Self-guided positive imagery training can be successfully employed in combating negative emotions in everyday life, according to new research. Imagery training is a powerful tool that allows positive changes in the brain functions, which can lead to an increase in happiness and the quality of life.
The study was published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and it was conducted by researchers from Norway.
Positive Imagery Training: A Tool For Everyday Happiness
Individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, often replay in their minds flashback scenes from the traumatic events they suffered. According to the lead author of the research, the close relationship between emotions and the imagery system can be responsible for the emotional perturbations in the case of people who suffer from PTSD.
"Imagery techniques are often used in cognitive psychotherapy to help patients modify disturbing mental images and overcome negative emotions," noted Dr. Svetla Velikova of Smartbrain, lead author of the study.
Not just the people who suffer from emotional trauma are affected by the images they remember but the healthy ones as well. Images related to unpleasant interactions can be responsible for a higher level of anxiety, which can affect our motivations and perspectives. Everyday negative emotional responses can be dealt with through imagery training, although it is a challenging task that requires psychological flexibility.
"The guided imagery training is considered as an effective method and therefore widely used in modern cognitive psychotherapy, while less is known about the effectiveness of self-guided. The present study investigated the effects of regular use of self-guided positive imagery, applying both subjective (assessment of the psycho-emotional state) and objective," noted the research.
As part of the research, 30 healthy subjects were involved in a two-day workshop, during which they learned a number of imagery techniques. The subjects were presented information about dealing with negative emotions from different events that occurred. Imagery transformation was employed in this process, at the end of which the subjects had all the necessary information about reaching an emotional balance.
Then the subjects were asked to train themselves for 15 to 20 minutes every day for the following 12 weeks, after which another two-day workshop followed.
After this experiment, the subjects experienced fewer depressive symptoms, and the number of subjects who were approaching depression without actually having it was cut in half. The results of this scientific experiment were positive, as most of the subjects self-reported being more satisfied with their lives and perceiving themselves as more efficient in daily activities.
Additionally, EEG data revealed important changes in the beta activity of the right medical prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain responsible with imaging positive emotions, which is also correlated with a higher psychological satisfaction in everyday life.
"The observed dynamic in the emotional state of the trainees, as pointed out in previous studies on the guided mental imagery, proved, that the methods of eliminating troublesome images and creating healthy alternatives, as well as techniques to boost the positive image of the future have a beneficial impact on the emotional state," concluded the study.
Positive Imagery: An Effective Technique
A previous study, conducted by researchers from the University of Liverpool, suggested that positive memories are highly effective in generating positive emotions among people who suffer from mental health problems. The researchers used BMAC, a type of intervention that is used to trigger a positive emotion through mental imagery of pleasant memories.
"These results suggest that the BMAC has the potential to be a practical and effective method for boosting mood among individuals with specific mental health problems such as anxiety or depression," noted the lead author of that paper.