How Does Visualization Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction?

What do top salespeople and elite athletes have in common?

They thrive in highly stressful environments.


Top salespeople and elite athletes create mental images of the intended outcome to help them get through stressful situations. With visualization, these top salespeople and athletes are able to thrive despite being in competitive and stressful fields of work.

And you can experience the same effects. By taking up visualization, you’ll be able to relax better and will thrive even in stressful environments.

In today’s article, you’ll learn how you can use visualization to promote relaxation and stress relief.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

Let’s get right into it

Visualization for stress relief and relaxation
Source: (Stefan Keller)

What is Visualization?

Remember how you used to daydream during those boring chemistry and algebra classes in high school?

Visualization is kind of like that.

Visualization is a stress management technique that entails using your imagination to picture a place, person or time that makes you feel relaxed, happy, and peaceful.

In times of uncertainty and stress, the mind tends to focus more on the negative side of things. Visualization aims to expand your ability to relax by focusing your mind to more calming and serene thoughts.

But all stress management techniques focus on distracting the mind from a stressful situation. How’s visualization different?

Unlike other stress management techniques, visualization relies on all your senses.

For instance, when thinking about a past vacation at the beach, you hear the sounds of the waves, see the beautiful sunrise and sunset, feel the calming breeze of the wind, smell the fresh air, and taste the cold drink you had during the holiday.

By relying on all senses, visualization allows you to create a powerful relaxing experience. 

But how exactly does visualization lead to relaxation and stress reduction?

Keep reading to find out.

How Does Visualization Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction?

How Does Visualization Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Visualization techniques can help you relax for several reasons.

Firstly, guided imagery entails using distraction to redirect your attention from a stressful situation and towards a more relaxing scenario. Rather than focusing on the negative, visualization allows you to focus on more positive scenarios, therefore, resulting in a relaxing experience.

Guided imagery also helps promote relaxation and stress reduction by creating an associative process between past experiences and relaxing. Visualization techniques give direct directions to your body and subconscious mind to act as though the peaceful state you’re thinking of is real.

By doing so, your body learns to associate specific memories with relaxation. 

And don’t just take my word for it…

Various researchers have found a direct link between visualization exercises and reduced stress levels.

For example, a 1997 study that researched the effects of using imagery on cancer patients, found that patients who used visualization to cope with the disease experienced less stress and a higher quality of life compared to those who didn’t.

Another study on the effects of visualization on homeless teens found that stress levels were significantly reduced among youths who practised various visualization techniques. This despite homeless teens being exposed to more stressors than the average teen.

From the studies, it’s clear that visualization is effective in promoting relaxation and stress relief.

And that’s not all.                                                                                         

Visualization is also used in different psychotherapy practices, including:

  • Cognitive behavior therapy
  • Memory regression therapy
  • Treating anxiety

“Ok, I’m sold on the benefits of visualization. How do I start the practice?”

Visualization Techniques for Relaxing and Stress Reduction

How Does Visualization Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction_

There are several ways that you can use your imagination to relax. Below are five visualization techniques that you can use to relax and reduce stress

Creative Images of Favorable Outcome

Are you stuck in a stressful situation?

  • Maybe you’re working on a tough project
  • Or perhaps you’re thinking of quitting your job to start your own business.
  •  Or maybe you’re just about to give the presentation that could determine your career.

Creating mental images of the desired outcomes can help you reduce stress resulting from these stressful situations.

All you need to do is to think and visualize a time when the situation is resolved.

An example can include thinking about the applause you’ll receive after receiving your presentation, the recognition you’ll get once the project is complete, or your life as a successful entrepreneur. 

When visualizing your desired outcome, think about every detail.

  • What are you wearing?
  • Who’s there with you?
  •  What do you smell?
  •  What are you saying?
  •  Where are you?

Including even the minute details will help enhance your visualization practice.

Visualization with Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is one of the most common relaxation techniques.

It promotes stress reduction by relaxing the body. Visualization helps to relax your mind. When used together, these two become a powerful stress reliever relaxing both the body and mind.  

To perform this visualization, lie down in a comfortable place and begin breathing deeply. Focus on your breath.

Next, visualize all the stress leaving your body with every exhale.

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery is one of the most frequently used visualization technique in psychotherapy and online life coaching.

In this visualization technique, you listen to a recording of someone telling you what to visualize—the person guides you on what you should be seeing, feeling, hearing, and smelling.

And don’t worry, you can use guided imagery at the comfort of your home.

All you need to do is download a guided visualization recording online or through YouTube.

Most people will prefer guided imagery as their visualization technique because they don’t have to rely on their imagination that much. It’s much easier to visualize a scene if you’re being told what to think about.

Which is why guided imagery is perfect for beginners.

How does Visualize Promote Relaxation and Stress Reduction
Source: (Andrea Piacquadio)

Happy Memory Visualization

One of the best visualization exercises for relaxing and combating stress is to think about a happy memory.

However, it’s not just thinking about happy memories.

When performing a happy memory visualization exercise, focus on all the details.

Once you’re at a comfortable place, sit and start thinking about a time you were really happy. Involve all your senses.

  • Think about five things that you touched. Could be a person’s hand, a spoon, your phone.
  • Next, think about the four things that you saw. Could be your clothes, the sky, a sign, a person’s face, or a landscape.\
  • Now think about three things that you heard. Could be birds chirping, people talking, music, or the wind whistling.
  • From here, think about two things you could smell. Could be a person’s perfume, flower fragrance, or food.
  • Finally, think about one thing you tasted. Could be a cold drink, or a meal.

The more detail you include, the more relaxed you’ll be.

This is the visualization technique I use most. In most occasions, I come of it smiling and in better moods.

Related Article: Stress Coach: Ultimate Guide & 8 Best Stress Coaches

Say Good Bye to Debilitating Stress

There you have it.

All you need to know about how you can use visualization for relaxation and stress relief.

Don’t let stress get you down. Put into practice what you learned from this article.

Find a nice, comfortable, and quiet place and try one of the above visualization techniques.

Which technique will you include in your life?

Tell us in the comments below. 

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About The Author

Bijan Kholghi is a certified life coach with the Milton Erickson Institute Heidelberg (Germany). He helps clients and couples reach breakthroughs in their lives by changing subconscious patterns. His solution-oriented approach is based on Systemic- and Hypnotherapy.