Which is more beneficial for handling stress, guided imagery or meditation?

Which is more beneficial for handling stress, guided imagery or meditation?

 To effectively reduce the harmful physical and mental side effects of chronic stress, YOU have the power to take action and activate the body’s natural relaxation response. When stressors throw your nervous system out of balance, relaxation techniques can bring your body back into a balanced state.  Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery, and yoga help the body and mind to relax, while boosting energy levels and mood.

 Meditation and guided imagery are similar and both provide the relaxation response necessary to help you better manage daily stress. According to Herbert Benson, MD of Harvard Medical School, who has been researching and writing about stress since the 1960’s, the relaxation response changes a person’s physical and emotional responses to stress. His latest research, published in the online journal, Public Library of Science ONE (July 2), suggests that practicing relaxation response techniques can actually lead to genomic activity changes. In the study, his team of researchers looked at how the relaxation response affected each of the body’s 40,000 genes. Results found that compared with the control group, those participants who regularly used the relaxation response induce anti-oxidation and anti-inflammatory changes that counteract the detrimental effects of stress on the body.

 Today, scientists have shown that such practices lower heart rates, blood pressure and oxygen consumption, while also alleviate the symptoms associated with a vast array of conditions including hypertension, arthritis, insomnia, depression, infertility, cancer, anxiety, and even aging.

 Guided imagery is the process of being guided mentally through the use of words that provoke the imagination into deep states of calm and peace. Guided imagery helps to clear the mind of unwanted thoughts, while at the same time instilling affirmations that evoke positive changes in your life. In this regard, guided imagery can be more powerful than traditional passive meditation. Visualization techniques have now become so widely employed that they are used in a variety of fields ranging from arts, sports, business, alternative medicine, religious practices, psychotherapy and self-improvement.

 Meditation helps to bring you into the present by focusing your attention on a single repetitive action, a common example being the rhythm of your breathing. Other forms of meditation encourage you to focus and then release internal thoughts or sensations. By staying calm and focused in the present moment, you can bring your nervous system back into balance.

 I recommend that you try both and decide for yourself which works best. The most beneficial method for handling stress is the one that you can do consistently. For those of you who have tried meditation and have difficulties with it, I highly recommend you give guided imagery a try, as it intentionally redirects your mind using visualization to create positive images, helping to decrease stress and encourage relaxation.