We took our nephew to Disney World when he was 11 years old. He was verrrrry anxious about the idea of rollercoasters. As we got closer to the trip, he became more nervous, he had really worked up the danger of rollercoasters in his mind.
When he imagined riding a rollercoaster, he got anxiety and his body responded as if it was the real thing. His heart raced and he became restless and borderline frantic.
But I’m very proud of my nephew, and he made the choice to actually get on a rollercoaster, and the experience was safe. And he had a blast, and he wanted to do it again.
In two minutes, the way he had imagined it had been replaced by a new experience, and one that was not scary at all.
But here’s the fun part: What if he had IMAGINED the safe experience, before he had gotten on the rollercoaster? Could imagination have changed his entire experience going up to his day at the park?
That’s what we are going to talk about today.
I’m Dr. Nicole Cain, anxiety freedom warrior with a degree in naturopathic medicine and clinical psychology.
We are going to talk IMAGINATION, which is just one of 14 tips that you will learn from the ANXIETY FREEDOM CHALLENGE.
Did you know that about 1 in 3 people in the United States have anxiety disorders, including phobias, and 8% have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder”?
The mainstay of modern medicine is the pill-for-an-ill model, but you’re about to learn a powerful technique that you can use nearly anytime, and anywhere.
To start, I want you to do me a favor.
I want you to close your eyes and imagine a spider crawling up the back of your arm. Really get into it, imagine its fuzzy little feet tickling up your skin, all of the legs taking it quickly up to your shoulder and then your neck….
Okay I’ll stop here. Because if you’re anything like me, you’re probably getting the heeby-jeebies right about now.
And this is because, according to the research, real and imagined exposure to a stimuli or threat are not different at the whole brain level. According to research out of the Icahn School of Medicine and the University of Colorado Boulder, imagination worked just as well as actual exposure.
The implications for this are absolutely amazing in the treatment of anxiety, phobias, traumas and other emotionally related concerns.
The research suggests that imagination can be a powerful tool in helping people with fear and anxiety, actually overcome their symptoms at a fundamental brain-level.
This means, that if you imagine that furry spider or another perceived threat, but imagine it repeatedly in a safe environment, your phobia — and your brain’s response to it — subsides.
Let me share with you a study from the researchers out of the Icahn School of Medicine and the University of Colorado Boulder:
68 volunteers were trained to associate a sound with an uncomfortable electric shock. Then they were separated into three groups. One of the groups was exposed to the sound, the next were told to imagine the sound, and the third were asked to imagine pleasant bird and rain sounds. None of the groups received further shocks.
The scientists looked at brain fMRI’s and looked at how the participants’ bodies responded.
In the group that imagined and heard the threatening sound, the brainwaves were similar as to when they actually received the shock, even though they had not. Their brains paired the two stimuli together. But then after repeated exposure to the sound whether imagining it or hearing it, without the shock, the formerly fear-inducing stimuli no longer caused fear. The brains learned how to become unafraid.
So how can you start to apply this right now?
The first step is to clear up a common misconception. One might assume that the way to reduce fear or negative emotion is to imagine something good. However, the truth is the opposite. The more effective strategy is to imagine the threat, but without the negative consequences.
This means, if you have a memory, or a trigger that is no longer serving you, if it is getting in your way of you living your life, of writing the next chapter of your story, you can use imagination to TAP into that brain time-capsule and CHANGE it, and literally change your brain’s wiring and response to that memory or trigger.
To get more tips just like this for sending anxiety backstage, checkout the Anxiety Freedom 1 Week Challenge NOW!
It’s a free guide with TWO tips everyday for 7 days on how to alleviate anxiety in the moment. Download it by clicking here!
REFERENCE: Marianne Cumella Reddan, Tor Dessart Wager, Daniela Schiller. Attenuating Neural Threat Expression with Imagination. Neuron, 2018; 100 (4): 994 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2018.10.047 Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/12/181210144943.htm