What Is Relaxation And Guided Imagery?

Guided imagery refers to the use of thoughts and suggestions to guide your imagination to a relaxed, focused state. It is often used to promote relaxation. Both techniques have overlap and are often used together. Guided imagery can be attained using an instructor, tapes, or scripts. Relaxation and guided imagery take advantage of the mind-body connection. Negative images and stress have the power to cause illness, and positive images and relaxation have the power to promote healing.

Relaxation and guided imagery have the power to be healing tools. Imagery has been used since ancient times and essentially in all cultures. It may be one of the oldest healing rituals. The well and ill can use these techniques. People who are well and wish to increase their well-being are candidates for relaxation and guided imagery. Likewise, people who are ill and want to support the body’s natural healing abilities are candidates for these techniques.

Relaxation and guided imagery may aid in healing, learning, creativity, and performance. They may be helpful to put people more in touch with their emotions and thought processes. The techniques may be used to tap inner wisdom and improve self-esteem. In the end, relaxation and guided imagery may improve health, attitude, and overall well-being.

How Relaxation And Guided Imagery Is Performed

meditationRelaxation and guided imagery should be performed at times when they cannot be interrupted. The techniques can be performed in as little ten minutes, but 30 to 45 minute sessions are ideal. The location and room temperature should be comfortable. Phones, computers, tablets, or any other distraction should be turned off.

A number of techniques can be used to promote relaxation. The type of relaxation technique employed depends on the individual. It is suggested to try several and go with the one that gives you the best results.

Common types of relaxation techniques include:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Passive muscle relaxation
  • Meditation
  • Imagery and visualization
  • Autogenics
  • Yoga
  • Exercise
  • Tai chi
  • Massage
  • Relaxation breathing

Just like relaxation, guided imagery has a range of possibilities. It can be administered alone, in a group, a class, or as a component of individual psychotherapy. Books, video, and audio tapes are inexpensive options for people wanting to learn on their own.

Types of guided imagery may include:

  • Feeling state
  • End state
  • Energetic
  • Cellular
  • Physiological
  • Metaphoric
  • Psychological
  • Spiritual

Relaxation and guided imagery may be performed many different ways. Anyone can utilize these techniques. Increased practice of these techniques will promote skill and efficiency. These techniques are best practiced in a quiet, relaxed, and unforced atmosphere. People using relaxation and guided imagery should not be too rigid, as there are many ways to perform it correctly. Practitioners should use their own imagery, which usually springs from their own imagination.

It is best to engage all of the senses in the practice of relaxation and guided imagery. Remember, only approximately 55% of the population are strongly visual. Both techniques seem to be more powerful in a group setting. When properly chosen, music can complement relaxation and guided imagery. Some people prefer no music at all. Imagery that evokes emotion is more effective than imagery that does not evoke emotion.

Conditions Related To Relaxation And Guided Imagery

Relaxation and guided imagery have many uses. Several of the relaxation techniques have been taught for thousands of years. Over time, we have seen imagery used in every domain of life (sports, difficult conversations, music performances, public presentations) and to visualize personal potentials and possibilities. Relaxation and guided imagery should complement and not replace usual medical care.

Relaxation and guided imagery have been shown to affect:

  • Heart rate
  • Brain wave patterns
  • Blood pressure
  • Breathing
  • Carbon dioxide elimination
  • Oxygen consumption
  • Local blood flow and temperature
  • Electrical characteristics of the skin
  • Gastrointestinal motility
  • Sexual arousal
  • Immune system function
  • Levels of hormones and neurotransmitters in the blood and brain

A large body of research has accumulated over several decades relating to the efficacy of relaxation and guided imagery. Relaxation and guided imagery can potentially reduce symptoms or improve outcomes in the following medical conditions:

  • Pain, whether acute or chronic
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Infertility
  • Mood disorders such as anxiety, panic disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking cessation
  • Insomnia
  • Diabetes
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Headache
  • Immune dysfunction
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Psoriasis
  • Arthritis
  • Attention deficit disorder (ADD)/Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Heart disease
  • Childbirth
  • Epilepsy
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction
  • Asthma


Relaxation and guided imagery harness the power of the mind-body connection to facilitate healing. Many agree that relaxation and guided imagery can reduce symptoms or improve outcomes in a multitude of medical conditions. There are over 3,000 studies showing the beneficial effects of relaxation on health and well-being. Relaxation and guided imagery can potentially be powerful healing tools. They are no longer considered alternative therapies, and have gained widespread public acceptance.

It takes consistent practice of relaxation and guided imagery for them to be of benefit. Most of the techniques can be self-taught or learned from a certified professional. Neither relaxation nor guided imagery should replace usual medical care. They should be considered complementary therapies. Both relaxation and guided imagery are considered very safe with virtually no side effects.


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