March 1, 2011

Self-Acceptance Visualization

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:37 pm by kellyfdennis

Visualization is a research-proven, powerful technique for refining your self-image and making changes in your thoughts and behaviors. It can partner effectively with the cognitive therapy exercises you have already completed. Although the concept of visualization is not difficult, you just imagine scenarios in your mind, there are some guidelines which may cause it to be more helpful.

It is beneficial to be in a state of relaxation.  Therefore, begin each visualization with the short form of PMR (mentioned in a previous blog) and diaphragmatic breathing. Determine ahead of time, the thought or behavior you desire to change. Then make it concrete. For example, instead of just imagining yourself smiling or feeling good about yourself, imagine a person you admire giving you a specific compliment and then see yourself accepting and acknowledging the compliment without self-depreciation. When you are visualizing yourself in specific scenarios, imagine yourself with confident body language.  Head held high, direct eye contact with the other person, smiling and nodding, etc. Visualize the changes as happening in stages. For instance, imagine yourself struggling a little at first with the changes and work your way to visualizing yourself totally confident. End your visualization sessions with affirmations: I am happy and healthy; I do my best; I am interested and engaged in my life, etc.

The following is a popular self-image visualization exercise that targets body- image, beliefs of unworthiness, and feelings of anxiety:

Begin by taking three deep, belly breaths. Systematically tense and relax all the muscle groups beginning with your head. As you breathe in and out, notice how your body feels relaxed and calm.  Now begin to imagine yourself, in as much sensory detail as possible, in the following scenario:

“You are taking a shower.  Feel the warm, wet water hitting your back and running all over your body.  Hear the sound of the running water.  Smell the soap and shampoo. You feel great: invigorated, warm, and loose.  Enjoy the pure sensory pleasure of the shower experience. Tell yourself, “I deserve to enjoy this simple pleasure.” Enjoy feeling clean, new, and refreshed.

“Imagine that you’re out of the shower and dried off.  You’re getting dressed in a favorite outfit.  See the colors, feel the fabric as you draw each article of clothing over your skin.  Tell yourself, “I deserve nice things, I deserve to feel good.” Go to the mirror and admire your clothes.  See how nice you look. Stand up straight and tall and feel how clean and refreshed your skin feels under the clothes, how strong your muscles feel when you stand straight and tall.  Notice that your usual aches and pains are gone.  Tell yourself, “I look OK.”

“Fix your hair, adjust your collar, smooth your pants, and smile at yourself in the mirror.  Gaze at yourself smiling and notice how much warmer and friendlier you appear.  When you see parts of yourself that you usually don’t like, notice that they seem less dominant, less important.  If a self-critical thought comes to mind, imagine yourself shrugging your shoulders and letting it pass.  Tell yourself, “Actually, I am fine just the way I am.”

“Now imagine yourself going into the kitchen.  Imagine it in every detail.  Imagine that you open the refrigerator and take out some wonderful looking, nutritious food.  It could be soup, or salad.  Whatever you choose, imagine yourself preparing it in detail.  Notice all the colors, textures and smells.  Image yourself sitting down at the table to eat your wonderful food.  Eat slowly, savoring each bite.  Imagine when you are finished that you lean back and say to yourself,”that was good, I am taking care of myself, I am loving myself.”

“Visualize yourself putting away the food, cleaning your dishes.  Imagine that while you are washing your plate, it falls and crashes to the floor, breaking. Imagine you tell yourself, “It’s ok, no big deal, I’ll just clean it up.” If derogatory labels pop into your mind, just shrug your shoulders and tell yourself, “It’s ok, it was a mistake, everybody makes mistakes.  I’m ok, mistakes and all.”

Next get ready to go outside.  Imagine that it is a warm, sunny day. Step outside and feel the sun on your face, the warm, mild breeze in your hair. You see a stranger walking toward you on the sidewalk. The stranger catches your eye and smiles at you.  You feel that familiar anxiety and look away.  Now imagine that another person is walking toward you. This time tell yourself, “I am confident, willing to take risks.”  Imagine yourself making eye contact, smiling and saying “Hi.”  Imagine the stranger smiling and saying “Hi” back to you.  Continue walking down the street, head held high.  Say to yourself, “I am friendly and confident.”

Now get ready to end this visualization session. Take three deep, cleansing breaths and remember your surroundings.  When you feel ready to, open your eyes and take in your surroundings.  Sit for a moment and enjoy the warm, relaxation, and confident feelings.  As you go through your day, repeat the affirmative statements to yourself several times.

It can be helpful to record this script and play it back to yourself as a way to guide the visualization.

1 Comment »

  1. Erin said,

    Neat concept! I’m going to try it tonight. I have a feeling I’ll have to redirect myself because of many thoughts running through my mind at any given time, but it’s worth a try.

    Hope you are doing well.

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