3 Ways to Using Imagery to Calm Your Emotions

3 Ways to Using Imagery to Calm Your Emotions

Have you ever felt like going to bed because your emotions were “off the charts?” I have, and I found myself lying there thinking about what I was so angry about. Turns out, that’s not very helpful. Then I learned a DBT Skill that helped me not only calm down but also helped to turn those negative emotions towards more positive ones as well.

I headed off to the beach.

Well…sort of. You see, I live in Montana. Not much in the way of ocean breezes around here. I grew up near the beaches of Southern California and to say I miss the beach is an understatement. But I can give myself a taste of that experience whenever I want. Here’s how.

1. Think of a place (either real or imaginary) that you would like to be right now.

For me, that’s always the ocean. I love everything about it; even the smell of rotting seaweed.

2. If you can, gather things that will help you experience it with your 5 senses.

When I was a teenager I went to the beach with my friends as often as we could afford the 33 cents for bus fare. We slathered on the suntan lotion and put lemon juice in our hair to lighten it. We listened to The Beach Boys on the radio and let the sound of the waves massage our souls. I have suntan lotion in my bathroom cabinet and lemon juice in the fridge. I also own a CD of ocean waves (you can also listen to waves on Youtube). And of course I own several Beach Boys CD’s. When California Girl comes through the speakers in my room, I am 14-years-old again! These smells and sounds help me remember what it was like to actually be at the beach. One time I even clicked on a small electric heater to simulate the heat of the sun!

3. Sit or lie down and allow yourself to be carried away to the place of your dreams.Your emotions will calm as you soothe yourself with a free, 10-minute vacation.

Try this exercise and let me know where you went in the comments below. I am giving away Christy Matta’s book, The Stress Response, to one lucky winner (randomly picked from the comments).


12 thoughts on “3 Ways to Using Imagery to Calm Your Emotions

  1. This is a wonderful idea and recommended by so many Practitioners, whether in religion, spirituality, or mental health. If so many disciplines suggest the same thing, it must hold merit. I’ve tried this once a day for the last few days and have actually noticed an improvement in my blood pressure. Thank you so much for framing it like a “mini-vacation.”

    1. Thanks for commenting Linda. I used to be “leary” of this idea, thinking I was putting myself off into “la la land.” LOL. We are just resting our minds and resting our bodies as well. There is a book by Dr. Archibald Hart about adrenaline and stress, and after reading that book, I know we can lower our blood pressure in this way. Again…thanks for commenting. Stay tuned for the winner of the free give-away!

    2. Hi Linda. Framing it like a “mini-vacation” helps me feel like I am taking some vacation time, even when I can’t afford the time or expense right now. :o).

  2. Sounds can be very suggestive. I remember playing The Sims 2 Vacation for the first time, sending my little pixel people to the beach at night and listening to the digital crickets and ocean waves. I spent a couple of hours at my computer in the evening and felt as if I had just come back from a nice summer break the morning after!
    Also, I would recommend this site -> http://soundrown.com/. It’s very good for creating ambiance, you can mix and match the sounds you like, e.g. rain and birds or night and fire. Or a coffee shop and fire, whatever floats your boat ;-).

    1. Hi Mona,
      I forgot about that site (soundrown)! I have used that. What is so cool about that one is how you can add one sound to another. Thanks for the tip! The other night I put on a CD and suddenly my bedroom became a sanctuary for a severe thunderstorm. I thought about how cozy and warm I was with such a “storm” raging outside. It was so soothing. There is a Youtube video that has about 9 hours of ocean waves so you can literally listen to it all night. Great stuff! Thanks Mona!

  3. Speaking of Youtube, this track is great for both work and relaxation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vcJ-o_fh1B4. It’s called “Celestial White Noise 10 Hours. Sleep Better, Reduce Stress, Calm Your Mind, Improve Focus”. All true. And another one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f77SKdyn-1Y – “Calming Seas 11 Hours Ocean Sound for relaxation, yoga, meditation, reading, sleep, study”. And there is always “the most relaxing tune ever” – you can read about it here: http://www.shortlist.com/entertainment/music/scientists-discover-most-relaxing-tune-ever. Aaaaand I’m done 🙂 Happy listening!

    1. You are awesome and amazing!! LOL. Thanks so much Mona. I’m going to check those out right away. I actually woke up in the middle of the night last night and thought abut putting on a CD I have. I would have had to go get the CD and put it in the CD player. My laptop is always right next to the bed so this would have been much easier. Talk to you again soon! ;o)

  4. Truly terrific suggestion Linda. Specifically, adding elements so all the senses experience the “image” has been very effective for me. I’ve tried this before using mostly mental pictures. It was marginally beneficial. I added sounds, smell, and touch to my recent mini mindful retreats and WOW, what a difference! AND they keep getting better. I encourage others to be creative and experiment. Try different sounds, settings, positions, etc . . . For example, my happy place is in the mountains (and I live at the beach, perhaps you and I should switch locations). I brainstormed smells that made me feel “there.” I tried mountain air candles and those that smelled like winter fireplaces. Then one day I accidentally discovered a perfect transforming scent. Just a small sniff of it and “poof” I was on a beautiful high-altitude, snow covered slope, gliding along effortlessly in powder, seeing the amazing blue sky, admiring the ranges of mountains and feeling energized and at peace. The “magic” scent was . . . Chapstick!! Somehow, 30 years of applying Chapstick while in the mountains left me with a wonderful transformative memory. Thank you again for sharing your work and for all you do for those who courageously strive to share compassion. Best to all, Mary (at the beach, virtual vacationing in the mountains regularly)

    1. Hi Mary…what a great comment! I feel that way about the smell of lemons…it truly transports me back to my young teeny bop stage…much more carefree times. I am going to try your idea too…I do love the mountains, and my goal is to live both here and “there.” Thanks again! Linda

  5. Nicely said, Mary.

    I try to take 10 minute vacations. If I do, my stress level is lower and my productivity soars. If I forget, I pay the price.

    Thanks for the reminder!

  6. Hi everyone! I want to let everyone know that Mona was the winner of last week’s book giveaway, “The Stress Response,” by Christy Matta. Thanks for the comments, Mona and to everyone else…stay tuned for more book giveaways in the future. Keep the conversation going! :o)

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