Bad days can happen to the best of us. Through no fault of your own, sometimes plans go awry, schedules run behind and your new shoes get dirty. Feel free to insert your own version of a lousy chain of events, but I’m sure you know what I mean. Imagine your last bad day. See it in all its glory, each disastrous circumstance and the thoughts and feelings you had about it. Perhaps you can feel your shoulders tensing up and your mouth settling into a hard line. The power of your imagination brought that bad day to life again.
Now think about a really great day. One of those days where things go smoothly, everyone likes the dinner you made and your boss compliments your work. Imagine how you feel sailing through a day like that. You might notice a deep, free breath and a soft smile on your face. This exercise clearly demonstrates that the experience of a good or bad day is reflected in both the mind and the body. It’s also evident that we can re-create these thoughts and bodily sensations using our imagination. We can use this to our advantage in a relaxation technique called Guided Imagery.
Guided Imagery is a form of relaxation that evokes peaceful images or memories. The benefits of guided imagery are similar to those of other forms of meditation: it promotes deep relaxation and counteracts the effects of chronic stress. It can also lower blood pressure, reduce performance anxiety and improve the sense of well-being. It can be done by listening to a recorded script, or you can create a scene using your own words and images.
Below is a short self-guided script. Like our good day/bad day exercise above, read the scenario first, then use your memory and imagination to bring it life:
Begin in a comfortable position, either seated or lying down. Close your eyes and start to follow the breath for a few rounds. Simply focus on the sensation of the air moving in and out of your nostrils. Now bring to mind a beautiful place, either somewhere you’ve been or someplace entirely new. Notice the details of the scenery: the colors, the things you see around you, the smell and temperature of the air, any sounds you might hear there. Use all of your senses to bring this place to life in your mind, fully inhabiting this beautiful scene. Picture yourself going about a relaxing day in this special place, enjoying yourself fully, with no worries or cares in the world. Feel a sense of complete peace in your body and your mind, and bring a smile to your lips. Allow the smile to spread to your entire face, lighting up your eyes. Feel it flowing into your torso, expanding into your heart. A radiant smile now permeates your entire body. Allow it to expand, taking in everything within and around you. Rest here as long as you’d like, in this sense of joy, breathing it in with your inhale, and sending it out to the world with your exhale.
Know that you can return to this place and this feeling anytime you want, simply close your eyes and breathe the feeling of an inner smile into your heart.