Can your imagination heal you?
Recently I have written posts about going through life’s ups and downs and saying to myself “USE THIS”. It’s my common mantra. Well in the last few weeks this has been put to the test. I am recovering from a (thankfully minor) operation and it is taking a while to heal.
In the spirit of getting better, I watched the documentary Heal, and I have been thinking a lot about the mind-body connection in healing. The documentary itself has information about a number of alternative healing methods, including faith healers and it is intriguing for the casual viewer. Although, I do worry that someone might come across it in a time of serious health crisis and focus on the “miracle” cures, without also taking their doctors’ advice. It’s important to note that one woman whose jouney we follow through psychological and spiritual healing did also complete her course of chemotherapy.
It is probably very easy for me to seem critical of these people who put their lives in the hands of healers. I doubt anyone could think about what they would do unless they were there. But it interested me to hear of stories where imagination has been used to heal. People visualised what their well body looked like; after a severe accident one man even imagined a completely whole spine. And yes, he walked again. These remarkable stories showed the power of these thoughts. Though they had to work hard at it, the person plays their visualisations repeatedly and to goes into a deep meditative state.
As well as apparently using our imagination for profound healing, there are ways that meditation can bring relief. I have enjoyed for many years a series which I believe is called “Meditainment” Guided Meditations. Despite the ridiculous portmanteau, I have found these meditations really helpful. They are a series of stories or guided visualisation which you follow and relax you. Many apps do this now such as Calm where Stephen Fry reads you a bedtime story. Using them can help you go to sleep or just take away anxious thoughts for a time.
If you are looking to feel better or just relax I would certainly recommend these meditations. It also reminds me of an episode of The Allusionist podcast 82: A Novel Remedy which is all about how reading can be great in convalescence. I have been thinking a lot about why we enjoy thrillers and murder mysteries, particularly of the cosy kind. This podcast provides some interesting answers and perhaps suggests these cosy reads are good for when you are recuperating.
Getting out an old favourite novel is quite tempting this week. As I identified in my post about re-reading, books you love can be very comforting. I have also been reading the excellent short stories in Light Box by KJ Orr and I find short stories when your mind is shot is quite a good option. And these stories are exquisite.
It is hard to say if the mind is the only thing that heals, I have had the NHS doctors and nurses and painkillers to thank too. It is clear that keeping a positive mindset as well as indulging my imagination in meditation and reading are probably a great way for me or anyone to heal.