How Visualization Can Help You Relax and Reduce Stress
How Does Visualization Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction:
When stressed or anxious, it can be hard to relax and feel at ease with the world around you. One of the best ways to calm your anxiety and help you find some peace in your life again is through visualization techniques that promote relaxation and stress reduction.
Here are three ways to visualize, reduce stress, and promote relaxation in your life.
Research has shown that visualization can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and even boost immunity. The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress or anxiety, start a breathing exercise: Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths (at least 10 seconds per inhale), then think about a place you find soothing.
Think about what colors you see, how many people are there, how high above the ground you are, and whatever comes to mind as you breathe deeply. This simple practice can have a calming effect on your brain, which in turn helps you feel more relaxed.
The next time you need to relax, try a breathing exercise. Begin by closing your eyes and taking ten deep breaths. Then, think about a place that makes you feel calm: A lake? A cabin? A hammock? As you breathe deeply, imagine yourself there.
What do you see? What sounds do you hear? How does it smell? Where are your feet touching as you sit or lie down? And what emotions do you feel? If you find yourself thinking of something else at any point during your visualization, no problem! Go back to focusing on your breath and return to your visualization when you’re ready.
Research has shown that it takes up to 15 minutes for our brains to engage in visualization fully, so don’t rush through your session. When you’re done with your session, open your eyes and get back into whatever activity you were doing before starting your relaxation exercise.
The L.E.A.P Method
The LEAP Method is an acronym for a stress-reduction technique developed by psychologists at Stanford University.
To follow it, you first imagine yourself in a peaceful place—maybe your garden or a beach—and then try to take in as many details of that scene as possible: How are you feeling? What can you hear? What can you smell? How does your body feel? Then, after 10 seconds or so, researchers call guided relaxation: Think about each part of your body (head, shoulders, arms) and let any tension there melt away.
Finally, once you have relaxed every muscle in your body from head to toe (including those hard-to-reach places on your shoulder blades), think about how good it feels just to be alive.
Research shows that visualization techniques such as these can help reduce stress levels dramatically. One study found that people who regularly practiced visualization techniques had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.
Affirmations are a form of visualization. Although affirmations typically have a goal, such as wealth or happiness, it’s important to practice visualization with no particular outcome in mind.
Suppose you visualize achieving your goal each day but never think about what that achievement would mean to you emotionally (e.g., how happy would it make you); your affirmations won’t be as effective. For example, if you want to lose weight, visualize yourself at your ideal weight without defining what ideal means for you. Then focus on feeling good about yourself when you achieve that weight, not reaching it first.
Once you can do that, start visualizing what it will feel like to reach your goal. The more positive emotions you associate with your goal, the better able you’ll be to reach it.
Do an Imagery Exercise
Rosalind Lefkowitz in her essay Using Your Mind’s Eye, notes that visualization is a proven stress-reduction technique. She says it can be helpful when you feel fear or worry because it gives you a feeling of control over your emotions.
The key, she writes, is to do imagery exercises regularly for optimal results. Below are some examples
1. Imagine yourself in a peaceful place, whether it’s a scene from nature or your bedroom.
2. Close your eyes and picture yourself in a relaxing setting, like lying on a beach or floating in a warm water pool.
3. Think of happy memory, such as a trip you took or an accomplishment you’re proud of.
4. Imagine yourself in a place that makes you feel safe, like your home or school.
5. Take a few deep breaths, then picture yourself in a place you’d like to be, such as on vacation or with your friends.
6. Imagine a place you’d like to visit, such as your dream house or an exotic locale.
7. Picture yourself doing something you enjoy, whether listening to music or reading a book.
8. Close your eyes and imagine yourself doing something relaxing, like taking a walk in nature or going for a massage.
Do a Mantra Exercise
Do Mindfulness Exercises
Tips To Guide You To Better Visualization
1. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and let your body relax completely.
2. Picture yourself in a place that makes you feel safe, happy, or relaxed—the beach, perhaps, or maybe even your bedroom at home when you were young.
3. Think about what you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch in your visualization space.
4. Don’t worry if things don’t look as they do in real life—this is what we’re talking about!
5. Once you feel completely relaxed, start thinking about one of your goals or a problem that needs solving.
6. Picture yourself moving toward or solving it; then open your eyes and write down whatever comes to mind immediately afterward.
7. Repeat these steps as often as you like until you feel completely relaxed and calm.
8. It’s okay if your visualization doesn’t turn out exactly how you want—this is a practice session!
9. Remember that with time and practice, you can make your visualizations clearer and more detailed each time.
10. When you are finished, take a few deep breaths and let your body relax again before opening your eyes.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is visualization stress?
Visualization stress is a form of self-induced stress that can control through visualization. In other words, you are creating a stressful situation. This happens when you worry about something that has not happened yet, or might never happen. People often visualize their worst fears coming true, leading to depression and anxiety.
2. How does visual imagery reduce stress?
When you visualize a stressful situation, your body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline. These hormones cause your heart rate to increase, your blood pressure to rise, and can even affect muscle tension. However, visualization techniques allow you to release these stress hormones in a controlled manner. By visualizing yourself in a stressful situation—and then imagining how you would respond—you can train yourself to respond calmly when faced with real-life challenges.
3. What are the benefits of imagery?
Imagery can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain. It can also improve your athletic performance by helping you focus on your body’s natural abilities. For example, suppose you are a runner trying to improve your time in a 5K race. In that case, imagery can help you visualize your body moving quickly from start to finish. This visualization will make it easier for you to achieve your goal in real life.
4. What is the difference between visualization and imagery?
Visualization and imagery are often used interchangeably, but they have different meanings. Visualization is a technique that involves picturing yourself in a stressful situation. On the other hand, imagery is a more general term that refers to any mental imagery. For example, if you imagine a relaxing beach while meditating, you are using imagery to relax your mind.
5. Does visualization work?
Yes, visualization does work. Studies have shown that people who visualize their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who do not. However, it would be best if you were realistic about your goals. Suppose you set a goal to win an Olympic gold medal in swimming and visualize yourself doing so. In that case, you might become discouraged when faced with challenges along your path to success. Instead, it’s better to set smaller goals that are easier to achieve.
The need to relax is ever-present in today’s fast-paced world. Finding a way to relax is vital for improving your quality of life. One simple technique that can help you decompress is visualization. Like many stress reduction techniques, visualization won’t work immediately. Still, it will have a cumulative effect over time when practiced regularly.