Use Guided Imagery For Relaxation

Man standing with arms outstretched looking out at desert canyon at sunset
Thomas Barwick/Taxi/Getty Images

Guided Imagery is a convenient and simple relaxation technique that can help you quickly and easily manage stress and reduce tension in your body. It’s virtually as easy as indulging in a vivid daydream and, with practice, this technique can help you to better access your inner wisdom. (You can learn more about the benefits of guided imagery.)  There are a few different ways to practice using guided imagery, including taking a class where you are "guided" by an instructor, using audio recordings, creating your own recordings, or using your inner voice and imagination.  This article describes the process of using your own thoughts, simply because this takes the least amount of preparation and expense; however, you can also explore guided imagery at many yoga studios, with recordings, and through an experienced therapist. You can slo record your own guided imagery tapes.  Here's how to get started with guided imagery.

Get Comfortable

Get into a relaxed position, like one you would use for meditation or self-hypnosis. If a lying-down position would likely put you to sleep, opt for a cross-legged position, or recline in a comfy chair.  Try to position yourself in a way where your physical comfort won't be a distraction.

Breathe From Your Belly

Use diaphragmic deep breathing and close your eyes, focusing on "breathing in peace and breathing out stress."  This means letting your belly expand and contract with your breath--if you find your shoulders rising and falling, you are likely carrying tension in your body and not breathing in the most relaxed way.

Choose a Scene, and Vividly Imagine It

Once you get to a relaxed state, begin to envision yourself in the midst of the most relaxing environment you can imagine. For some, this would be floating in the cool, clear waters off of a remote tropical island, where attractive people bring drinks and smooth music plays in the background. For others, this might be sitting by a fire in a secluded snow cabin, deep in the woods, sipping hot cocoa and reading the latest bestseller while wrapped in a plush blanket and fuzzy slippers.  

You may want to remember a time and place when you felt wonderful and relaxed (a "happy place" in your memory), a vividly-described scene from a book you love, or the way you imagine a place you've always wanted to visit.

Immerse Yourself In Sensory Details

As you imagine your scene, try to involve all of your senses. What does it look like? How does it feel? What special scents are involved? Do you hear the roar of a fire, the splash of a waterfall, or the sounds of chipper birds? Make your vision so real you can even taste it!  (Noticing these details in your daily life is a way to increase your mindfulness, which brings lasting stress management benefits as well.)


Stay here for as long as you like. Enjoy your ‘surroundings’, and let yourself be far from what stresses you. When you’re ready to come back to reality, count back from ten or twenty, and tell yourself that when you get to ‘one’, you’ll feel serene and alert, and enjoy the rest of your day. When you return, you’ll feel calmer and refreshed, like returning from a mini-vacation, but you won’t have left the room!


  1. You may want to use ambient sounds that compliment your imagery. This way, you feel more immersed in your ‘environment’, plus the sounds of real life will be obscured.
  2. You may also want to set an alarm, just in case you lose track of time or fall asleep. This way, you’ll be more able to relax and let go, knowing that your schedule won’t be in jeopardy.
  3. As you get more practiced, you’ll be able to go more deeply and quickly. You may also want to communicate with your subconscious mind, with the help of a tape you record for yourself or purchase, or a therapist.