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Published on February 13th, 2014 | by Natural Awakenings Staff

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Harness Your True Potential with Guided Visualization

by Barbara Sanchez-Reichert

February conjures many images in our minds; thoughts of snowy days still to come, sleigh rides and hot cocoa—and Valentine’s Day. According to the novel, Metamorphoses, written by the second-century novelist Apuleius, there was a beautiful mortal woman named Psyche who was adored and admired by so many men that the goddess Venus became extremely jealous of the shifting of adoration from goddess to humans. Venus, the goddess of beauty, ordered her son, Cupid, to get rid of Psyche. However, Cupid fell deeply in love with her beauty and could not go through with his mother’s wishes. Venus, furious with her son, forbade Cupid to even look at Psyche’s beauty and gave Psyche three tasks, of which led to Psyche’s death. Cupid was so heart-broken, he brought Psyche back to life, and so moved by his deep love for this mortal woman, the gods granted Psyche immortality.

Roman mythology used gods and goddesses to explain human behavior. Love, or Cupid, and the mind, or Psyche, are among the most popular perhaps because people have always struggled with the relationship between the mind and body. What we do (our actions) can be often intertwined with our mind (thoughts), while other times we are completely disconnected. It’s normal to occasionally disassociate our mind from our body because of trauma, injury or negative scripts that seem to continuously loop or get stuck in our brain. But what are the consequences of long-term failure to connect mind and body; failure to be living in the present? For many of us, it’s a failure to complete our goals, failure to bounce back from disease or injury and becoming our true self and live our best life.

How can we harness the mind/body connection to transform into the successful, healthy, and happy-deserving self? One of the ways is through guided visualization or imagery that involves creative imagery in our mind, coupled with our other senses to help us actualize our desired positive goals. One may create or purchase a tape or CD, which gently instructs the listener to relax while leading them through a mental exercise or journey.

In a study from 1985, researchers found that rheumatoid arthritis was seemingly connected to the strength of an individual’s psychological defenses. Patients with weak psychological defenses were more likely to have rapid advancement of the disease, responded poorly to treatment and became incapacitated. It was the belief systems of the individuals in the study, all else being equal, which affected their health. There is a large amount of research and studies that serve as examples proving the mind/body connection.

Bodyworkers have hands-on experience with the interpersonal human connections that provide a profound understanding of the mind/body connection and its central role in the healing process. They can create guided visualizations and partner with clients using verbal cues, music, essential oils, breathing techniques and touch to ease pain, reduce anxiety and increase confidence in order to optimize a client’s wellness.

Personal trainers may use cueing or tapping to bring focus to a client to contract a muscle in need of special attention. Making the client aware of what muscle creates the action brings better awareness to a weakened muscle, as well as overall proprioception (the awareness of where your body is in space), and increase functional outcomes. Physical performance is just as affected by our beliefs as is our ability to heal injury and disease.  In the years leading up to 1954, people were generally aware of the impossibility of running a four-minute mile. After Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59:4, it was broken again only six weeks later by a full second. Now even high school athletes surpass it regularly. One might say a collective tapping of sorts was performed across the psyche of track and field to bring attention and focus to a change of where we were now in space. It was never impossible; it was just believed to be so.

According to Advance Healthcare Network, a resource for occupational therapy practitioners, research shows that guided imagery can increase self-confidence, assist with fear, panic, anxiety, worry, uncertainty, trauma, loss and grief, increase relaxation and decrease depression, stress, pain, nausea, blood pressure, respiratory difficulties, medication side effects, improve immune system, improve healing and recovery time, prepare for medical procedures, decrease hospital length of stay, enhance sleep, strengthen connection to spirituality, meaning and purpose in life, improve functional outcomes and improve quality of life.

February is the month of love and connections. How loved and connected do we feel with ourself? What self-limiting beliefs do we carry around, and how do they affect our personal life? Guided visualizations can be a powerful tool in our process of harnessing the power of our mind and getting control of our life.

Barbara Sanchez-Reichert, LMT, CMLD, CPT, CES, is the owner of Alterra Wellness. For more information, call 201-567-4343 or visit AlterraWellness.com.

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