Imagery for Immunity
Research shows that our thoughts and feelings impact our physicality, from increased cortisol levels when we’re stressed to lowered immunity if we’re feeling depressed. Most of the time, we don’t consciously direct our thoughts for the benefit of our health, but we do have the power to do just that.
Visualization is a practical tool we can use at any time to deliberately and positively influence our immune system. When we say “visualization,” we really mean much more than seeing with internal eyes. Some of us are not visually oriented, and may not connect to the idea of seeing images with our eyes closed. Instead, let’s think of visualization as image-feeling. The feeling, whether we can cognize images or not, is really what we’re after. The emotion is what has the greatest influence on our health. (For more on that, see Dr. Reid’s blog post: The Power of Words.)
For example, visualize a tree. If you can’t see the trunk, branches, etc. in your mind’s eye, then cognize the feeling of a tree. In either case, when we imagine a tree, there is a feeling that we likely associate with concept of tree. This is what we mean here by visualization. So even if you can’t see that tree, you can still use visualization techniques for your benefit.
How does visualization impact us physically? It becomes part of the chemical conversation going on in our body, creating a blueprint that influences our neuro- and immunotransmitters.
From our earliest moments of life, the brain and immune system are engaged in a constant dialogue. Each influences the other by means of chemical messengers. In fact, the immune system has neurotransmitter receptor sites in white blood cells, lymph nodes and elsewhere, and the brain has receptor sites for immunotransmitters called cytokines.
Three important cytokines are:
- Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)
Examples of neurotransmitters include:
Neurotransmitters circulate throughout the body with specific immune system receptor sites, as mentioned. Emotions impact neurotransmitters and thus affect immunity specifically, and our health generally.
The immune system responds to messages from the brain formed by images or emotions. We can deliberately create mental images or encourage emotions to impact our immune systems in a positive way. Instead of letting our unconscious thoughts steer our health, we can consciously direct thoughts and feelings for greater energy and vitality.
You can use visualization in any moment to influence your experience, or you can use guided visualization for a different and often deeper effect. One of the simplest approaches is to use a counterbalancing visualization. Let’s say, for example, that you feel nervous—you can imagine yourself being calm and strong. Or maybe you feel tired—consciously imagine yourself being active, feeling what it feels like to have more energy. If you’re cold, you can imagine sitting in the sun on a tropical beach, or if you have high blood pressure, you can visualize your blood pressure going down.
If a person is dealing with cancer and thinks “I’m doomed,” it certainly doesn’t help the immune system. Indeed, fear may be the most weakening emotion for immunity.
If we let negative thoughts run unchecked, they can weaken us, versus consciously visualizing life and vitality. We can use the tool of directed visualization on the spur of the moment when there is a need or when we notice an unhelpful thought.
We can also use guided imagery to potent effect. Our educational program on health and vitality, recently released the CD Into Your Heart, a guided visualization from Dr. Reid.
The visualization is designed to help you regulate the flow of your hormones and neurotransmitters in a way that reduces stress in your body and increases happiness. Dr. Reid guides you to opening yourself to the energy of your heart, to heal emotional hurts and find out what really matters to you.
Available at our online store, it’s a tool that you can turn to again and again. Listen to a sample:
Dr. Reid also created a wonderful CD entitled Guided Explorations to Our Internal Organs, which is also available at our online store.
In addition, you can try this guided visualization, or “recapitulation” for resolving past hurts. It guides you to evoking the feeling of safety and nourishment that one experiences in the mother’s womb for greater energy and vitality in daily life:
Remember that you can use visualization to benefit your life any time you like, whether it’s a quick image that you form in your mind to help you manage a situation, or whether you sit down.