Guided Imagery benefit and techniques, use for health improvement and smoking cessation
October 1 2015 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Guided imagery is a method of directed thoughts and suggestions that guide a person's imagination toward a relaxed, focused state. An individual can use an instructor, tapes, or scripts to help go through this process.

Guided Imagery and Smoking Cessation
Some smokers may be able to quit by seeing themselves do it in their minds. A study of 71 smokers found that those who went through guided-imagery therapy had more than twice the abstinence rate 2 years later as their peers who received only standard counseling. The guided imagery involved progressive muscle relaxation and breathing exercises to calm and focus the mind. Then study participants were led in visualizing themselves in a healthful state and performing specific activities, such as exercising, eating well -- and not smoking. The tactic seemed to work for at least some. Two years later, 26 percent of the smokers had quit, compared with 12 percent of those in the comparison group. Though most smokers in each group had failed to kick the habit, the abstinence rate in the guided imagery group was, in context, "very good." Journal of Nursing Scholarship, Winter 2005.

The University of Michigan Health System offers this advice:
Set aside at least 15 minutes to practice in a quiet, cool and comfortable place where you won't be disturbed.

Let others know that you need some uninterrupted time.

Don't practice while driving.

Turn off your phone and eliminate other distractions.

If odd thoughts come into your mind as you practice guided imagery, let them pass and don't dwell on trying to figure them out.

Consider the practice successful if you feel better after you've completed the exercise.

Anxiety reduction
Int J Clin Exp Hypn. 2013. Anxiety reduction using hypnotic induction and self-guided imagery for relaxation during dermatologic procedures. Many patients experience some degree of anxiety during dermatologic procedures. A prospective, randomized-control trial of hypnotic induction followed by self-guided imagery was conducted with patients in 3 groups: live induction, recorded induction, or control. By 20 minutes into the procedure, there was significantly reduced anxiety reported in the live-induction group compared with the control, whereas reported anxiety in the recorded-induction group was similar to that of the control group. All 13 in the live induction, 11 of the 13 in the recorded induction, and none of the 13 in the control group imagined scenes. The findings of this study suggest that live hypnotic induction followed by self-guided imagery can help to reduce anxiety experienced by many patients during dermatologic procedures.

Blood sugar, diabetes help?
J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2015. Effect of auditory guided imagery on glucose levels and on glycemic control in children with type 1 diabetes mellitus. To assess the effect of auditory guided imagery (AGI) on glucose levels, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and quality of life (QOL) in type 1 diabetes mellitus children.METHODS:A blinded randomized controlled study comparing the effect of AGI accompanied by background music and background music solely (BMS). The study included 13 children, (7-16 years). The participants were connected to continuous glucose monitoring system for 5 days (short phase), and the outcome measure was the change in mean interstitial glucose concentration (IGC). Participants listened to the recording twice a week for 12 weeks (long phase), and the outcome measures were changes in QOL and in HbA1c.RESULTS:Mean IGC decreased in both AGI and BMS groups while listening. HbA1c decreased in both groups, but the decrease in the AGI group was significant. Listening to AGI is a potential approach for improving glycemic control and glucose levels in youth with T1DM, but further research is required.