Our thoughts and words are extremely powerful. Just as single drops of water dripping steadily can cut a hole in solid rock, single words can shape our reality, if they are repeated enough.
“I love this.”
“I can do it.”
Mentally repeating positive words has several benefits. First, they provide immediate encouragement when we are fearful, frustrated, or discouraged. Second, their repetition occupies the thinking mind, so it can’t remain stuck in negative thought patterns. And third, their repetition slowly builds a foundation of optimism, which is so essential for healing and enjoyment of life.
On the other hand, negative words, phrases, and mental pictures create a tense or angry atmosphere in which stress is more likely to be felt. Consider the following:
“I hate this.”
Such words deplete energy and motivation, like heavy weights tied around the ankles when we’re trying to run. They also strongly influence our beliefs about who we are, and what we can or cannot do. So it is important to monitor our self-talk carefully, and choose words that reflect who we really are and what we want to become.
Here are a few examples of affirmations that can positively influence our attitudes and reduce stress:
“I am at peace.”
“I am healthy and whole.”
“I love and accept myself as I am.”
“I breathe in deeply, and release tension as I breathe out.”
“I smile and notice the good things around me.”
“I can handle anything that comes my way.”
“I am safe and secure wherever I go.”
“I communicate my feelings with ease.”
“I accept all the changes in my life.”
“I take time for myself.”
“I am divinely protected.”
“I radiate health and happiness.”
“I carry my peace of mind with me wherever I go.”
“I forgive all those who may have hurt or harmed me.”
“I am a lovable and worthy person no matter what happens.”
“I trust my higher self to lead me to the best possible outcome.”
Affirmations can be repeated at any time of day, and in any circumstances. For example, waking up in the morning we can consciously choose our first thoughts of the day: “I smile and notice the good things around me.” When walking through the day: “I carry my peace of mind with me wherever I go.” And before sleep: “I am now relaxing into a deep, nourishing sleep. I will wake up feeling cheerful and alert.” (This can significantly improve the quality of rest.)
Another valuable skill in managing stress and cultivating wellness is our capacity to visualize. Visualization is the process of intentionally creating mental images that comfort and motivate us. Through visualization we can review and re-frame painful experiences of the past; we can preview and practice new ways to handle our current challenges; and we can imagine our highest and best ideals for the future, regardless of our immediate surroundings and circumstances.
For creative visualization, find a safe location where you will not be interrupted. Take as much time as necessary to come into the present moment, perhaps by doing some deep breathing, yoga, or quiet sitting.
1. Visualization of new responses to a stressful situation:
In your mind’s eye, try to create a visual picture of yourself in the stressful circumstance. Where are you when you feel stressed? What sounds, sights, and smells are there? Are there other people involved? Take note of all the sensory details you can. What does the stress feel like in your body? Where exactly do you feel tension? What emotions and thoughts are coming up?
Now that you have re-created some aspects of the stressful event in your mind’s eye, you can begin to visualize a more balanced experience. Breathing slowly and deeply, create a mental image of yourself as calm, cool, and collected in the same situation. See yourself standing, sitting, or moving around, and feel your body sensations and breathing. You now have ample time to feel the tension in your mind and body, let go of the discomfort as best you can, and consider your options. How would you think and feel if you were totally relaxed in this stressful circumstance? What actions would you take? Could you smile or laugh despite the difficulty? What new and novel approaches might there be? What would the best possible outcome look like? See yourself involved in the situation, but relaxed and in control; communicating well with others, engaged and at ease. This is a creative visualization, so there are no limits to what you can imagine. Look for your highest and best feeling, thinking, actions, and results.
Regular practice of this visualization can help you become more self-aware in the midst of stress. No matter what is happening around you, you will have some ability to feel your breathing and body sensations. And with this awareness will come the freedom to choose your next response, rather than locking into a habitual stress reaction.
2. Healing visualization: your body as radiant white light
Once you are sitting quietly with eyes closed, bring your attention to the center of your chest and feel the heart beating there. Breathe with awareness as you feel your heart pulsing deep in the chest.
Now try to visualize a white light glowing in your heart. You may “see” the light, “imagine” it, or “feel” it there. If nothing else, you can simply believe it is there. Continue breathing with awareness of the light in your heart.
Next, imagine the light spreading so it fills your whole chest and torso. Breathe and feel, “I am filled with light.”
Expand the light again to fill the arms and fingers, legs and toes, neck, face, eyes, and brain. Rest in the present moment and visualize a crystalline, free-flowing white light throughout the body. See the light penetrating your muscles, organs, and bones; see every cell, every molecule, every atom vibrating with the frequency of light.
Breathe in and allow the pure white light to dissolve all the shadows, contractions, injuries, and disease in your body. Let these go as you breathe out. In the light you are free of pain and fear and darkness. You are transparent and filled with shining white light. You are pure light, pure energy, pure spirit, pure love.
Now, see this light radiating out from your heart, shining through your skin, and filling the space around you. Breathing in, you are filled with healing light. Breathing out, you radiate this infinite love to others.
Finally, allow the light to fade and feel it dancing quietly in your cells. It is always within you, creating vibrant physical health, emotional calm, and mental clarity.
Like all visualizations, this can be done anywhere and anytime that you have a few minutes to yourself.