In this time of restriction and in any time of high stress, our imaginations can run wild. Instead of letting our imagination run off to all of those scary places, which it is want to do, we can learn to guide it to helpful places and experiences. When we do so we can then access these affirming experiences to energize, comfort or relax ourselves.
We know that even imagining experiences can have a strong impact on how we feel. How often have you imagined what could go wrong and become worried or fearful? Or seen a film or had a nightmare that left you with an awful feeling that hung on for a while? We forget we can use this process in helpful, not just hurtful, ways.
Due to our body and brain being wired as a danger warning system, it automatically seeks out signs of what could be hurtful or could go wrong. This is extremely important, yet if we get stuck there it can be detrimental. To shift to building our helpful and positive resources, we need to direct our brain towards the positive resources explicitly and allow our body time to practice connecting with the positive experiences. Here are two such exercise you can practice.
1. Imagine a positive experience or activity
Think back to an activity during which you were able to be yourself, and connect to feeling alive and/or energized. Notice it is not about numbing or feeling “happy.” Sometimes those experiences may have a tinge of anticipatory tension, or tiredness. More important is that it connects you to a place, activity or person that affirms your way of being not an achievement or static identity.
2. Imagine a Comforting and Protected Place
Imagine a real or imagined place where you feel soothed or comforted in some way. Be creative, it can combine fantasy and reality in anyway you want. It may be a place in nature, a room or fantasy experience. Think about what you want/need to feel soothed: places, atmosphere, weather, views, animals, furniture… No one is allowed in this place without your permission, so consider how this place is protected. Does it have natural or built in boundaries, or guards? Adjust it as needed to fit your needs.
The key to these types of imaginary exercises is try to be as detailed and experiential as you can, to make it as real as possible.
- What do you see? Notice what colors, objects, movement, nature, structures, light, weather, season it is around you.
- What do you feel? Are there certain emotions, body sensations showing up and where in your body?
- What do you do? Are you relaxing in a chair, enjoying a movement/activity?
- What do you hear? smell? Are there nature or animal sounds and smells, or from objects and activities in the setting around you.
- Place reminders of these places and activities around you in your every day environment. It could be a picture, drawing, object or music associated with these experiences.
- Practice imagining these scenarios regularly, like a mini vacation. Try to notice and soak up how it feels to replenish yourself before you return to your everyday activities and environment.
Here are two audios to help guide you in connecting to a protected space. See which one works best for you.