This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Practitioners say that guided imagery works because, in terms of brain activity, picturing something and actually experiencing it are equivalent. Brain scans have verified that this is the case. Stimulating the brain with imagery can have a direct effect on the nervous and endocrine systems and can ultimately affect the immune system as well. If you picture yourself luxuriating at the beach on a tropical island, your muscles will actually relax and your skin will feel the warmth of the sun's rays. Likewise, if you imagine yourself recuperating quickly and effortlessly from gallbladder surgery, you are more likely to heal faster and with less pain.
The brain's visual cortex, which processes images, has a powerful connection with the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary activities such as pulse, breathing, and physical responses to stress. Soothing, uplifting images can actually slow your pulse and breathing and lower your blood pressure, as well as help trigger the release of hormones such as endorphins, which make you feel good and nurture your body's restorative powers.