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“Imagination is more important than knowledge…”

– Albert Einstein

Our inner imagery is formed well before we learn to speak, driving our belief of who we are, how we view the world around us and even how we take care of ourselves.  For this reason, imagery is one of the most powerful healing tools we have. In the Ornish Lifestyle Medicine program, imagery is one of the five stress management techniques we practice. It is a way of using a mental image along with its related sensory qualities to invoke a positive outcome or a healing response.

Imagery can trigger a full spectrum of physiological responses which can either help or hinder our health and well-being

People often say to me (with a pained look on their face) “I can’t visualize.” I ask them if they’ve ever worried? I then explain that worry is in fact a form of imagery. “Awfulizing” is a form of visualizing. Imagery can trigger a full spectrum of physiological responses which can either help or hinder our health and well-being.  While ‘awfulizing’ can make us feel awful, using positive imagery can can stimulate healing in nearly all bodily systems.

Numerous studies have shown that imagery can affect almost all major physiologic control systems in the body, including respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, metabolic rates in cells, gastrointestinal motility and secretion, sexual function, cortisol levels, blood lipids, and even immune responsiveness. (Sheikh A and Kunzendorf RG. Imagery, physiology, and psychosomatic illness. In International Review of Mental Imagery. Human Sciences Press. New York. 1984.)

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Practicing imagery reawakens the healing power that resides within us. There are many ways to practice imagery and the variations are limitless. Be creative, have fun with it, imagine big.  It can shift or reframe our thought process and even invoke a healing response in our bodies. One day when I was talking to my neighbor, she asked about the work I do. When I told her, she confided in me that when she was a young girl, she was diagnosed with cancer. Her father had just passed away and she knew her mother wouldn’t be able to bear another loss. At night she would begin an elaborate imagery practice. She would imagine healing light (little healing fairies) in her body, filling her cells with an especially loving light. She said to me “I am sure this had something to do with why I am alive today.” I smiled and we sat for a moment in a deep silence and awe. Our bodies have a healing memory deep within every cell. We simply need to remember the power that lies within each of us.

Ask over and over and then listen for an answer.

Try this practice:

  • While relaxed, begin to ask yourself “what do you need to heal?”
  • Ask over and over and then listen for an answer. It may come in words, a feeling, an image, or a knowingness.
  • See if you can give yourself this using your imagination. It may be something very concrete or it may be something else, something whimsical or even a cartoon image.
  • If you can find an image that feels healing to you, use it.
  • Try it.
  • Practice Daily.
  • There are no rules.

What do you imagine in order to get healthier?




Contributed by

Susi Amendola
Stress Management Specialist

What have you done to remind yourself of the things that have meaning for you?

Better Health Begins With You...

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