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Healing Visualization and Imagery

A mountain of research has singled out stress as the great killer, the unbalanced condition that makes us ripe for accident and disease. Learning to calm tensions creates a state of mind that is receptive to healing visualizations and suggestible to new and more-positive mental programs. Let's note some examples here:

  • A review of forty-six studies conducted from 1966 to 1998 by the American Cancer Society found that guided imagery was effective in managing stress, anxiety, depression, pain, and the side effects of chemotherapy. Many of these guided-imagery approaches are offshoots of the work of oncologist O. Carl Simonton, MD, and Stephanie Matthew-Simonton. This approach makes use of periodic relaxation coupled with visualizations of healthy, energetic cells fighting and destroying the weaker and disorganized cancer cells.*
  • Psychology Today, March-April 1998, discussed a study of sixty-five patients who listened to guided imagery tapes for three days before and six days after surgery. The patients reported less stress and physical pain than a control group and needed only half as much pain medication as those who had not listened to the tapes.†

  • The American Journal of Health Promotion, July 2001, noted the effects of a mindfulness training" program on thirty-two highly stressed individuals. Following the two-month program, during which participants learned stress-coping and meditation methods, an average 54 percent reduction in psychological distress was reported, together with a 46 percent drop in medical symptoms, compared to the control group.‡
  • Meditation has an excellent record for reducing pain; it is the core of a successful pain program developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. His many books tell wonderful stories about integrating mindfulness practice into the ordinary stresses of daily life.

Close your eyes for a moment and imagine a beautiful natural setting in which you experienced a sense of restfulness or awe. Take a slow inhalation as you say to yourself - "Ease and peace," and with the exhalation, "Ease and peace." Try doing this for a few minutes and see if it relaxes you.

* Simonton, C., S. Matthews-Simonton, and J. Creighton., Getting Well Again (Bantam, 1992).
†Murphy, P. and A Murphy, "Reality Goes under the Knife," Psychology Today (March/April 1998),
‡ Williams, K. A., et al., "Evaluation of a Wellness-Based Mindfulness Stress Reduction Intervention: A Controlled Trial," The American Journal of Health Promotion, Vol. 15, (July/August 2001), 422-32."

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