There is one very powerful tool that you can use for relaxation and stress relief – your own imagination. When it’s guided by visualization, your imagination can be one of the best methods to conquer stress. If you are not convinced that your imagination has a tremendous effect over how you feel, try this simple exercise.
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Take a couple of deep breathes and bring up an unpleasant scenario in your memory. It doesn’t have to be something that really happened to you. You can make something up, but it has to be something unpleasant and stressful. For instance, think about that fight that you had with your spouse, coworker, or friend. Bring up as many details as you can remember and focus on your feelings at that moment. Dwell on this scenario for a bit as you sit still. What does it feel like?
Now do the same thing, with only one difference. This time think of something positive and uplifting. It doesn’t have to be something major, just some event that made you feel good, relaxed, or just brought on a smile. Focus on that event for a few minutes. How does it make you feel? Most likely, you feel the complete opposite of what you have felt while thinking of the first scenario.
Also, you have probably noticed that you actually had a physical response in both cases. While during the first, unpleasant scenario, you have probably felt your heart racing, muscles tighten, and your body getting tense, the second, pleasant scenario has calmed your heart rate and made you feel more relaxed and uplifted.
Still doubt the power of the imagination over your physical being?
Now think about what happens when you are in a state of constant stress. You will also constantly have the same or similar negative effects affecting your body. When these effects continue to influence your body over time, not only do you suffer emotionally, but your body becomes more prone to disease as well.
Fortunately, as you’ve just witnessed, it is quite simple to use your imagination for relaxation on cue:
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position so that you feel all your muscles relax.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breathes.
- Continue breathing deeply throughout the exercise if possible.
- Think of a situation or place where you are completely calm and relaxed. It doesn’t have to be a real place that you’ve been to. You can make it up.
- Imagine all the details as vividly as you can. Imagine the sights, sounds, and smells. For example, you can imagine yourself lying on a beach. You see the clear blue water stretching all the way to the horizon. You hear the waves splashing over the sand. You smell the fresh air. You feel the ocean breeze caressing your skin, and you can even taste the tiny drops of water that fill the air around you when another wave comes brushing against the shore.
- Now, focus on that feeling of serenity and calmness. Feel your stress and daily worries melt away. Imagine that every wave takes a part of your stress and whisks it away from you and into the ocean. With every wave, and every breath you take, you become more and more relaxed.
It’s recommended that you do this exercise regularly and even several times a day. The best time to perform it is in the morning after you wake up and at night, before sleep. This will have a domino effect since you will be more relaxed before sleep, which will contribute to a better sleep, and which in turn will make you even more relaxed the next morning.
You should generally start feeling the more long term effects of relaxation from this exercise after repeating it continuously for a few weeks.