What can our imagination do for us?
The day when the haunting edges of reality and fantasy blur. One of the few holidays where kids and adults alike are excited to escape the mundane metrics of their everyday lives. Whether that’s for an S on their chest, a broomstick, or even some eyeliner streaked across the cheek like whiskers, the thrill of Halloween transcends age because it’s more than just costumes and cocktails. The way the halloween moon beckons us into fantasy, an escape from the weights of social custom, the way we’re meant to dress, speak, talk and carry ourselves can be shelved for one night as we let our imagination run wild. And that’s where it is. The point of it all. Our imagination. We are always told as kids to keep that close to our hearts and for some reason, we let that take a backseat as we grow up. Halloween shouldn’t be the only day in a year we allow ourselves to bend the rules of reality just enough to know ourselves a little better. What do you fantasize about while you daydream? What fictional characters struck a chord that kept vibrating as you grew up? What are you afraid of in the dark and how do you turn the beasts into beauties?
Whether you’re a kid, teenager or adult, make believe play can help you manage your emotions and understand your idiosyncrasies in a way that doesn’t feel forced. Trauma therapists have used fantasy to heal psychological wounds. There is some real soul searching that can happen when we let ourselves imagine alternate worlds within our real one. Think of your imagination as a neurological reality. If you imagine yourself running, evidence suggests that the brain is stimulated as if you are actually running. Similarly, a study conducted by the University of Colorado in Boulder found that for those suffering from anxiety or phobias, imagining the perceived threat in a safe environment allows your brain to respond to it and deal with it, eventually allowing your phobia to subside. It’s a superpower, being able to imagine all your negative emotions taking place in a vacuum, without consequences, without repercussions, and finding ways to navigate through it.
How can we start using our imagination to feel better about ourselves? Let’s learn to take the magic of Halloween and transform it into self care.
Power Tip 1: Grab your imagination by its reins
Start with a person or place you really love. Think back on favorite memories. Trigger them with photographs or mementos or diary entries you’ve written about places you’ve visited. Your senses come in handy here. A favorite smell or scent can bring you back to those people, places and things. Music helps too. Then, try using guided imagery. This technique allows your mind to wander into these healthy, loving places that make you feel good. By using your imagination to change your thoughts through your senses, you can help yourself deal with pain, sleep issues, nausea, anxiety, anger and fatigue.
- Close your eyes.
- Take 3-5 deep belly breaths
- It’s time to imagine you are going to your special place. Where would you like to go? If you could be anywhere in the world at this moment, where would you be?
- Whether it’s the beach, your best friend, eating a great meal, winning a board game, even your favorite song — anything that makes you smile.
- Stay with the image and keep sharpening it with your daydreaming skills. What do you see, taste, touch, hear and smell?
- Focus on how comfortable your body feels when you imagine yourself in this place. Your breathing may slow down and your muscles may feel looser as your entire body starts to relax.
Power Tip 2: Identify where you can use some magic
Are you quick to anger? Do you get anxious often? Do you feel yourself drowning in negative thoughts? Using fantasy without guilt or shame allows us to explore any thoughts that we want to privately deal with. Imagination can act as a substitute for doing hurtful things to yourself and others because you can try to get to the root cause or trigger of any negativity in your life.
- When you’re feeling upset or anxious, try imagining a peaceful place that let the sensations of this serenity wash over you. For example, if you’re placing yourself at the beach, feel the breeze in your hair, smell the salty air, feel the sand on your skin. Trick your mind into a state of comfort and you’ll be surprised how much it might help you feel better
- Create alternate realities. You probably already do this when you’re recreating arguments in the shower but give it a go whenever you feel angry. Imagine what you feel like doing to the person who sparked you so that you have an outlet for the defense mechanism that anger elicits. Your true self is peaceful, compassionate and loving. But sometimes, to safely discharge the intense emotional energy in your system, you need to imagine what your anger “wants to do.”
Power Tip 3: Your new avatar is a problem solver
These are your wildest fantasies, so don’t put your regular limitations on them. Imagine you cannot fail. Imagine that this alternative reality version of you doesn’t criticize themselves. Think about options you normally wouldn’t consider because you think they are risky. Challenge assumptions you’ve held about yourself and your circumstances.
Give yourself radical permission to use your imagination in any way that serves you. Experiment! Do more of the imaginative play that feels best. If something doesn’t bring relief, don’t be hard on yourself — just keep testing and playing. Using imagination and fantasy keeps us creative, keeps our brains “in shape,” and — now you know — quite literally makes us feel better.
Real talk: Halloween won’t be the only day in a year that we dare to use our imagination.
What do you fantasize about while you daydream? What fictional characters struck a chord that kept vibrating as you grew up? What are you afraid of in the dark and how do you turn the beasts into beauties? How can you creatively approach the problems in your life?
Ask yourself these questions so that fantasy can start to make your reality that much better.
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