What is Hypnosis?
Most of us have experienced some kind of hypnosis in our everyday life. Have you ever gone into a relaxed, zoned out state say when watching your favourite TV show, or reading a book and you are completely absorbed in the story, or listening intently to a podcast – you are just zoned out, lost in the moment, these are examples of a being in a hypnotic state—a completely normal, natural state of mind.
What's happening when you are in this state of mind where you are lost in the moment and fixated, so all other stimuli is blocked out. When we are in this state, we pause the 'busy mind' mode. In this state, our busy minds are quietened (the busy conscious mind - the part of our mind that says remember to pay that bill, buy milk from the shop today, must send that email, don't forget call this person, etc etc – all that mental chatter is quietened) and we switch off or turn down that noise.. and that's when we can make a connection with our unconscious mind, where all our habitual thinking happens.
In the analogy of zoning out to the movie - when we tune out to our worries and doubts about our job, finances, the endless to-do list, relationships/family concerns, these concerns all fade away as you just focus on the show/movie, etc. And what's very important is that in this state, you are also highly suggestible. When we purposely do self-hypnosis, we aim to tell our unconscious mind what we want for ourselves.
Hypnosis or Self Hypnosis is simply being in a meditative, sometimes trance-like state, and in this state of hypnosis, we have highly focused attention with heightened suggestibility.
There are two parts to self-hypnosis – firstly, taking yourself into a calm meditative state (this is an essential first step and is where there is a similarity to meditation), and once there making suggestions to yourself of what you want. Self-hypnosis is a tool and technique to embrace and make it work for you. Self-hypnosis is like meditation, except more goal-orientated, which is why many success-driven people are drawn to it.
All forms of hypnosis, in theory, are self-hypnosis because no one can make you do anything you don't want to do - despite what you see on TV about hypnosis being brainwashing or mind control. This is not the case.
Many great people, business leaders, surgeons, sportspeople, musicians, performers will all use a form of self-hypnosis to get them into the zone and see and feel in their mind what they want for themselves. Hypnosis has been part of the Russian Olympic team's training program since the 1960s.
Some of the most revealing neuroscience research involved brain imaging via EEG imaging which shows meditation, self-hypnosis, and visualisation activities produce alpha and theta brain wave activity, which help to relax and destress the mind and body.
What are the benefits of self-hypnosis? Can it help with things like stress, cravings, and unwanted behaviours?
By calming our minds down, we move into a more relaxed state, and in this state, we are open to suggestions of what we want for ourselves. We have over 80,000 thoughts daily, and these thoughts can often evoke emotions. All this busyness of thoughts and emotions swirling around in our mind each and every day – can be overwhelming. Add into that our digital-non stop-never switch-off world. We are overwhelmed by this constant flow of energy and activity. Self-hypnosis is about pausing this busyness and settling the mind.
For some people, who are so accustomed to constant stress, this will be difficult at first, which is why it's important to build a habit around your well-being self-care to press pause on the busyness of your mind. Pressing pause and slowing down helps us recharge as well. Our brains need downtime to recharge – we can't work at full pace all day, every day. You need periods to slow down and switch off so you can come back and perform at your best.
How does self-hypnosis compare to traditional hypnotherapy? Which is more effective?
A clinical hypnotherapist is a trained facilitator or coach to help you move into this hypnotic state. A Clinical Hypnotherapist uses your words and your goals to help you achieve what you want. The role of the hypnotherapist is to be a skilled coach or therapist that guides you into this relaxed state to then make therapeutic suggestions to your unconscious mind using your words and language patterns aligned with your change / new goals.
During a hypnotherapy session, you will always have your own moral compass. The hypnotherapist is the coach, and technically all hypnosis is self-hypnosis; you can't make someone do something they morally don't want to do. Hollywood and stage/performance hypnosis is a performance and, unfortunately, has given the therapy an unfair reputation. That's why I always look to the emerging neuroscience research as it gives the science behind what is happening.
In my hypnotherapy sessions, I start with a series of important medical and background questions to get a full picture of the client, and we discuss what their goal is, what is the goal or behaviour that they want to change. This can take 20 minutes of discussion and Q&A, as we get all the information we need. We then move towards the therapy part where I make sure they are in a comfortable and relaxed position, and we begin by me guiding them to relax and calm, I often have a guided story that firsts quieten their busy mind and thoughts we then begin making a series of suggestion that are directing their unconscious mind to what the client wants to achieve, their goal. The session ends by bringing the client's awareness back to the moment, and I often give the client a journal and techniques to do at home, so they continue building on the changes we have made.
Future sessions are about building and reinforcing this change at the unconscious level. Sessions are normally one hour. Self-hypnosis is great to do day to day to keep reinforcing what you want for yourself, and all my clients are given self-hypnosis homework to really consolidate the sessions and what we have worked on.
How do people learn to perform self-hypnosis? Can you do it at home or do you need to visit a professional first?
Hypnotherapy is a therapy – so if you feel you can benefit from the support of a therapist to really make the changes you want for yourself, then you should seek a Clinical Hypnotherapist. It's important to find someone you connect with as well. Depending on your goal, you may want to see a Clinical Hypnotherapist, to begin with, and support this with self-hypnosis at home. To build that new habit and lifestyle whereby you embrace calmness and empowering your mindset.
The Mindology App has a step-by-step guide to self-hypnosis, which you can listen to and learn how to do it at home, as well as a workbook to help you formulate your goals for yourself. These are great free resources on the app you can tap into now.
How often do you need to practice self-hypnosis to see the benefits? How long does a session usually last?
Making it part of your daily routine is the best way to making long-lasting changes to your mental well-being and mindset. Neuroplasticity research shows us that the brain is malleable—that it grows with effort and experience; with repeated practice (repetition) – we build new neural pathways, and there is a saying' cells that fire together wire together– and become our new behaviour.
All this really means is that through repetition, we aim to build a habit to support your mental well-being self-care. And self-hypnosis is a simple technique you can do daily. As you are waking up for the day, when you haven't gone into busy mind mode – take yourself into the calm state and state your goals for yourself – what you want to feel and experience for the day, or as you are going off to sleep tell your mind it can calm down now, be kind to yourself.
Another important finding from Neuroscience is that our brains can't tell the difference between you doing something (i.e., flexing your finger for 10 minutes) and you just imagining that you flexed your finger? So never underestimate the power of your mind when using self-hypnosis and visualization techniques during self-hypnosis – you are creating the new neural pathways you want for yourself. To build a habit around your self-care and self-evolvement.
As we are waking for the day, we can make positive statements of what we want, or even when you hit that 3 pm slump get yourself a glass of water, and take a few moments to tell yourself what you want to feel, rather than auto-pilot grabbing the chocolate biscuits. New Habits take time to build, so be patient with yourself and see this as a lifestyle to embrace.
There's a great quote by Buddha – We are what we think. And to me, it sums up the power of self-hypnosis – by using self-hypnosis techniques, you are creating a habit of thinking more positively for yourself, being clear and clarifying your goals and vision for yourself, and of course, the first step of calming your mind down has significant overall health benefits.
Because habit building is so important - I encourage all my clients to explore how they can bring self-hypnosis into their existing routines. For example, if you are already doing yoga - you can easily incorporate this into doing daily yoga practice – as you fixate on a point for your posture, focus on your breathing, tell yourself you are calm and in the zone, add in your positive suggestion goals for yourself.
Claire Aristides is a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Founder of Mindology.App.
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