by Jessica Singh, MD, CEO of Sukhayu Wellness
What is Mind-Body Medicine?
Before discussing imagery, it is important to give a brief introduction to mind-body medicine.
Mind-body medicine focuses on the mind’s ability to positively impact our body, behavior, and life experience. These techniques make use of the interactions between our thoughts and bodily functions to improve health and well-being. The effects of mind-body techniques are substantiated by decades of scientific research.
In fact, psychoneuroimmunology is an academic discipline dedicated to studying the relationship between the immune, endocrine (hormone), and nervous systems in order to understand how mind-body techniques actually work.
Moreover, the growing field of mind-body medicine advocates an integrated approach to healthcare that encompasses a wide range of practices and therapies, combining global traditional healing systems with modern biomedical science. Mind-body medicine is an adjunct to conventional (allopathic) medical care – an addition, not a replacement.
What is Imagery?
Imagery is commonly used as a mind-body technique to enhance our own health, promote healing, and cultivate well-being. There are different ways to practice and experience imagery, all of which involve forming images, or sensory perceptions, within the subconscious mind.
Here, an “image” is defined as any perception experienced through the senses. In other words, an image in this context is not just a “picture” or “visualization,” but encompasses any perception, including sound, smell, touch, taste, sight, and feelings in the body. (These “feelings” in the body are known as kinesthetics – the sensation of one’s own bodily movements.) Often, those who practice imagery experience more than one sensory perception at a time, making it a multi-dimensional process.
Imagery is an innate ability we can all invoke to access our own inner wisdom. It is the language through which the subconscious mind communicates information and insights to the conscious mind, empowering us to explore and influence the way we experience life.
How does Imagery work?
Imagine being stranded far away from home and missing your loved one. Simply imagining your loved one in this scenario could incite a similar physiological response to the one you’d have when physically in their presence.
That’s because the process by which we consciously control our bodies actually begins with the mind. Whenever we do anything – for example, raising our hand, or jumping into the air – a thought, or command, initiated in the mind issues a signal to the nervous system, resulting in biochemical actions and the associated physiological responses.
Studies show that this process can result in less tangible outcomes as well; while mental anxiety and stress worsen health over time, positive thinking (through guided imagery, for example) improves health and quality of life, especially in those with chronic illness.
A consistent finding in mind-body medicine is that people of all ages have the ability to use images to affect the functioning of the nervous system. This is important for balancing our stress response, while enhancing our relaxation response.
Whether we are aware of it or not, we use imagery all the time. It is integral to most of our brain functions, underlying our thoughts and associations and affecting our physiology.
It is important to note that imagery is not hypnosis or hypnotherapy. According to the American Psychological Association, hypnotherapy frequently involves “a subtle shifting of perceived control to the hypnotist,” whereas imagery work does not involve any form of external control or suggestion, perceived or otherwise. Individuals engaging in imagery remain in full conscious awareness and direct their own experiences, tapping into their inner wisdom.
Imagery, guided imagery, Interactive Guided Imagery℠ (“IGI℠”), and integrative imagery are all mind-body techniques.
Guided imagery is a technique wherein elements of the unconscious are invited to appear as images that communicate with the conscious mind. Guided imagery commonly employs narratives or stories to guide us towards self-awareness. When words are used to guide us through an imagery experience, that is guided imagery. There are three main ways to practice guided imagery: independently, by listening to recordings, or with an experienced guide.
IGI℠ is an innovative process developed by the Academy of Guided Imagery that includes all the features of guided imagery. IGI℠ uses imagery in an interactive way to evoke people’s own natural intelligence, insights, and creativity. It is very similar to its successor, integrative imagery.
Integrative Imagery is an interactive process that involves work directly with images arising from the individual’s own consciousness in order to access inner wisdom.
How Can Imagery Benefit Me?
- Imagery gives access to inner strength
- Benefits of accessing inner resources:
- Life fulfillment
- Quality-of-life enhancement
- Health and healing
- Coping with an illness – understanding your own symptoms, including pain
- Coping with anxiety, fear, or any difficult situation
- Loss and bereavement
- Chemical dependency and recovery
- Life transitions – new job, preparing for surgery
- Habit change
Experience what imagery can do you for you by finding an imagery professional.
This article was originally published on www.sukhayu.life in August 2021.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice.