Gather your group to sit in a circle at their desks or find a comfortable space on the floor.
Announce that you will soon lead them through a brief exercise to help them calm their minds and bodies.
Refer to the Resources tab to download one or more sample scripts to follow.
Facilitate the visualisation step by step, making adjustments according to the needs of your group.
Conclude this calming visualisation by gently inviting your group back.
If desired, invite your group to reflect on their experience.
How To Play Narrative
Did you know that our bodies can’t tell the difference between what we see in real life and what we visualize in our minds? The results are the same. Each experience evokes emotions and sensations within us.
Visualization can be a great tool to use to calm our worries and motivate our choices. To visualize is to imagine and our imaginations can create a lot of possibilities within and around us.
Many spiritual traditions incorporate visualization into their meditations, but it is a helpful practice for everybody.
You can use visualizations to help your group put their worries aside and reduce stress and anxiety so they can enjoy the present moment and be at peace with where they are right now.
If you’re looking for guidance to get started, refer to the Resources tab for a bunch of sample scripts of guided visualisations to follow.
First, invite your group to find a comfortable spot. In their seats, lying on the floor, etc. When ready, calmly begin to read from one of the scripts and improvise as necessary.
The key is to take your time, use a calming tone throughout and be gentle with yourself.
At the end of the activity, encourage your group to share their feelings and insights if they feel comfortable.
For example, I often ask if people noticed how many thoughts they had during the experience? Lots, right? That’s normal – we all get distracted.
Explain to your group that next time, allow these thoughts to come and consciously put them away, then continue with their meditation.
Practical Leadership Tips
Encourage your group and let them know that it’s okay and completely normal if their thoughts and worries creep into their safe space.
Remember to check in on the group before the meditation starts. How are they feeling? Remind them that this is a safe space to share their concerns, fears, or thoughts. There is no judgment here.
Remind your participants that there is also no pressure to share their reflections. They are welcome and encouraged, but it is completely fine if they choose not to share.
It’s a good idea to ask your group if there is anything you can do to make them feel more comfortable. Do they prefer aromatherapy or some calming background music?
Provide your group with some examples of calming visuals that they can start with, especially if they haven’t meditated this way before. A very common visualization for anxiety is a beach, as most people find this calming. You can even use the rise and fall of the waves as a metaphor to connect with their breath inhaling and exhaling. It helps to place their hands on their stomach so they can feel the rise and fall. Take a look at Mindful Breathing for more information about this practice.
There is no such thing as a failed meditation. Remember, your group will get better with practice. Don’t feel frustrated if you or they struggle to stay focused.
You could integrate Calming Visualisations as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group identify and manage their emotions, thoughts and behaviours effectively.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Linking Feelings, Values & Thoughts
Controlling One’s Emotions
Identifying & Managing Stress
Demonstrating Self-Discipline & Self-Motivation
Understanding & Expressing Gratitude
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
As a guided visualisation or meditation, these types of exercises are clearly well suited to a program looking to develop health & wellness because they help to calm and regulate one’s nervous system.
To this end, visualisations are ideal strategies for building resilience and emotional literacy too because their primary objective is to focus attention. You can introduce one or more calming visualisations at times in advance of when you think your group (or certain individuals) will benefit from their use to regulate their thoughts or behaviours. You may also consider implementing them as a form of reflection to help sharpen your group’s focus.
Sharpen Focus: Present a visualisation to build your group’s focus before a big event, test, or presentation.
Rest: For long-term or residential-based programs, consider leading a visualization to lower stress levels before bed and upon waking. Visualisations can be used as part of your morning or evening routine.
Inspire Creativity: Lead with a visualisation to build your imagination and foster creativity with a focus on creative solutions.
Open the Virtual Adaptation tab to learn how to present this activity online.
All of these calming visualisations can be presented in a virtual context. To help make this virtual experience as successful as possible, consider the following:
– Invite each person to find a comfortable and quiet area but within earshot of their device, ie they will need to be able to hear you. If possible, this area should promote calm and be clear of clutter.
– Encourage everyone to switch their phones to silent (or remove distractions.)
– Allow people to turn off their webcams if they feel more comfortable doing so.
– You may use the comment section to discuss and share your insights as a group after the meditation.
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Useful Framing Ideas
Visualisation is a wonderful tool to help you calm down and live in the present moment…
Our worries and anxiety can feel like a real burden in our lives, but through meditation and visualization, you will learn that these feelings don’t have to control you. Let’s enjoy this next experience together and see what opens up…
I’d like to lead you on a guided meditation in which you may find calm and relaxation. I want you to remember that this calming space is always accessible to you, no matter where you are or who you are with. You can always escape there when you feel overwhelmed and anxious…
In a moment, I’m going to ask you to visualize a ‘safe’ space. Remember to use all of your senses. Visualisations work best when you fully immerse yourself into your imagination. Are you ready to start…?
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after leading one or more calming visualisations:
How did you feel when we started the activity? How do you feel now that we have finished?
What did you like about this activity? Was it helpful?
Do you see yourself implementing this meditation into your daily life?
Was there any part of this activity that you found challenging?
Did your mind wander during the activity? Were you able to bring it back?
The inspiration for Calming Visualisations was sourced by the ‘How to Stop Anxiety with Visualization’ article published on CalmClinic and the article ‘Guided Imagery: Mental Stress Management’ on MindTools.