What do I need to do?
Close your eyes
Think of somewhere you feel safe and happy
Try to picture yourself there
Think about what you can see, hear, smell and touch
Remember the happy feeling you had in this place?
How do I know if I'm doing it right?
You can imagine yourself there
You can remember the good feeling you had when you were there
Don't worry if you don't imagine all the senses - most people can't
What else can help?
Have a photograph of your special place
Listen to a piece of music that makes you think of your special place
If you can, record the sounds you hear at your special place and listen to them when you visualise
It takes a lot of practice to do this!
Teaching children to use visualisations
Many children will struggle with this at first. Start with helping children to recognise what is around them and support their acquisition of the language necessary to describe it. It is therefore important to begin with a lot of modelling of what can seen, heard and felt etc. in their present location. Focus on each sense in turn so a session sat on the grass of the school playing field or local recreational park might go like this:
I can see a tree. Can you see it? Is it big or small? How old is it?
I can hear the wind rustling the leaves on the tree. What does it sound like?
I can feel the sun warming my face. Can you feel it? Is it a nice feeling?
I can smell this flower if I put my nose to it. Can you smell it too? Do you like the smell?
Obviously, the nature of the questions you ask will depend both on the location and the age and ability of the child or group. However, your modelling and questioning should aim to achieve three things:
greater awareness of their multi-sensory environment
acquisition of vocabulary to describe the environment
emotionally connecting with the environment
In school settings, this skill is ideally taught as a withdrawn intervention over a number of weeks. Ideally opportunities to visit a range of different local environments should be arranged. This then allows follow up sessions in school to focus on recalling and describing a previous visit. Depending on your location, a short trip to a local park, local shop or local road should be possible and could, if necessary, be combined into one outing.
The final sessions should focus on using the recall of a safe, happy place to maintain calmness and reduce stress and anxiety. Again modelling is important to help children understand. A session might go like this:
When I'm feeling a little anxious or sad I try to think about my happy place.
My happy place is a beach I went to on holiday. When I think of it:
I can see a big blue sky and the sea stretching away to the horizon. I can hear waves rolling into the beach and people playing in the surf. I can smell the salty sea spray and feel the hot gritty sand between my toes. The sun feels warm on my skin and I remember putting on sun lotion. All the family is there and we build a huge sandcastle with a deep moat around it. I could talk about it all day but I want to hear about your happy memories.
Reinforce the need to practice this and using the happy memory when starting to feel sad or anxious.