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Guided Imagery Therapy for Depression

written by: BStone • edited by: Lisa Lambson • updated: 11/16/2010

Guided imagery for depression is an alternative method which addresses the subconscious roots of depressive disorders. It can be highly effective, at least alleviating part of the weight that many people suffer from.

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    Treating Depression

    Depression affects nearly one tenth of the American adult population. Causes range from chemical imbalances, often triggered by trauma, to depression loss or even prolonged anxiety. People who suffer from depression generally feel trapped in a situation that they believe is out of their control. Guided imagery for depression can help people let go of this concept and re-adjust their belief system to one of hope. Signs of this condition include feelings of hopelessness, lack of interest, weight change, insomnia, loss of energy, and difficulty concentrating.

    Conventional solutions such as antidepressants and psychotherapy can help, but they aren't always effective, especially beyond the treatment period. Only from 35-45% of the population is responsive to antidepressants. Many common prescriptions have serious side effects such as violence, suicide, even brain tumors. On the lighter side they impact energy levels and appetite, cause headaches, nausea, constipation, and blurred vision.

    Depression may be an illness of our emotional body, rather than our physical one, but if left untreated, it eventually leads to disease. It is now linked with osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, and back pain. Alternative therapies such as guided imagery therapy can play an important role in holistic treatment.

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    Sample Exercise

    This sample guided imagery exercise focuses on releasing the trapped energy associated with depression. It teaches the subconscious mind to let go of the terrible weight of depression, to feel comfort, gratitude, and even love.

    For any exercise, first make sure your body is supported and that there are no distractions. Start with breathing slowly and completely to go into a relaxed state. Inhale deeply, holding the breath for ten seconds, and then exhale, releasing all the air from your lungs. Repeat these cleansing breathes for three to five minutes.

    Now imagine a place where you can feel safe. Somewhere you've been, or someplace imagined, as long as it brings you to peace. Feel your body there - the earth underneath you, the breeze touching your skin, the warmth of the sun on your face. Look at your surroundings, calmly becoming aware. Feel a sense of gratitude for being in such a beautiful place, for the soft sounds, the sweet smells. With the next exhale, release any thoughts that are wandering through your mind. Let go of your worries and your concerns. They don't matter here. Imagine them dissolving into the air, allowing the wind to carry them away.

    Notice now that there is an energy, coming from above you. It is white light, maybe sparkling with colors, vibrant, and alive. The energy encircles you and protects you. Inhale the while light into your body, letting it flow through you with each exhale. Allow the bright energy to relax your tired muscles, ease any aches and pain. Feel the warmth in your throat, your chest, then fill your stomach. Feel it take the burden from your heart.

    As the light glows within you, feel it become stronger, brighter, intensifying your own awareness of beauty and excitement. Feel the positive presence in the energy, envisioning its love for you. Breath deeply, feeling grateful for this experience, and comforted to know that you can return here whenever you like. Slowly return your awareness to your self, and paying attention to your feelings at the moment.

    As much as we can instruct our conscious minds to feel joy, they rarely listen. The unconscious on the other hand has a profound ability to change. Guided imagery for depression is a way to take our mental state into our own hands, to help ourselves. It has a place next to traditional therapies such as psychotherapy and medication. This therapy is not a substitute for professional care, but it is a way to enhance your own personal journey.

    Sources:

    The Uplift Program

    Mayo Clinic

    Naparstek, Belleruth. Staying Well with Guided Imagery. Warner Books, 1994

    image by Hamad Saber

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