Guided imagery or active visualization is a therapeutic technique which uses ‘the power of positive thinking’ to help people stay focused on good outcomes. Guided imagery is very easy for anyone to use, because we do it all the time, even if we’re not aware of it! Have you ever calmed yourself down during a stressful time by imaging yourself sitting quietly on a sunny beach? Perhaps you have cheered yourself up by recalling a happy childhood memory? Maybe when you feel tempted to spend money, you visualize the beautiful new car you’re saving up for, and that thought enables you to resist the enticement to buy a frivolous item. In all of those situations you were using guiding imagery!
The guided imagery technique was pioneered in the 1960s by German psychiatrist Hanscarl Leuner and was based on his research of what he termed “catathymic influences” which can be described as the interaction of mental thoughts, emotional processes, dreams and daydreams. Guided imagery has several decades of substantial clinical research behind it and is now considered complimentary medicine in many oncology treatment facilities and medical centers.
Researchers have found that our brains cannot tell the difference between something imagined and something real. Smart athletes use guided imagery to improve their performances. In an often published study one group of basketball players practiced everyday while a second group of players visualized themselves dribbling and dunking, and a third group split their time practicing and visualizing. At the end of the study the three groups were tested and the group that merely visualized themselves practicing showed more improvement over the group that only practiced, and the group that did both – visualized and practiced- made the greatest improvement.
By the same token, we often allow unreal or negative thoughts to sabotage our efforts to improve our lives or find happiness. If your self-talk includes words like, “I’ll always be fat”, then guess what? You will be! It has been said ‘all things are created twice’ because first they are created in our minds and then they are created in the physical world. For instance, you may feel hungry and visualize what you feel would satisfy your hunger. After that you take action, whether it’s heading to the refrigerator for a yogurt or to the vending machine for a bag of chips.
Oftentimes a guided imagery session involves the subject relaxing in a comfortable chair – in a hospital setting they may be reclined in a bed – while listening to a recorded script. Guided imagery may also be conducted by one person reading a script to another, or the subject themselves may guide their own thoughts. It is best to try to come up with your own guided imagery because we all have our own goals, road blocks and daydreams. Buying someone else’s CD cannot address your specific weight loss goals and visualization needs as well as you can.You can record your own script on a tape recorder and play it to yourself. Or you can keep the visualization in your mind and recall it whenever you want. A good time is in the morning before you get up or at night before you go to sleep. As an example, let’s say your goal is to lose 20 pounds, your daydream is to wow the world in a new swimsuit this summer and your hurdle is an addiction to sugar.
In your script you slowly walk down a long hallway, feeling the luxurious carpet under your feet and the sweet aroma of blooming jasmine. Relax your body and breathe slowly and deeply. You arrive at a large room with marble floors at the center of which is a shallow pool of crystal blue water. You remove the saffron colored silk robe you are wearing and take three steps into the pool where you find a seat along the side upon which to relax. As you are sitting there enjoying the warm water a beautiful woman enters the room carrying a large clay pitcher. She tells you the pitcher contains minerals and other substances that will help heal your body and relieve the unnatural urge for harmful sugar. She pours the contents into the pool and then quietly leaves you to soak in the lovely, fragrant, healing water. While you enjoy the pool, you think about how nourishing food is for your body and how you want to eat to live, rather than live to eat. You notice a table nearby filled with all kinds of sweet foods like watermelon, cherries, peaches, honey and yogurt. They look so delicious – you can hardly stand it another minute and you leave the pool already feeling lighter and thinner. You eat as much of the fruits, honey and yogurt as you can, and feeling very satisfied you leave the pool room naked walking down another long hall. This hall has mirrors on both sides and you marvel at how attractive you look, thinner and healthier, well on your way to the goal of losing 20 pounds. In fact, it seems like losing 20 pounds is the easiest thing in the world. All you have to do is eat healthy, delicious foods that satisfy you, as well as making your skin smooth, soft and clear, and building long lean muscles and strong bones, so you will really dazzle everyone this summer when you put on your new swimsuit. When you get to the end of the hall you dress yourself and climb five stairs back to the street, back to your day-to-day life, feeling refreshed, relaxed and happy about your weight loss goal.
While guided imagery can be extremely helpful in staying focused on your goals, maintaining your willpower and resistance to temptation, and keeping a positive attitude, it cannot do it all for you. Remember – the basketball players who visualized and practiced experienced the greatest overall improvement. Follow a sensible weight loss diet, be sure to get moderate exercise, and if you feel the need to, use quality diet pills and supplements to help you fight cravings for sweets, suppress your appetite and provide your beautiful body with all the minerals and vitamins it needs to grow stronger and healthier every day in every way!