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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

Humans are image-making creatures. As mentioned in 6: Watch Your Words - Avoid Illness Programming, even without knowing it, you are constantly making mental pictures. As someone gives you directions, you visualize the route. As you read about a place you have never visited, you envision what it must look like. Even though you may never have seen a gallstone or a tumor, the words suggest an image to your mind.

The interesting thing about images is that, somewhat like words, they create emotional states that affect brain chemistry, and brain chemistry will depress or strengthen every system in your body, including your immune system. It pays to know what types of imagery you are generating and how you can make that imagery work for you. Visualization is a powerful tool for personal wellness.

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

- Anonymous

In biofeedback training, for example, people learn to lower their blood pressure by imagining vapors rising from a sun-warmed lake. You can also learn to significantly raise the temperature of your hand by creating a mental picture of your hand being warmed by the sun or being immersed in warm water. Raising your hand temperature has certain health benefits. For instance, it is correlated with a decrease in headache pain.

Holistic cancer support services throughout the world suggest using visualizations along with either conventional or alternative therapies to induce remissions. Patients are routinely taught to combine periodic relaxation with visualizations of healthy, energetic cells fighting and destroying the weaker and disorganized cancer cells.

Visualization skills are taught to business executives to help them expand their creative thinking and to create mental pictures of the goals they want to accomplish. Athletes use visualization in conjunction with physical practice to refine their performance and to build self-confidence. In childbirth, visualization helps a woman remain relaxed and focused during labor. Patients anticipating surgery use visualization to calm their fears and give them a sense of control over their internal states. Visualization is growing in popularity because it works.

What you see is what you get.

- Anonymous

Imagery Experience One: Flip an Image for Symptom Relief
Read this over and then guide yourself through it, or ask a friend to read it slowly to you as you follow the steps.

  1. Take a moment to relax. Breathe deeply and let your body sink into your chair. Close your eyes. Now recall a time in your life when you felt great, when your body was as healthy as it could be. Imagine yourself doing something in that healthy state, such as taking a walk or dancing.
  2. Notice how you are dressed in your mental picture. What does your complexion look like? How is your energy level? Use all your senses to absorb your picture of health. Notice the smile on your face. Breathe.
  3. As you breathe, draw in that image so it deeply penetrates your body. Feel the energy and aliveness that you have in the image. Hold your picture of health for a few minutes.
  4. Now open your eyes. How do you feel?
This exercise is a good way to develop and actually feel the effects of healing imagery. As you become at ease with the process, you can use it to alleviate tension and discomfort associated with a variety of symptoms, such as nausea, headache, or muscle pain. The next imagery exercise will show you how.
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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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