Self-guided imagery, also known as creative visualisation, is the use of ones imagination to create mental pictures (or simply stories in a childs mind) to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality, improve mental and physical wellbeing.
'The connection between the mind and physical health has been well documented and extensively studied. Positive mental imagery can promote relaxation and reduce stress , improve mood, control high blood pressure, alleviate pain , boost the immune system, and lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels.'
In children this translates as improved learning outcomes, better decision making skills and increased creativity. In self-guided imagery, children use their imagination to direct their own stories. In children who find it difficult to start their 'story', it can be helpful for parents to give them ideas from which to start by telling them a story or simply by reading a book together at bedtime.
Stories which create positive feelings are vital as it allows a child to respond with feelings of comfort and relaxation. My children like to imagine their own exciting adventures. This keeps them engaged in their 'story' and stops their mind from drifting to other things.
'Guided imagery also gives individuals a sense of empowerment, or control. The resulting mental imagery used is solely a product of the individual's imagination. Some individuals have difficulty imagining. They may not get actual clear images but perhaps vague feelings about the guided journey. However, these individuals' brains and nervous systems responses seem to be the same as those with more detailed imaginings.'
The sense of empowerment a child feels when directing his/her own dreams can instil confidence in their own ability to self manage which is a vital skill as they develop throughout their childhood and into adulthood.
'In dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own'
Creative Visualisation - step by step
Create a calm bedtime routine to allow your child to relax and prepare for sleep. A cool, dark environment for bedtime is best.
Spend a few minutes with your child story telling or reading from a book. Suggest to your child to close their eyes as you talk and create a moving picture of the story in their mind.
Using a 'tool' such as a dream puff, encourage your child to think about their own story. They may like to continue on from yours or create their own. Suggest they 'see' their story in their mind and allow themselves to 'feel' the emotions in their story. This can help them fully engage in their visualisation.
Practice often! Establish this form of 'mediation' routinely at bedtime. The more frequently they practice the better they will become at relaxing and entering sleep. Of course the benefits are far reaching well beyond sleep and into every facet of life and for the rest of their lives!
The use of a 'tool' such as a dream puff, which can be used exclusively for sleep, helps create an association between the dream puff - creative visualisation - relaxation - sleep.
This strong association can help your child understand the concept easily and feel its benefits much quicker.