I’m an advocate for therapy and have been since I first started seeing a mental health professional when I was sixteen. I personally suffer from several mental health disorders, and one of the very first grounding techniques I learned in therapy all those years ago was guided imagery. Essentially, this technique allows your senses to guide your thoughts into a happier state of mind—”your happy place”—to relax your body and nervous system.
Guided imagery is easy to practice whenever and wherever because it’s simply just imaging a peaceful scene in your mind. In my experience, this technique works best if you incorporate as many sensory details as possible—what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell. When you engage your imagination in this way, your body and nervous system will begin to respond as if you’re actually there.
For me, my happy place has always been the ocean.
Although I’ve been fortunate to live within minutes of the Gulf Coast beaches for the past few months, my partner and I are moving to the mountains of Colorado soon. (Peep the citrine jewels I had to snag for our adventure—also, hello Leo szn!)
I’ll be honest, as I’ve gotten older, my heart has grown deeper in love with getting lost in the trees—but I’m still over here feeling sad that I soon won’t be able to pick up and escape to the serenity of the ocean on any given day.
Or can I?
This is where guided imagery comes in handy. I’m going to walk you through how I will be embracing the healing powers of the ocean even when I’m miles away!
:: STEPS FOR GUIDED IMAGERY ::
Step one: Find a comfortable spot to sit or lay down, close your eyes, and relax.
Step two: Begin by taking a few deep breaths to center your mind. Inhale through your nose for 4 counts.
- Hold your breath for 2 counts
- Exhale through your nose for six counts
- Repeat and adjust the heartbeat count as you feel necessary (for depression: try longer inhales and shorter exhales; for anxiety: try shorter inhales and longer exhales)
Step three: Picture the ocean—or any calm and peaceful scene of your choice.
Step four: Imagine your scene and begin adding more sensory details.
- Is there a breeze? How does it feel? Is it cool? Warm?
- What does the sky look like? Is it clear? Are there clouds? Is the sun out?
- Do you feel the sand in your toes? What does is feel like? Is it hot?
- Is the ocean calm? Are there waves crashing? What do they sound like?
Step five: Once you are deep into your happy place and starting to feel more relaxed—take a few minutes to breathe deeply and soak in the calmness you have created for yourself.
Step seven: Think of a word or sound that you can use as a “safe word” to help you return to this place of relaxation in the future. Then, when you feel ready, slowly bring yourself back to present reality with your newfound sense of peace.
Step eight: Count to three, open your eyes, and take note of how you feel.
Another tip I’ve found to be helpful is using a set of written or pre-recorded audio instructions when practicing guided meditation. A mental health professional can help you create one tailored to your symptoms, or you can make one on your own with a little research from our good ole friend, Google!
I hope this helps you guide you through the turbulent times we’re currently facing as a country—and a planet—as it’s helped me.
Stay strong, my friends.
Much love to you and your beautiful mind from all of ours at Malabella.