Mind-Body Medicine: Guided Imagery
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Discover Your Mind-Body Connection
Throughout your counseling and therapeutic sessions, CTCA mind-body therapists can help you understand and apply the power of your mind in the healing process.
“What happens in our mind and our emotions can affect us physically, and vice versa,” says Dr. Puckett. “That’s the mind-body connection. The kinds of messages we send ourselves with our minds can produce different responses in the body. In general, the more positive the messages we are sending ourselves, the more positive the biochemical responses in our bodies will be. In other words, learning to be kind and loving toward ourselves is very healthy.”
One of the techniques the mind-body therapists can coach you to use is guided imagery, or visualization. In essence, guided imagery engages your mind to help you visualize healing and relaxation. For instance, you might want to visualize the cancer in your body being reduced by something of your choosing, such as a Pac-Man® moving through your body gobbling up the cancer cells. Or you could imagine yourself spending time in a place you have designed—a place in which you feel peaceful, comfortable, happy, and safe. When you use all your senses to imagine what you would see, hear, feel, taste, and smell in this special place you’ve created, you can feel as though you’ve really been there. People often choose to visit their special places during times of stress, physical discomfort or difficulty sleeping.
Examples of positive mental images you could use in your guided imagery include:
- Spending time in a beautiful, serene outdoor vacation spot
- Relaxing in a cozy room in your home
- Feeling tranquil at a garden, beach or forest
- Enjoying fun activities with your beloved family and friends
- Visiting a favorite place at which you spent time as a child
Dr. Puckett says athletes and performing artists have used guided imagery for years to visualize their desired outcomes, and you can do so as well while going through treatment for cancer. Guided imagery is also beneficial for cancer patients because it can help them get through frightening or stressful experiences, such as undergoing radiation treatment or an imaging test. Both of these experiences involve large, high-tech machines that may make some patients feel anxious or claustrophobic. But, when patients apply guided imagery by thinking of positive, calming experiences they have talked about with their mind-body therapists, they can take themselves to that place in their minds while undergoing testing and therapy. It’s like a mini-vacation for the mind.
Guided imagery has helped some people undergoing treatment to deal with symptoms associated with the treatment. Dr. Puckett recalls a former patient who, although very fond of CTCA, would start to feel nauseated every time she would think of coming to the hospital for her next chemotherapy treatment. Through Dr. Puckett’s conversations with the patient about the patient’s fond memories of calming experiences, they were able to come up with a visual image coupled with a physical reminder that would help to calm the patient and reduce the sensation of nausea. Dr. Puckett also recalls that another patient, who found himself having high anxiety during radiation treatment, was able to use guided imagery during the treatment to visualize himself reliving a delightful experience he had enjoyed many years earlier.
If guided imagery is something you wish to explore and apply in your treatment, your CTCA mind-body therapist will help you to create a guided imagery plan customized to your preferences and positive experiences.