The Health Benefits of Guided Imagery and Relaxation

Guided Imagery, meditation, and relaxationSometimes using our memories, emotions, and the entire focus of our bodies can help bring us into a great mood for the day.

Guided imagery uses the the power of focus and imagination to dissipate negative thoughts or stressful feelings. Relaxation techniques such as voice guided relaxation and breathing exercises enhances the effectiveness of the exercise. This is actually one of the reasons why I decided to go into holistic medicine, because of the ability of using the mind to heal the body and the ability of the body to reciprocate.

Guided Imagery and Relaxation  Research

Guided relaxation and imagery has been studied in older adults to examine the effects in fall prevention and fear of falling in older adults. In a randomized control study of 91 participants, guided relaxation and imagery was more effective at increasing the ability to prevent falls as well as led to an increase in exercise time1. This is really encouraging news because falls and slips are often one of the highest concerns for geriatric patients and especially for individuals who have bad hips or have had hip replacement. Performing exercises to strengthen and improve balance is essential to adults.

Guided Imagery Relaxation and the Prostate

Guided imagery as has also been studied as part of a lifestyle and nutritional change to alter prostate genes expression, which could affect the way that prostate tumors and cancer develops in the body2.  Even though the the study doesn’t specify whether the effects are harmful or helpful, I don’t think a normal person would disagree that changing your lifestyle and nutritional habits for the better has a positive affect in any condition. It’s probably that the effects maybe so mind blowing that we ourselves don’t believe them, which leads to theory not being put into practice.

Guided Imagery and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a group of digestive disorders, such as crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. These diseases can cause inflammation in the large intestines and can be responsible for many other internal issues. The physical and mental problems from people who suffer from IBD can really affect the quality of life. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati asked over 60 adolescents (12-19yrs) the types holistic therapies used. Imagery and Relaxation were in the top three for being utilized, along with being one of the top ranked in terms future use3.


Martin L. Rossman, M.D. — University of Michigan Medical School

The Fight or Flight System

These mind and body techniques are thought to affect the autonomic nervous system, also sometimes known as your fight or flight system. This regulating mechanism kicks your body into super hyperactive mode during stressful or fearful situations. Increased heart rate, narrowing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), and increased breathing rate are just some of the bodily functions that are activated. Being in this condition constantly is not good for the body, and in this stressful, super-industrialized society there are stressors everywhere picking at our senses. So implementing guided imagery relaxation techniques helps us to settle down and induce a calm, wellness promoting state and balance our systems.

Guided Imagery and Tai Chi Chuan

I wanted to touch on this briefly because in future posts as I will go into this subject in more detail, but tai chi and qi gong exercises make much use of imagery and feeling. Brushing the knee, repulse the monkey, brushing the horses mane, all are techniques in tai chi that incorporate some type of  imagery to acquire and build into habit a certain feeling. Mastering these feelings and techniques would put the mind and the body in a state of synchronicity you might have not thought was possible!

How to Learn Guided Relaxation and Imagery Techniques

If you would like to learn more about guided imagery relaxation therapy then you have a many of resources available to you. You can begin with your healthcare provider and ask for recommendations, search for a class online like on meetup.com or similar sites, or you can ask friends you know who may known of someone. There are also videos and audio aids to assist you in your journey. Take charge and remember to feel good about yourself because you now how more tools on your belt to help you live a happy and successful life.  

References
1.Kim BH, Newton RA, et al. Effect of Guided Relaxation and Imagery on Falls Self-Efficacy: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2012 May 29.
2. Changes in prostate gene expression in men undergoing an intensive nutrition and lifestyle intervention. Ornish D, Magbanua MJ, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 17;105(24):8369-74. from http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/100808.htm

3. Cotton S, Roberts YH, Tsevat J, et al. Mind-body complementary alternative medicine use and quality of life in adolescents with inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory Bowel Disease. 2010; 16(3):501–506. from http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/031110.htm