Many fitness instructors use imagery techniques that draw on personal experiences of athletic events or nature outings to enhance indoor cycling classes or lead relaxation during a cooldown. More and more research supports the benefits of using imagery to achieve specific objectives like improved performance or deep relaxation. To create a standard definition across scientific disciplines for more consistent research, investigators at Florida International University School of Nursing in Miami reviewed the concept of imagery and developed a definition, published in the journal Advances in Mind-Body Medicine (2004; 20 [2], 4–10).

Study authors found that mental imagery is often referred to as visualization. Typical characteristics of imagery include mental, physical, emotional, dynamic, process-related and quasirealistic references. Authors offered the following working definition for research going forward: “Imagery, a mental function, is a lived experience that is a dynamic, quasireal, psychophysiological process.” The researchers would like this definition to provide a foundation for further research.