Guided Visualization: A Magic Wand?

“I felt really calm,” said one 7th grade student. “I felt like I was far away from the problem. It felt really good,” said another. “I didn’t want it to end,” laughed another. It seemed as though a magic wand was waved over the 35 students in our “Circles of Compassion” class (in Northern CA). Seriously! On a meter for energy they went from a high of 10 to a calm of 1. Just ten minutes earlier they were buzzing with heightened energy and chatter from our previous activities and were having difficulty settling into this activity, laughing with self-consciousness and uncertainty. What was the magic wand? Guided Visualization. I was looking at 35 students melted into their chairs or places on the floor like wax dripped off a candle. There was no longer any chatter or case of the “sillies”, no wiggling. Only complete, sweet calm and stillness.

Guided visualization

Guided visualization, also known as “guided imagery” or “guided meditation”, is one of the most powerful techniques for positive change which can be tailored through storytelling and relaxation techniques to help participants accomplish specific goals such as deeply relaxing the mind and body, decreasing stress and anxiety, healing, personal transformation or achievement, and so much more.  It allows participants to develop their imagination while integrating emotional and cognitive experiences.  During our class, with eyes closed and listening to relaxation music in the background, the students listened to the imagery described using all the senses (“What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it feel like?”) to create a mental images like a movie to experience and affirm safety, calm, and peace. They were then guided to send compassion to an event that may be replaying in their minds about what someone may have said or done to them which may be impacting them negatively (our focus for this class was on bullying awareness and intervention through compassion work). With effective breathing techniques also supporting the process to work its magic, their bodies began to melt into deep relaxation.

Social emotional learning

Self-management or self-regulation is a critical piece in social emotional learning. When it comes to bullying and relationships, sometimes the things people say and do can get us “off our game plan” because we feel hurt, sad, angry, or scared. It can lead to feeling powerless and upset. Amazingly, our mind cannot tell the difference between an actual ‘real-life’ event and a vividly imagined one.  The body responds physically, emotionally, and mentally whether it is responding to events actually happening (for example, being bullied) or being visualized (replaying the incident of being bullied). When we can get stuck in our thoughts about the negative experience it can have a negative impact on our bodies and minds over time. Mindfulness helps us learn how to relate to thoughts in a more helpful and positive manner.

Feeling in control

Today’s guided visualization allowed students an opportunity to experience an effective life-skill for feeling in control of thoughts and feelings in a proactive, positive manner.  By experiencing a positive guided visualization we actively choose which thoughts we focus on and our conscious minds become programmed by our subconscious minds by focusing on creative, possible, peaceful outcomes, as did the students in this activity. In just 10 minutes the students experienced mindfulness in a body scan to release tension; sent a bubble of love and caring to surround their personal incident to release aggressive thoughts and replace them with compassionate intentions in their practices to get “Compassion-Fit;” and affirmed the belief within themselves that they have the power to choose their thoughts and outcomes, while connecting with their goodness by acknowledging “I …am …calm”; “I …am …peace”; “I …am …kind”; “I …am …compassion”; “I …am …changing the world.” I was no surprise when they shared positive responses during our follow-up discussion: “I felt like I was far away from the problem. It felt really good.” One student explained how he was able to remove himself from an unpleasant experience and choose a peaceful, healing response to it.

You Can’t Be Peaceful and Aggressive at the Same Time!

One of the profound results from this activity is moving from thoughts and feelings of anxiety and stress (brought on by such things as bullying) to experiencing and enjoying the feelings of inner peace. When we are stressed due to the actions of others we give up our power for experiencing peace. When we proactively use strategies to shift our thinking and responses, we take back our own power. Feeling in control can positively impact all areas of our lives, emotionally, socially, and academically. The control, in this case, is for positive purposes where it is used for positive intentions. We can’t feel at peace and we can’t experience peace if we are having thoughts or images which are aggressive, angry, sad, worried. We get to choose. The benefits of guided visualization are long lasting, including feelings of deep relaxation, emotional and physical healing, enhancing creativity, increasing creativity, improving performance and skills, increasing confidence, self-empowerment, developing compassion, and so much more. Wouldn’t it be amazing to start the school day in classrooms school-wide with youth being able to release stress and feel peaceful while opening up their hearts and minds to prepare for learning?

Practice, practice!

We are filled with a wondrous resource within ourselves to draw upon anytime it’s needed to experience calm and peace as though a magic wand was used. This gift often goes unopened or ignored yet it can be one of the best gifts we use when opened. It’s tucked right there within us. By practicing this with our youth they will grow up understanding the benefits because they have actively experienced it! “I …am …calm”; “I …am …peace”; “I …am …compassion”; “I …am …changing the world beginning with myself.” 

THIS BLOG IS A REPRINT AND REVISION of “Guided Visualization the Magic Wand for Teens: You Can’t Be Peaceful and Aggressive at the Same Time!” which I WROTE ON Dec 18, 2013 ON MY OTHER WEBSITE CARING AND COURAGEOUS KIDS. SEE MY NEW VIDEO “7 QUESTIONS EVERY SCHOOL SHOULD ASK”

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#whyIteachmindfulness is a tag I use on my FB page Mindful Kindful YOUniversity ~ discover more reasons as I share them!

Guided visualization is just one of many activities we will be doing in my new community classes “Dragonfly Circles” in Arroyo Grande and Los Osos. Tell your friends!!!

Parents, Educators, and Community members are invited to my FREE workshops in November to celebrate “The Heart of Mindfulness for Youth Week.” Tell your friends!!!

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Dee DiGioia, Certified Mindfulness & Life Skills Coach and Consultant
MK YOU offers mindfulness programs for youth, educators, parents, and community members using evidence-based practices of mindfulness, movement, and social-emotional learning to help reduce stress while cultivating the inner resources needed for well-being in San Luis Obispo & Northern Santa Barbara Counties via community programs/classes/workshops, personal coaching, professional development, mini-retreats, and more. After pioneering a successful mindfulness program for K-5 classrooms at an inner city charter school in Sacramento, CA, Dee hopes to develop programs in our local schools here on the Central Coast of CA.  Contact Dee to learn more.

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