jacobson.
Before you give this a go, please check things out with your physician if you have a history of physical injury, skeletal or muscular issues, back problems, etc.
In preparation for the exercise, my suggestion is to don some comfortable clothing and leave your shoes off. Get yourself nice and snuggly on your recliner, sofa, or a chair – legs uncrossed.
Throughout the exercise you’ll be tensing and relaxing groups of muscles – 10 easy counts of tensing, followed by 10 to 15 counts of relaxing.
It’s really important that you focus upon how the muscles feel, especially comparing how they felt before the tensing and how relaxed they feel after.
This will allow you to detect muscle tension on an ongoing basis and have the resources to do something about it when it presents.
With daily use of this exercise, you may find that certain groups of muscles are especially tension-prone. As you make these discoveries, you may want to give those muscles more attention, or work exclusively with them.
Hi (Your Name). Welcome (back) to your special place of calm and peace. As always, get yourself comfortable. When you’re ready, close your eyes and take three slow, relaxed, and full abdominal breaths. Take more if you’d like as you feel yourself settling in. Your breathing is very calmly efficient as it moves your upper abdomen slowly out and in. When you’re ready, simply be still for a bit as you anticipate how great you’re going to feel as you relax and recharge.
Okay, let’s get started by focusing upon your fingers and hands. Clench your fists as tightly as you can. Come on, 10 easy counts. Now, let them relax for 10 to 15 counts. Extend your fingers out for 10 counts. And now relax them for 10-15 counts. Good. As we move on to other muscle groups I want you to use the very same 10 count tension and 10-15 count relax format.
Let’s give your biceps and triceps some attention. Tense-up those biceps by lifting up your arms and “making a muscle,” keeping your fingers pointed to the ceiling – no fists. Relax. Now, tense your triceps by lifting your arms in front of you, turning your hands inward so the tops of your hands face each other – again, no fists. And relax.
Your shoulders require some work. First tense them by pulling them back. Relax. Now tense them by pushing them forward. And relax. Finally, tense them by raising them to the ceiling. Relax.
Okay, let’s move on to your neck. Turn your head slowly to the right, keeping your shoulders straight and relaxed. Relax. Turn your head slowly to the left. Relax. Now, bring your chin into your chest. Relax. And tilt your head back as comfortably as it can go. Relax.
Your mouth and lips can get in on the act. Open your mouth as wide as you can. Relax. Purse your lips as tightly as possible. And relax.
Let’s focus upon your tongue. Open your mouth and extend your tongue out as far as you can. Relax. Take your tongue back toward your throat as far as it will go. Relax. Now, push your tongue against the roof of your mouth as hard as possible. Relax. And push your tongue downward to the bottom of your mouth. Relax.
How ‘bout your eyes. After each of the tensings, make sure you relax your forehead and nose, in addition to your eyes. Okay, open your eyes as wide as you can. Relax. Now close your eyes as tightly as possible. Relax.
Draw in as deep an abdominal breath as you can – then inhale just a bit more. Now, exhale and breathe normally for about 15 counts. Exhale as much as you can – now just a bit more. And inhale and breathe normally for 15 counts.
Let’s work on your back. Leaving your shoulders at rest on the back of your chair, arch your back by pushing your body forward. Relax. Do the opposite, by arching your back as you push your body forward. And relax.
Okay, now to your fanny. Tighten-up those glutes as much as you can, actually raising your pelvis from your chair. Relax. Now, push your glutes down into your chair. Relax.
For your thighs – extend your legs out and raise them approximately six inches, leaving your abdomen relaxed. Relax. Now, push your heels downward into your chair. And relax.
Let’s move on to your upper abdomen, pulling it in as far as you can. Relax. Tense your abdomen as if you were about to take a punch. Relax.
Finally to your calves and feet. Without raising your legs, point your feet downward. Relax. Now, pull your feet back toward your body. Relax. Keeping your legs and feet still, point your toes downward. Relax. Now pull your toes upward and toward your body. And relax.
And there you have it – great job! Now, as you did at the beginning, take at least three slow, relaxed, and full abdominal breaths – more if you’d like. When you’re finished, just remain still for a bit and – yes – relax. And when you’re ready, simply be on about your business, knowing you can come back to this special place at any time, and anywhere.
So What Do You Think?
How ’bout it? Pretty cool, huh. And if you had some soothing background music (no lyrics) or effects (e.g.: nature sounds) playing at the same time, a very yummy chocolate syrup would be poured on the ice cream. And feel free to make any edits that will allow the script to be more meaningful to you.
This will work. Use it for daily relaxation purposes, to provide a sense of calm before or during a stressful activity or event, and as an intro to practicing visualization and positive self-input techniques.
It doesn’t have to take much time at all.
Heck, wouldn’t it be a blast to do the exercise with a significant other?
Come on, give it a go. You’ll be amazed how good a bit of guided imagery will make you feel.