Imaging, also known as visualization, makes use of mental images as a means of achieving a deeply relaxed state.
After meditation, it’s probably the oldest form of relaxation practiced. Recently, though, imaging has been used more and more by physicians as a means of increasing the effectiveness of standard treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.
Studies have shown that it works by boosting the body’s natural immunity and actually increasing the activity of natural killer (NK) cells, which then attack tumors.
In this type of exercise, vivid mental images serve as feedback messages to the rest of your body. These images act as cues (much like words or sounds) which stimulate the nervous system and cause other organ systems (the immune and endocrine systems most specifically) to respond subconsciously.
For those of us suffering with illness and disease, the body is often regarded as “the enemy.” Negative feelings and attitudes are quite common because we tend to start thinking of our body as a source of disease rather than a source of health and well being.
We develop fears and anxieties, which become worse and worse and lead to an ever-spiraling cycle of depression and hopelessness. And then we give up because we don’t believe that our body, which was responsible for the disease in the first place, is able to fight it off.
Creating positive beliefs through imaging, however, can reverse that cycle and actually stimulate the immune system to rise up and fight disease head on.
Together with traditional medical treatment, which should always be the primary source of therapy, imaging can have a tremendous effect on reversing the disease process while creating a mental environment that enhances the healing process.
In summary, self-healing exercises are effective because they:
- Renew energy levels, create a more favorable outlook on our health, and help give us a better perspective on life. Together these reduce stress levels, which of themselves can trigger disease and illness.
- Bring about positive physical changes within our immune, endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous systems. These changes act to help fight illness and strengthen our ability to resist disease.
- Condition the brain to respond to illness and disease in a natural and direct way. By using the power of our mind to help fight disease, we enhance our ability to regain health and vitality.
The following are 2 examples of imaging exercises used for self-healing. The first is a general imaging exercise; the second is one that has been used successfully by cancer specialists for treating patients with various types of cancer.
General Self-Healing Imaging Exercise
Begin the exercise in a comfortable position, with your eyes closed and with an even, rhythmic breathing pattern. Deepen your relaxation by breathing slowly and counting down from ten to one, one number for every exhalation.
As you count, release more tension and allow your body to become heavier and more relaxed. Once you achieve a state of deep relaxation, visualize the part of your body that is the source of illness. Be as vivid as possible.
Consult a medical text beforehand if you’re not sure where the organ is or what it looks like. The more vivid and detailed you are, the more effective the exercise will be.
As you breathe, see the organ or body part clearly in your mind. Watch the blood flow through it, bringing with it oxygen and nutrients that enrich and heal, energize and invigorate.
With each breathe you take, visualize more and more life-giving blood flowing into the organ or body part and removing from it toxic wastes and damaged cells.
See the organ glow red with health and vitality and picture you in perfect health with no sign of disease or illness. Continue this mental image for about twenty minutes before slowly opening your eyes and stretching.
Imaging Exercise and Cancer Treatment
In the early 1970s, a unique method of cancer treatment was attempted which involved both standard treatment and visualization exercises.
Patients were instructed to relax deeply while picturing the cancer being destroyed by their body’s own immune system. In numerous cases, cancers that had low cure rates when treated with radiation and chemotherapy alone were arrested by combining the traditional treatment with relaxation and imaging exercises.
Physicians weren’t completely surprised that something as simple as visualization could actually enhance the healing process since cancer is basically a breakdown of our body’s immune response and anything that boosts that immune response will have a positive effect on destroying cancer cells. What they were surprise about was the effectiveness.
There are 3 important steps in helping treat cancer patients through visualization: 1) achieving a deeply relaxed state, 2) visualizing the specific cancer within the specific body part, and 3) visualizing the treatment being used successfully to attack the cancer.
It’s very important to focus on proper breathing and become deeply relaxed at the start of each healing session.
Once relaxation is achieved, you can begin visualizing the specific cancer in any way you choose (as a shapeless form, as a cell with projecting fingers, as a cell with teeth, etc.) You may think of it as a group of weak and helpless cells that are normally destroyed during the course of a lifetime.
After all, we all develop cancer at some point in our lives, but get rid of it quickly before it grows. Next, picture in your mind the treatment that will attack and destroy those weak cells.
If radiation treatment is used, imagine laser beams or spurts of energy hitting the cancer cells and destroying them. The dead cells are then attacked by an army of strong and aggressive white blood cells, which swallow them up and carry them away from healthy tissue.
The normal cells then repair the tissue damage and continue to thrive. If the treatment is chemotherapy, imagine the chemical distributing itself among the cancer cells, poisoning them as they come into contact with it.
Because the cancer cells are weak and helpless, they’re destroyed while the normal healthy cells continue to grow and become healthier.
The best results have been achieved when cancer patients performed these exercises three times a day for at least fifteen minutes at a time.
With both radiation and chemotherapy, it’s also important to visualize the cancer shrinking and responding in a positive way while, at the same time, visualizing the normal cells become healthier. Imagine yourself free of pain, free of disease, and full of energy and vigor.
As difficult as it may be, rather than focusing on the negative side of your illness, focus on your body healing itself and becoming well again.
This positive visualization will improve attitude, enhance relaxation, mobilize the immune system and, as a result, enhance the healing process.
How to Create Powerful Self-Healing Images
When a study was done with cancer patients who practiced imaging, researchers discovered that the patients who used weak or negative images were less successful than those who used strong, powerful images were.
This discovery proved that the image itself is an important factor in the healing process. Here are the main features necessary to achieve an effective and self-healing image
- A strong and powerful treatment. Most of us think of cancer as a powerful disease that takes over our body during a time of weakness. Therefore, it’s important to think of the treatment as something that is clearly stronger and powerful enough to destroy any cancer. The image can be made even stronger if we make a vivid distinction between it and the cancer. Using a bland, neutral color such as gray or light brown for the cancer and a vivid color like red for the treatment makes it easier to visualize the treatment as a dominant force that can destroy cancer cells.
- Weak and helpless cancer cells. Rather than thinking of cancer cells as being able to grow and multiply, it’s important to visualize them as weak and powerless. Imagine them as soft or fragile, not capable of withstanding a treatment. Never give cancer cells the colors black, red or orange.
- Normal and healthy, non-cancerous cells. The very nature of cancer treatment dictates that the treatment also affect non-cancer cells. Therefore you need to visualize the normal cells being strong and healthy enough to recover from any damage that the treatment might do to them. So, while the weak and helpless cancer cells are being destroyed, the strong and healthy non-cancerous cells are quickly recovering and returned to a normal, healthy state.
- Strong and aggressive white blood cells. The soldiers of our immune system are the white blood cells. They seek out and destroy foreign bodies that break through our lines of defense. Because they play a critical role in fighting cancer, white blood cells should be visualized as strong, powerful, and aggressive. They must overwhelm cancer cells with their vast numbers and destroy them completely. The most powerful image is one in which the cancer cells are significantly outnumbered. After the white blood cells do their job, the dead cancer cells should be seen being flushed completely out of the body. This act of flushing is important since many of us have a subconscious fear that even dead cancer cells, if left around long enough, can become menacing again.
- A healthy, cancer-free body. Since an important part of imaging is visualizing a desired final outcome, it’s crucial that you see a positive end result. You need to see yourself as healthy, happy, energized, and cancer free. Try to see yourself doing all the things you would normally do at your healthiest time of life and force yourself to visually engage in happy activities. Take control of your image, be assertive in your positive thinking, and express total confidence in your body’s ability to heal itself. This positive image of a successful end result forces you to focus on the healing process and reaffirms the confidence you have that your body will eventually win out over illness.
The concept behind imaging is that self-healing is possible through the use of a simple mental tool – in this case an image that triggers your brain to fight disease.
As with anything else that benefits us, imaging exercises take a little time and effort to learn.
Once practiced, though, this technique can become a conditioned response that can be drawn upon to help us boost our immunity and fight illness and disease.
“Never underestimate the power our brain has to control the rest of our body,” says Dr. Andrew Goliszek. “And as we learn more and more about how we respond to stress and about our body’s defense system, we begin to discover that our body has an extraordinary power and ability to not only cope with day to day events, but to heal itself in the process as well.
Some of these self-healing tips and exercises were taken from his book,