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What are Different Types of Guided Imagery Exercises?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

Guided imagery exercises can be tailored for adults, young children or teenagers. Exercises may also be designed for relaxation, for physical health or to correct certain behaviors. A variety of guided imagery exercises may be purchased online in audio or written formats, as well.

Many have successfully used guided imagery exercises for increasing physical health. In these exercises, individuals are instructed to visualize images of health and healing, while making a concentrated effort to relax and breathe deeply. Clinical studies have proven that visualization exercises help in reducing pain, blood pressure levels and the anxiety often associated with medical procedures. These types of guided imagery exercises are often used by individuals being treated for chronic illnesses, such as cancer, lupus and arthritis.

Some people are able to quit smoking by using guided imagery exercises.
Some people are able to quit smoking by using guided imagery exercises.

Also known as autogenic training, guided imagery exercises can also be designed to aid in relaxation. In these types of exercises, individuals imagine peaceful scenes while controlling breathing and releasing tension in the body. While engaging in relaxation exercises like this, participants are encouraged to imagine themselves in a peaceful setting and to imagine certain sensory effects, such as the warmth of sun on the skin, the scent of fresh flowers or the gentle feeling of a cool breeze.

Guided imagery can be used to relieve stress.
Guided imagery can be used to relieve stress.

Counselors trained in leading guided imagery exercises often use these techniques to help adults and children who are struggling to manage anxiety disorders. Depending on the age group, counselors are able to develop appropriate exercises that patients can use in their daily lives to help calm fears and anxieties. These types of exercises can, therefore, be used in a clinical setting or a patient can use audio recordings to practice techniques at home. Individuals can eventually learn how to guide themselves through exercises and reduce anxiety levels anytime and in any place.

Guided imagery exercises for children and teens have also proven helpful for young people struggling with asthma. Research indicates that asthma is sometimes triggered by emotional stress, which can at times be reversed by using creative visualization techniques. When children are relaxed and focused, asthma attacks can sometimes be thwarted.

Guided imagery exercises are also used to correct certain behaviors, such as cigarette smoking. By using imagery to visualize refusing a cigarette or envisioning an active life as a non-smoker, some have discovered that cravings for tobacco have been weakened and many have even found the strength to avoid cigarettes altogether. Similarly, envisioning black lungs or toxic poisons being inhaled also helps deter individuals from smoking.

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Discussion Comments


@bythewell - Even if guided imagery exercises aren't magic in the traditional sense, they can still be very useful for people. I think a lot of people never really sit down and let their mind concentrate on something simple in this way.

So even if they aren't trying to achieve anything specific, like stopping themselves from smoking, it can still be very useful to calm themselves and concentrate on something that isn't connected to real life for a while.


@pastanaga - I used to do a lot of guided mediation through a group that I attended when I was a student at university. I had expected it to be plain meditation, but the members of the group were more interested in spiritual things, so the leader often guided us with the intention that we meet our "spirit animals" or commune with people who had passed on.

Some of the people there got very excited about it, because I guess they thought that they were being visited by real spirits as they meditated. I never thought that was actually happening, but I did find it quite useful as a psychological diagnosis. It was kind of like analyzing a dream, where you can speculate depending on what kinds of images pop into your head.


I can vividly remember when I was 12 and our teacher had us do one of these. She told us to imagine being at the beach and fill all of our senses with the different stimuli. I think she was trying to get us to come up with better descriptive words for our writing, but I found it to be very relaxing to sit there and have someone basically talk me through a daydream.

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    • Some people are able to quit smoking by using guided imagery exercises.
      By: Nomad_Soul
      Some people are able to quit smoking by using guided imagery exercises.
    • Guided imagery can be used to relieve stress.
      By: Antonioguillem
      Guided imagery can be used to relieve stress.