Guided imagery is a guided daydream that uses the power of your imagination to distract you from your pain.
This relaxation technique allows you to focus on a favourite place – real or imaginary – that’s safe, calm and pain-free. You’re then guided through positive, detailed imagery that engages all of your senses. A common guided imagery script that’s used is a walk on the beach or a walk in a garden.
To practise guided imagery you can listen to an instructor, a recorded script (e.g. on a CD or online), or you can create your own scripts. When you’re coming up with your own scripts try to be as detailed as possible – think about the things you see, feel, taste, smell and hear.
Find a comfortable position. This may be in a chair, on your bed or lying outside in the garden. Close your eyes and relax your body. Breathe slowly and gently. Take your time and focus on smooth, even breaths.
Now imagine you’re on a beach. It’s a small, sheltered cove. You have the place to yourself. It’s a beautiful day and perfect for walking – not too hot or too cold. The sky is a remarkable shade of blue. There’s not a cloud in the sky.
The water sparkles in the sunlight, and the breeze that comes off the water smells salty and fresh. Look out over the water. Inhale the clean air. While you breathe in imagine that the air is filling you with energy. As you breathe out, feel your pain and anxiety go out with your breath and fly away over the water.
You hear the cries of seagulls as they fly overhead. Watch as they swoop and dive and perform the most amazing acrobatics. As you watch them, feel their joy and excitement as they play in the air currents.
Under your feet the soft sand is lovely and warm. Curl your toes and feel the crunch of the grains of sand. The warmth from the sand travels up through your feet, making your whole body feel warm, relaxed and calm.
You move on and walk slowly along the beach. You notice a small crab making its way along the sand leaving tiny prints as it goes. Shells glitter like jewels in the sand. The trees along the edge of the beach are swaying in the breeze. It all feels so calm and unhurried.
Ahead of you is a large flat rock jutting out into the water, perfect for sitting. Climb onto it. The surface is slightly rough, but warm and comfortable. From your spot you can see into the water. Small coloured fish are darting about. Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly and smoothly. Notice how your body feels heavy and relaxed. You’re calm and not feeling any pain. Take a few moments to enjoy this sensation.
Then, when you’re ready, stand up and walk further along the beach. Enjoy all of the sights, sounds and smells that you experience along the way – the gentle lapping of the waves on the sand, the warmth of the sun on your shoulders, the crunch of the sand under your feet, the smell of clean, fresh sea breezes. Think about how relaxed and comforted they make you feel.
Now as the time comes to leave the beach, remember that you can bring these feelings and sensations along with you. Know that when you need to, you can easily return to your special beach cove.
Slowly, open your eyes. Continue to breathe smoothly in and out. Take time to notice how your body feels. Relaxed, calm and peaceful.
The beauty of guided imagery is that it can be done anywhere – at home in bed, at work during a break, on the bus, while sitting in a waiting room – wherever you are and need to distract yourself from pain. It takes time and practise, but it’s a helpful pain management technique to master.