Looking to ease feelings of stress or make a change in your life? Self-hypnosis could set you on the path to doing so…
There’s something about the word hypnosis that often seems to frighten people. For many, it conjures up images of someone in a trance on stage being asked by a hypnotist to dance in circles. But the reality is far from that. It’s used by complementary therapists as a way to change habits or release limiting beliefs, and it can have dramatic and long-lasting effects. It’s often described as a form of meditation with added self-development benefits, and the best thing is that we can all try it ourselves at home. So, what exactly does selfhypnosis encompass? “Self-hypnosis is a state of intentional self-suggestion and allows us to make helpful, supportive and self-championing suggestions directly to our subconscious mind to support, empower and uplift,” explains hypnotherapist Zoe Clews who runs a clinic on Harley Street (zoeclewshypnotherapy.co.uk). It involves entering a deeply relaxed state and is ideal for those looking to ramp up their current meditation practice.
“Both meditation and self-hypnosis are incredibly beneficial, and they can feel very similar,” Zoe says. “The main difference is that you enter self-hypnosis with a certain goal. Whether it is to increase confidence, eat healthily, develop better sleep patterns or think more positively, there is an end game in mind.”
The benefits of self-hypnosis are multi-fold, and the sense of relaxation it encourages is something many of us seek in today’s busy world. “Any practice that allows us to stop, slow down and connect with ourselves creates feelings of calm. And, self-hypnosis is essentially achieved by inviting your body to relax. If the body relaxes, the mind will inevitably follow – although it may put up a bit of a fight initially,” says Zoe. And it’s through achieving this state of peace and being able to connect to ourselves on a deep level that enables us to experience the main benefit of self-hypnosis – the ability to make changes to our way of thinking and acting. “When we relax deeply we go into a theta brain wave state, the phase just before sleep,” explains Fiona Lamb, a hypnotherapist and founder of the Mind Detox app (fionalamb.com). “Our subconscious mind is wide open here, which makes it the perfect state to reprogramme our fears, worries and any other limiting beliefs we may have. We are very open to new suggestions and ideas, so we are able to weaken old neural pathways and build new ways of thinking.” The idea of suggestion is usually achieved through tools such as positive affirmations and visualisation techniques, and the best results can be seen when you have an open mind and a real desire for change.
“Self-hypnosis helps with specific aims because you intensify your focus: you set the intention consciously of creating a goal then reinforce this by asking your subconscious to support that outcome,” says Zoe.
Much like meditation, self-hypnosis can take time and practice to master – but the key is to stick with it. If you’re new to the practice, Zoe recommends allowing yourself time for the session, ensuring you are in a space that feels comfortable and safe, and being clear on your intentions. In terms of this latter point, she says aims are best stated in terms of what you do want in your life, rather than what you don’t. “This is because what we focus on tends to expand on our life,” Zoe explains. “So focus on ‘feeling calm’ rather than ‘not feeling anxious’.” Most of all, be kind to yourself. “Some days will be harder than others, but be patient with the process and remember the changes don’t happen overnight,” says Fiona.
Zoe’s advice is the same. “People often worry they need to be relaxed to have hypnosis, but it’s when we’re stressed that we usually need it the most,” she says. “It’s important to be kind to yourself about how you’re feeling. It’s okay if you feel anxious or not good – even if you only manage to relax a fraction and just make a couple of suggestions to yourself, that’s progress.” Don’t be afraid to be curious and try different things either. “As you start to practise self-hypnosis and self-suggestion, you’ll naturally find what works and what doesn’t for you,” says Zoe. “Experimenting is part of the fun and it’s important to allow yourself to find a rhythm and practice that works for you.”
Using affirmations while in a relaxed state is an ideal way to try self-hypnosis as a beginner. Try our step-by-step guide below…
1. Before you begin, consider where you would like to make a change in your life and what you’d like to gain from these sessions – it could be anything from feeling less stressed at work, to exercising more. Then, write down a couple of positive affirmation statements that reinforce this desire in a simple and straightforward way (for example: ‘I am calm and confident at work’ or ‘I am able to meet my fitness goals’). Remember these as you’ll need them later.
2. Now, find somewhere quiet and peaceful where you won’t be disturbed and get into a comfortable position.
3. Close your eyes and inhale and exhale slowly and deeply. Take a few moments to tune in to your breath and invite a sense of calm into your body. You should feel your limbs relax as your mind enters a tranquil state.
4. When you feel ready, repeat your positive statements to yourself either out loud or in your head. Really believe them as you say them.
5. To help add even more meaning to these statements, visualise yourself acting in this way and accomplishing your desires. Consider how you will feel when you succeed and imagine the sights, sounds and smells around you as you do so.
6. Once you have spent three to five minutes doing this, open your eyes and return back to the present moment. Try to repeat this process a few times a week to feel the benefits.
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