“What you see is what you get”. This common saying has a deeper meaning than you may expect. As visual beings, humans are constantly creating mental images in response to the world around them. These pictures have a profound effect upon your emotions, brain chemistry and, in turn, your health.

Your brain doesn’t distinguish between a “real” event and one that is imagined. Its chemical response is the same. Hormones and neurochemicals are released into your bloodstream affecting everything from your blood pressure to your immune system.

Once you are of aware of this fact, you can harness the power of imagery as a powerful tool for wellness. The techniques are not complicated. Even children have learned how to effectively use their imaginations to create health.

Researchers studied 73 children scheduled for surgery at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. They found that those who used imagery in the week prior to or in the hours immediately following surgery experienced significantly lower anxiety levels and much less pain than those who received standard care.

An easy way to begin using imagery in your own life is to practice this simple exercise:

1. Relax and take some slow, deep breaths. Close your eyes. Think about a time in your life when you felt healthy and vibrant. Picture yourself engaged in an activity that you enjoy, such as dancing or taking a walk.

2. Pay attention to how you appear in this image. Notice your clothing, your complexion, your expression. Make note of your energy level in this picture. Use all of your senses to fully absorb this image of yourself in wellness.

3. Take some more deep breaths. As you do so, “breathe in” that image. Feel your healthy self infusing each cell of your present body. Hold that image for a while.

4. When you are ready, slowly open your eyes. How do you feel? Notice your breathing, your energy level and your emotional state.

You might want to begin a journal of your experiences with imagery. Doing so will allow you to see which images, symbols and scenarios are most effective for you personally. With practice you can learn to use imagery regularly to reduce stress and ease pain.

Imagery is a tool that you have access to at all times and in all places. It is a wonderful and effective step toward regaining control of your own health and wellbeing. Why not give it a try?

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