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Imagery involves using your imagination. You use your imagination when you think of things such as the taste of a lemon, the colours of the sunset, or the sound of a drum.

There are two main ways to use imagery to help with how you’re feeling, whether physically or emotionally: changing a sensation or changing your thoughts.

Changing the sensation of your nausea or pain

Picture whatever is uncomfortable in your mind. Picture it as having a certain shape, size, or colour, and then change it. For example, if you have pain and your pain feels like the size of a baseball, change it in your mind to the size of a golf ball, or a marble, or even smaller. Or change it from hot red to pale pink, maybe even to blue.

Changing your thoughts to something more enjoyable

Imagine being in a pleasant place, maybe on a beach or in a park with your family and friends. This is much more interesting to think about than pain or worry!

Imagery can also help you with the stress and tension that build in your body from worrying. When you think about something pleasant, your body can become more relaxed.

Learning how to use imagery

Imagery is like daydreaming except that you are doing it on purpose. Some people find it easy to use their imagination to distract themselves. Others need more practice to develop these skills.

When you practice imagery, you need to become involved in the scene as much as you can. In doing this, you will spend less time and attention on negative thoughts.

To help with this, involve as many of your five senses as you can. For example, if you are thinking about the beach, think about the sound of the water, all the sights on the beach, the smell of the ocean or lake, the feeling of the sand, and the taste of the salty water.

You can use any pleasant experience to help you relax. Try remembering a trip you have taken or a favourite story. However, for imagery to work well, the scene should be easy to picture. And, of course, it should be pleasant or calming for you.

What are some pleasant experiences you have had?

Practice tips

Listen to this audio recording called “Your comfort zone”. This guided meditation can help distract you from pain and discomfort from cancer, treatment of procedures.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019