by Lauren Fallat, LPC LPAT ATR-BC
Mental visualization, also known as guided imagery, is a technique used to create or evoke mental images or scenes that promote relaxation, reduce stress, and improve overall well-being. It can be a powerful tool in healing and mental health. By combining this technique with art therapy, individuals can use the creative process to externalize and give form to their mental imagery. This can be particularly beneficial for those who struggle to articulate their thoughts and feelings through words alone.
Research has shown that mental visualization can have numerous benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing immune function, managing pain, and mood enhancement. Visualization can help individuals to relax and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety by creating calming mental images. Individuals can also learn to manage chronic physical pain by distracting from discomfort and creating calming mental images.
Furthermore, visualization has been shown to enhance immune function and improve overall health by reducing stress hormones, promoting relaxation, and increasing immune-boosting cells. When individuals experience stress, the body produces hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can suppress the immune system. Visualization can help to reduce the levels of these stress hormones and promote relaxation, which in turn can help to boost immune function. In addition to reducing stress hormones, visualization has also been shown to increase the production of immune-boosting cells, such as natural killer cells and lymphocytes. These cells help the body to fight off infections and illnesses.
Engaging in artmaking can promote the healthy benefits of mental visualization in several ways. Artmaking is a form of creative expression that can involve visualizing mental images and bringing them to life through artistic media. Here are some ways in which artmaking can promote the benefits of mental visualization:
Relaxation and stress reduction: Engaging in artmaking can be a relaxing and meditative process that promotes stress reduction. As with mental visualization, creating art can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, leading to a decrease in stress levels.
Improved mood: Artmaking can be a form of self-expression that allows individuals to explore and process their emotions. This can lead to improved mood and a sense of well-being.
Increased self-awareness: Creating art can help individuals to better understand their thoughts, emotions, and experiences. This increased self-awareness can promote personal growth and development.
Enhanced cognitive function: Artmaking can help to improve cognitive function by promoting focus, attention, and problem-solving skills. This can lead to improved mental clarity and overall brain health.
Improved social connections: Engaging in artmaking with others can promote social connections and a sense of community. This can lead to improved mental health and a greater sense of belonging.
Below is a guided visualization intended to promote creativity and to inspire the healthy expression of any relevant thoughts or feelings that are showing up for you during the process. Allow yourself to first visualize this process and then take time to manifest the visualization using actual art materials. Allow yourself to reflect on the process and the resulting image.
Guided Visualization for Artmaking:
Take a moment to find a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down, and close your eyes. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and exhale slowly through your mouth. As you exhale, let go of any tension or stress you may be holding in your body.
Now, imagine that you are standing in front of a blank canvas or a blank sheet of paper. You have a paintbrush or a pen in your hand, and you feel excited and inspired to create something beautiful.
Visualize a burst of color and light emanating from your heart center and flowing down your arm and into your paintbrush or pen. As you begin to create, allow your imagination to take over. Don't worry about making mistakes or following any rules. Simply allow your creativity to flow freely.
As you create, notice how your body feels. Perhaps you feel a sense of joy and freedom, or maybe you feel a deep sense of relaxation and calm. Allow yourself to be fully present in the moment, and let go of any thoughts or distractions that may arise.
As you continue to create, notice how your creation takes shape. Perhaps it is a painting, a drawing, a sculpture, or a piece of writing. Whatever it is, allow it to be a reflection of your unique self-expression.
When you are finished, take a moment to appreciate your creation. Notice how it makes you feel, and allow yourself to feel proud of what you have created.
Take one final deep breath, and when you are ready, open your eyes. Remember the feeling of creativity and inspiration that you experienced during this visualization, and carry it with you throughout your day.
Once you feel relaxed and centered from your visualization, you can choose to begin engaging in your own artmaking process. Choose a medium that you enjoy, such as paint, drawing materials, or clay and allow your intuition to guide you as you create. Don't worry about the final product, simply allow the process of creating to be healing and restorative.
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