Visualization is a valuable way to cope with our emotions. It can help us when our brains start churning out body-hating thoughts. It can help us pause and refocus.
It can help us when we need a soothing break, when we’re seeking comfort.
In her book The Emotionally Sensitive Person: Finding Peace When Your Emotions Overwhelm Youpsychologist Karyn D. Hall, Ph.D, defines visualization as “a way of coping by using your imagination to picture relaxing events.”
Margarita Tartakovsky is an associate editor at PsychCentral.com, an award-winning mental health website, and the voice behind Weightless, a blog that helps women deal with body image issues and disordered eating. She also writes a monthly feature for Beliefnet.com, covering topics such as patience and procrastination.
Editor: Muhammad Talha
Guided visualization or guided imagery is when someone else, such as in a video or audio, instructs you on what to picture. A common visualization is a relaxing place, such as the beach, mountains or a meadow.
For instance, this script includes a visualization of a garden. This one asks you to picture any setting that’s beautiful and peaceful to you.
But you can visualize anything that helps you. Hall shares this example in the book: “Picture your troubling thoughts being packed one by one into a steel case that you chain and lock. Then picture putting the case at the bottom of a deep hole and covering it with concrete.”
Hall, who also pens the Psych Central blog “The Emotionally Sensitive Person,” shares tips for creating our own visualization. Because making it more personal makes it more effective. Because each of us may be comforted by different things.
Use these tips to write out your own visualization. Then read it aloud, and record it on your phone. Or ask a friend to record it for you.
Hall suggests describing the following in detail:
- your favorite way to relax.
- your most relaxing things to see.
- your most relaxing things to smell.
- your most relaxing things to touch.
- your most relaxing place; and include how you experience it with each of your senses.
- any people you’d like to be in your visualization.
Also, consider if you’d rather walk around or be still in your visualization.
Create visualizations that focus on your body, which you practice regularly and pull out when the negative thoughts start swirling or body acceptance feels too far away.
Think of light radiating from your heart, and soothing every inch of your body. Picture drinking a hot cup of tea, and the warmth traveling down your throat to comfort the rest of you.
Picture sending a big dose of love — whatever this looks like to you — to a body part you’ve always hated. Picture walking along the shore, looking down at your feet, and being filled with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for their hard work; for taking you to countless places you enjoy.
Picture your body getting a massage at an outdoor spa, which just happens to be located in a setting that always soothes you.
Picture your negative thoughts laid out on the street in block letters, as you soar high above them, flying along a bright blue sky, knowing that they’re just thoughts, knowing that they can’t touch or affect you. They’re stuck on hot pavement, while you enjoy the best view in town.
Visualization is another way we can navigate unhelpful thoughts about our bodies and ourselves. It’s another way we can provide for ourselves by responding to our needs for comfort, relaxation and reprieve.