Imagery is a way of using our imagination, and it has countless potential benefits. The problem is that without learning how to use our imagination skillfully, most of us use it to worry ourselves silly! In a way, worry is probably the most common use of the imagination — the repetitive focusing on images and thoughts of trouble, problems, disasters waiting to happen.

Positive Worry

All of us worry at one time or another: It’s natural, and sometimes worrying even allows us to solve problems by examining the situation over and over. But some of us worry habitually, and that creates a condition of chronic stress. If you are a worrier, you can break that habit and replace it with a new habit we might call “positive worry” — taking time to focus your imagination on thoughts and things that create calm, peacefulness, relaxation and a sense of security. This shift in focus allows your body and mind to refresh themselves and lets you use your coping and problem-solving abilities better.

Relaxation and More

The first skill to learn with imagery is using it to relax — we describe how to do that and even offer you audio clips you can listen to. Regular interruption of chronic stress with relaxing mental “mini-vacations” can sustain your energy, your positive mood and your ability to cope with challenges.

Beyond relaxation, imagery can be used to stimulate our creativity and help us reach new solutions to difficult problems. One technique is to imagine having a conversation with a wise and helpful figure and see what it has to tell you about an area of concern.

Imagery can be used to develop qualities in yourself you’d like to have — it’s like emotional body-building — and using a technique called “Evocative Imagery” you can cultivate courage, patience, tolerance, humor, concentration, self-confidence or any other quality you’d like to embody.

Imagery can also be used to stimulate our immune systems, to increase or decrease blood flow to areas of the body, and thus to influence healing. See the Academy for Guided Imagery Web site for more information.

Whether it’s for relaxation, problem-solving, healing, or self-development, learning to use your imagination skillfully can be one of the best investments you’ll ever make with your time.