Guided imagery is a gentle, yet powerful mind-body technique that uses positive mental images to guide the imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. Guided imagery, considered a form of hypnosis, is based on the concept that your body and mind are connected. With the aid of an experienced and qualified therapist, you will learn to focuses your mind on calm, peaceful images to create harmony between the mind and body. When you learn to communicate more effectively with your unconscious mind, you can bring about healthful changes to the body and the mind.

Guided imagery doesn’t just involve your visual senses. It involves all of your senses — sight, taste, sound, smell, and sensation. You can achieve a deep relaxed state when you imagine all the details of a safe, comfortable place, such as a secluded beach or a meadow. Using a beach as an example, you will be guided to experience not just what you see, but what you hear (the crashing waves, the whistling wind), what you smell (the salty air and sunscreen), and so on. Using all of your senses, your body seems to respond as though what you are imagining is real. As a result, your relaxed state may help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes, which may improve your attitude, health, and sense of well-being.

Because guided imagery is a mind-body therapy, any stress-related health concern, including high blood pressure, pain related to muscle tension, insomnia, and anxiety or depression, may be alleviated using this approach. It has also been shown to be beneficial in treating autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease. How long one focuses on the techniques is less important than how regularly they are practiced — a few minutes every day can reap greater benefits than spending more time on it less often.

For some people who have never tried guided imagery, the idea of becoming deeply relaxed or getting into a trance-like state may seem frightening. Andrew Weil, M.D., founder of the Weil Foundation that supports integrative medicine through research and education, explains that creating mental images is nothing new. We’ve all experienced trance-like states in daily life such as when we daydream, read a book, or driving home on autopilot. Guided imagery takes this natural process a step further. What distinguishes guided imagery and other forms of hypnosis is that it involves a deliberate choice to enter this state of consciousness for a goal beyond relaxation: to focus your concentration and use suggestion to promote healing. A person in trance is always under control, just as someone who is daydreaming can decide to go on or stop at any time.