Guided Imagery is based on the concept that your body and mind are connected. Using all of your senses, your body seems to respond as though what you are imagining is real. An example often used is to imagine a lemon in great detail – the smell, the color, the texture of the peel. Continue to imagine the smell of the lemon, and then see yourself taking a bite of the lemon and feel the juice squirting into your mouth. Many people salivate when they do this. This demonstrates how your body can respond to what you’re imagining. Imagery can be used to promote relaxation which can lower blood pressure and reduce other problems related to stress. You can also use it to help reach goals such as losing weight or quitting smoking, managing pain, and promoting healing. It can even help you to prepare for an athletic event or for public speaking.

Guided Imagery was formerly called visualization. It takes place between a nurse guide and a client. This modality utilizes individual life experience and imagination as opposed to predetermined images. There is scientific research showing that imagery can bring about less use of pain meds postoperatively, quicken wound healing, lower anxiety, decrease blood loss and enable an earlier hospital discharge. Imagery isn’t strictly visual. It’s a perception that comes through any of the senses. That means sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – like the lemon above.

Hypnosis is an altered state of consciousness which lies between awake and asleep. It’s not the same as guided imagery, nor are people in a hypnotic trance unaware of reality or their surroundings. On the contrary, they are in relaxed state of highly focused concentration with a corresponding decrease in peripheral awareness. This is similar to daydreaming, but deeper. The hypnotic process seeks to access the unconscious mind where information is processed and memories and responses are stored.

Many people think hypnosis is a form of mind control. This is usually secondary to seeing or hearing about stage hypnosis, wherein the hypnotist is demonstrating his showmanship. No one can be hypnotized without his/her consent, and anyone can break the trance instantly if they wish by simply opening their eyes.

There are many uses for hypnosis. It’s frequently used for weight loss or smoking cessation. However, it has value in pain management, childbirth, skin diseases and more. It is also highly effective for irritable bowel syndrome. This is not the same as irritable bowel disease, which can be a life threatening condition.

Meditation differs from the above in that it is an inwardly oriented, personal practice, which individuals can do by themselves. Rituals may or may not be used. At its core, meditation is about touching the spiritual essence that exists within us all. It produces a deep state of relaxation and a tranquil mind. When you meditate, you clear up the information overload that builds up every day. Meditation has a multitude of uses both for the ill and the well, inclusive of physical, psychological and spiritual benefits. Herbert Benson and Jon Kabat-Zinn are perhaps two of the better known teachers of technique and proponents of benefits.

Herbert Benson M.D. of Harvard Medical School has conducted a series of clinical tests on meditators as well as authoring several books, the most well known of which is likely to be The Relaxation Response.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Ph.D. established the mindfulness meditation program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is also an author of many books including Mindfulness for Beginners.

Steven Emmanuel Ph.D., faculty member at VirginiaWesleyanCollege, has been engaged in research on meditation as well as the filming of an accompanying video.

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