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Relaxation Techniques: Unplug with Imagery: Press 'Play' and Go to Your Happy Place

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Guided imagery is the lazy man's meditation (or woman's). It's a kind of deliberate, directed daydreaming, using soothing music and narrated suggestions designed to calm, empower, heal and nourish. The words and music carry you into a state of deep, coherent rest. It's a no-brainer. All you have to do is press "play" and hitch a ride to your peaceful core. I kid you not.

Most of us are so stressed, we don't feel we have time to relax ... not to mention that the very idea of relaxing can feel seriously unwise -- dangerous even. That feeling, based on ancient, survival-based stress hormones, is irrational, but it's strong. So it takes a leap of faith and an act of will to deliberately trade in the adrenergized biochemistry of stress for some happier, calmer neurohormones.

Ah, but the payoff is huge. Try it once and you'll want to do it again. I could give you pages of citations of studies showing the physical, emotional and cognitive benefits, but that would make for some deadly dull reading. Do us both a favor and instead, check the 1,200 studies in our data bases if you don't want to take my word for it. Suffice it to say we're talking blood pressure, blood sugar, heart rate, attention span, coordination and a lot more.

So, if we're looking at taking less than a half hour a day to de-stress, guided imagery will get the job done for a good 85 percent of you. Some are just not wired for it and others will find it annoying. But for the vast majority, it works effortlessly and well, and with a little repeated use, it gets stronger, goes deeper and works even faster.

Good imagery puts you in a focused, relaxed, altered state, engages all the senses (making it real to your body), uses symbols and metaphors to capture your imagination and elicits heart-warming emotion. At the same time, it's open-ended enough that you can fill in the blanks with your own meaningful, unique content.

I love it because it's also democratic and inclusive. You don't have to be smart, disciplined, physically strong, mature, mentally healthy, well-educated or knowledgeable to use it well. We have studies showing benefits even to those with dementia and developmental disability. It's also collegial -- it will complement any number of other approaches without stepping all over them.

It's funny, because I go around giving talks about guided imagery all the time -- so much so that, with all the repeated assertions, my own words can sound fake to me -- even though I mean what I'm saying. So if it's been a while since I've heard some imagery, and I start playing it, my first reaction is always that of pleasant surprise: "Hot damn, this stuff really works!"

I'll stop talking about it and you can try a sample. This stream is from our Relieve Stress imagery and it's under 20 minutes, so it qualifies for your daily de-stressing tool. See if it doesn't change your physiology, your mood, your blood pressure and your focus within the first few minutes. So just sit back, relax and let yourself listen by clicking here.

Enjoy and be well.

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