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If you’re interested in meditation, finding the right kind of meditation practice can take some time. There are many ways to practice meditation and mindfulness, and this is exactly what makes the act of meditating so unique. One meditation technique that many practice is known as visualization meditation.
Here’s how visualization meditation works, the benefits of incorporating it into your meditation practice, and how to do it.
What is visualization meditation?
Visualization meditation is a type of meditation that requires concentrating on a mental image or several images to help focus and center the mind and body (Matko, 2019).
Any calming image that you find peace in can work, but there are often some commonly used images that may help. Scenes like picturing a flower opening and closing in the body, inhaling and exhaling rays of light in and out of the body like breaths, or visualizing areas of the body where you feel tension slowly expanding are simple ways to cultivate a sense of calm and serenity. You can also use guided visualization meditation programs to help you fine-tune your focus if you have trouble selecting an image (Matko, 2019).
Meditation: what it is, types, benefits, techniques
Some people find visualization meditation is enough when practiced alone, but others may use it with additional forms of meditation, such as mantra meditation. This can help enhance concentration, create a sense of deep relaxation, and keep the mind from wandering into other thoughts that may jeopardize the meditation practice (Matko, 2019).
Benefits of visualization meditation
Just like physical exercise has similar benefits for the body regardless of what type of exercise you’re doing, visualization meditation seems to have the same benefits as other subtypes of meditation.
Meditation, including visualization meditation, may be a successful way for some individuals to treat and cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress relief. While meditation is not the sole form of treatment for these clinical conditions, it can complement existing treatment, prevent a relapse in symptoms, and help foster positive feelings (Saeed, 2019).
In addition to emotional distress and brain health, there has been moderate research to support that meditation may improve physical pain, such as low back pain, certain chronic conditions, and ailments associated with aging, and lower the risk for heart problems (Goyal, 2014; Levine, 2017).
How to practice visualization meditation
If you’re interested in trying visualization meditation and have meditated before, the visualization techniques will be similar to your regular meditation practice (Matko, 2019):
- Sit in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, no tension in the body, and your mind as relaxed and clear as possible.
- Think about the image you want to focus on during your visualization exercise.
- Using your breath as a guide, inhale and exhale as you visualize your body or another object opening and closing with the breath.
- Try to keep the rest of your mind from wandering to other thoughts or external feelings to help you stay present and mindful in the practice.
Meditation for anxiety: does it work?
Tips for visualization meditation
There are a few practical steps that can be helpful during all forms of meditation, including visualization meditation (Shonin, 2014):
- Use a meditative anchor as you start your practice. This is usually making a point to focus on your breath—not forcing it or breathing unnaturally but simply being aware of the rhythm of your breathing.
- Having the proper posture is also an effective tool for meditation. The Meditation Awareness Training program recommends mountain posture. This means you should be sitting upright rather than lying down on the floor or on a bed. Make sure you are sitting up straight without too much tension or overextension in your upper body, and keep your feet firmly planted on the floor.
- Breathe naturally. Don’t force deep or shallow breaths. Breathe as you naturally would.
Visualization meditation, like other forms of meditation, takes practice. Start by meditating for just five minutes and work your way up to longer sessions. When you’re ready to get started, simply get comfortable, find your meditative anchor, center your breath, and begin your practice.
- Matko, K., & Sedlmeier, P. (2019). What is meditation? Proposing an empirically derived classification system. Frontiers in psychology, 10, 2276. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02276. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6803504/.
- Saeed, S.A., Cunningham, K., Bloch, R.M. (2019). Depression and anxiety disorders: Benefits of exercise, yoga, and meditation. Am Fam Physician, 99(10), 620-627. Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2019/0515/p620.html.
- Goyal, M., Singh, S., Sibinga, E. M., Gould, N. F., Rowland-Seymour, A., Sharma, R., et al. (2014). Meditation programs for psychological stress and well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA internal medicine, 174(3), 357–368. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13018. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4142584/.
- Levine, G. N., Lange, R. A., Bairey-Merz, C. N., Davidson, R. J., Jamerson, K., Mehta, P. K., et al. (2017). Meditation and cardiovascular risk reduction: A scientific statement from the american heart association. Journal of the American Heart Association, 6(10), e002218. doi: 10.1161/JAHA.117.002218. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5721815/.
- Shonin, E., Van Gordon, W., & Griffiths, M. D. (2014). Practical tips for using mindfulness in general practice. The British Journal of General Practice: the journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, 64(624), 368–369. doi: 10.3399/bjgp14X680725. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4073721/.
Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.