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 Put Yourself in the Picture of Health 
The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Simply Well by . View all columns in series

Imagery Experience Two: Flip an Image for Symptom Relief
Your mental images may be keeping you stuck in pain, tension, and depression. But they can be "flipped over" to become healing images, and thus used to alleviate the same pain, tension, or depression.

Read over this whole exercise for yourself first, or ask a friend to read it to you as you follow the steps.

  1. Focus on one problem area. Perhaps it is chronic tension in your right shoulder or the nausea you experience riding in a car or plane. (Even if you are not experiencing any pain or tension now, you can use this exercise to prepare a healing image that will be available to you when you need it.) Note as many sensory aspects of this condition as you can. This will help you create a healing image. Ask yourself:
    • Is there a picture associated with my problem or pain? (For instance, tight, knotted nautical ropes that represent tight muscles or a murky, stagnant pool that stands for nausea.)
    • Is there a sound connected with my problem or pain? (For instance, a grinding or gurgling sound.)
    • Is there a texture associated with it? (A sore throat, for instance, might feel like rough sandpaper; an upset stomach might feel slimy.)
    • Is there a temperature associated with it? (A headache might feel hot; a broken arm might feel cold.)
    • Is there a smell or taste associated with it?
    • Is there a movement associated with it? (Churning, pounding, or stabbing?)
  2. Now for the flipping part. What would the problem or pain look, feel, smell, sound, or taste like when it is alleviated or cured? Flip the image you have of your condition, substituting its opposite. For instance:
    • Knotted ropes are slowly untied and loosely laid out on a deck.
    • A stagnant pool is drained and filled with clear, sweet water.
    • Sunlight penetrates the dark cloud of pain in your head.
    • The sound of a bubbling brook replaces the pounding sound in your head.
  3. Now relax. Take a few slow, deep breaths and recall the healing image you have just created. Use words if necessary to reinforce the image. For instance: "My head is filled with billowy, white clouds." Continue to rest for at least five or ten minutes (more if possible) as you hold the healing image in your mind�s eye. As your mind wanders or if you are distracted by your pain, gently recall the healing image. Continue to use slow, gentle breathing to deepen your relaxation.

    Don't be discouraged if you can�t conjure up all the images we have suggested. Use the ones that are strongest for you. Be patient with yourself in anticipating results, but know that other people have used this exercise to great advantage. Give it a try.

Imagery Experience Three: Make Your Dreams Come True
Look back to the beginning of this book where you designed a few specific goals for yourself as you began. Choose one of your primary goals and use imagery to form a picture of yourself with that goal already accomplished. For instance, if you are working to relieve backache, create, in your mind�s eye, a picture of yourself moving around your house, or walking or dancing easily, without pain. You may enhance this approach by making a collage of pictures, all indicating the positive outcome of your desired goal. Posting this collage where you will see it often will inspire you to stay oriented toward your goal.

Reprinted with permission, from Simply Well by John W. Travis, MD, & Regina Sara Ryan. Copyright 2001. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, CA.
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 About The Author
John W. Travis, MD, MPH, is the creator of the Wellness Inventory and its parent, the Wellness Index. He is the founder and co-director of ...moreJohn Travis MD, MPH
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