Self-hypnosis induces a state of extreme relaxation and increased suggestibility to treat a host of mental and physical conditions. Learn how it can help you.
The word hypnosis conjures up images of swinging pendulums and audiences clucking like chickens.
But hypnosis is much more than an amusing magician’s trick.
It’s a medically recognized technique that uses innate mental powers to promote all kinds of mental and physical improvements.
A variety of health care professionals are trained in hypnotherapy — doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, dentists, and chiropractors.
With self-hypnosis, you don’t have to rely on someone else to guide you into this powerful mental state.
Let’s examine how hypnosis and self-hypnosis work, how you can use them to improve your mind and mental health, and how you can put yourself into a hypnotic state of consciousness at will.
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Hypnosis is a trance-like state that’s characterized by extreme relaxation, increased suggestibility, and heightened imagination.
It is not completely understood how hypnosis works, but here are a few prevailing theories.
Hypnosis may work by changing electrical patterns of brain function known as brain waves.
Using electroencephalographs (EEGs), measurable changes in brainwave patterns have been detected. (1)
During hypnosis, you are in the theta brainwave state — the same state experienced during daydreaming, deep meditation, and light sleep.
Another theory is that during hypnosis the conscious mind takes a backseat to the subconscious mind, allowing you or your therapist to work directly with the subconscious.
And lastly, it’s been noted that under hypnosis, activity in the left side of the brain goes down while activity in the right side goes up.
What Is Self-Hypnosis?
Hypnosis was originally called mesmerism, as in the word “mesmerize.”
If you’ve ever found yourself mesmerized or entranced by a crackling fire, ocean waves, or ripples in a pond, you’ve experienced self-hypnosis.
You would have felt profoundly relaxed, lost in your thoughts, and temporarily unaware of the rest of the world.
Self-hypnosis occurs when you intentionally put yourself into this state without the help of a hypnotherapist.
All Hypnosis Is Self-Hypnosis
In a way, the term self-hypnosis is redundant since, in fact, all hypnosis is self-induced.
Dr. Milton Erickson, widely regarded as “the father of hypnosis,” considered all hypnosis self-hypnosis. (3)
Unlike in the movies, where the villain hypnotizes his subject to do things she would never normally do, no one can hypnotize you if you aren’t willing.
A hypnotist or hypnotherapist merely facilitates the process.
But you are fully capable of achieving the same state on your own.
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Most people inadvertently hypnotize themselves several times a day.
Most of us have driven a car while in a hypnotic state!
Highway hypnosis occurs when you suddenly find yourself further down the road with no recollection of those intervening miles.
That’s not as frightening as it sounds since you were essentially driving on autopilot and your subconscious is a pretty good driver.
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Don’t Worry, You’re In Control
One persistent myth about hypnosis is that you lose control of yourself — that you can be made to do things you don’t want to do or that you can get stuck in trance, unable to get out of it.
A good analogue to being hypnotized is being thoroughly absorbed in a good book or movie.
You become so focused that you’re barely aware of your surroundings, but in no way have you lost control of yourself.
And you can easily snap back to reality at any time.
The Many Proven Benefits of Hypnosis
Hypnosis has been acknowledged as a valid medical therapy since the 1950s. (4)
A surprisingly wide variety of health care professionals integrate hypnotherapy into their practice: psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, doctors, anesthesiologists, nurses, dentists, and chiropractors.
Hypnosis is used to reduce stress, improve emotional well-being, and treat a wide variety of mental and neurological disorders.
Approximately 15,000 studies have been performed on hypnosis according to the National Institutes of Health database.
- acute pain (including childbirth)
- anxiety disorders
- chronic pain
- dermatologic disorders
- gastrointestinal disorders
- habit control
- high blood pressure
- improved concentration and focus
- insomnia and sleep disorders
- memory improvement
- migraine headaches
- nausea and vomiting
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- post surgery
- Raynaud’s disease
- sports performance
- self-esteem issues
- smoking cessation
- stress relief
- weight loss
Hypnosis for Anxiety and Stress Relief
An overview of research confirms the proven benefits of hypnosis for generalized anxiety disorder and other disorders with a stress-related component. (9)
Hypnosis can help with situational anxiety such as fear of public speaking or of taking exams.
It is useful for people with medical anxiety such as that experienced during or before dental procedures, surgery, chemotherapy, or other medical tests and treatments. (10)
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It’s been successfully used for a long list of chronic disorders that can be aggravated by stress such as asthma, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, tension headaches, migraines, chronic pain, eating disorders, bruxism, and irritable bowel syndrome.
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Hypnosis for an Overall Better You
Hypnosis isn’t just a tool to be kept in your back pocket and pulled out when you’ve got a problem.
Hypnosis can be used to improve any area of life.
It’s most commonly used to lose weight, quit smoking, sleep better, or for general stress relief.
But it’s equally useful to increase productivity and concentration, improve confidence and self-esteem, and enhance relationships.
Some of the most successful and creative people of all time reportedly used hypnosis to help them attain their place in history, including Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Winston Churchill.
Sports legends like Tiger Woods and the entire LA Lakers basketball team have used hypnosis to achieve peak performance.
You can use hypnosis to help you be whatever you want to be — happier, healthier, and more successful.
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Self-Hypnosis: How to Hypnotize Yourself
Self-hypnosis is often compared to meditation since both induce a similar state: thinking and mental processing decrease, while relaxation and focus increase.
Research shows that hypnosis promotes similar effects in the sympathetic nervous system. (11)
But hypnosis takes you one step further by using this highly suggestible state to reprogram your mind using techniques like guided imagery, affirmations, and NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).
There are many self-hypnosis formats to choose from.
There are self-hypnosis scripts that you can perform from memory or record and follow along to your own voice.
There are prerecorded self-hypnosis sessions you can listen to in the form of audio files or self-hypnosis apps.
But whatever self-hypnosis technique you use, your success depends on your motivation, and your ability to relax and concentrate on one specific goal.
Get Started with This Simple Self-Hypnosis Script
Sit comfortably with your feet on the floor and your hands on your lap.
Take 3 deep breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth.
On the third breath, close your eyes and continue to breathe, deeply focusing on your breath.
Now slowly count down from 10 to 1 with each breath.
After each number, think the word “deeper” to nudge you into a state of deeper relaxation.
After you reach 1, repeat a positive, affirming statement to yourself that you’ve decided on beforehand.
Repeat that statement to yourself for as long as you wish, usually a few minutes.
When you are done sit quietly for a moment, then slowly count from 1 to 5, visualizing energy returning to your body.
Open your eyes. You’re done.
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You’ll find another step-by-step self-hypnosis script in our article on autogenic training.
If you are unsure about what to use as your mantra during your session, you can’t go wrong with this famous all-encompassing autosuggestion by French psychologist Emile Coue:
“Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.”
Whatever you decide your mantra to be, don’t just repeat it by rote.
Muster up intention and emotion.
Visualize the results in your mind’s eye.
Imagine what achieving that result will feel like.
And always make it a positive statement.
For example, if you’re using self-hypnosis for anxiety, you’d want to repeat “I am calm and relaxed,” not “I’m no longer stressed and anxious.”
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Choosing Self-Hypnosis Tracks
It’s not always easy to master self-hypnosis completely on your own.
Sometimes the stress of trying to remember what to do next can interfere with your ability to completely let go.
That’s why I recommend using a pre-recorded hypnosis session.
You can find both free and paid self-hypnosis audio files and apps.
A scientific review of hypnosis apps concluded that you can expect to get what you pay for.
Researchers found that of the over 1,400 apps they reviewed, none had been tested for effectiveness and few were created by someone trained or certified in hypnosis or hypnotherapy.
While these probably won’t do you any harm, the consensus is that they probably won’t do you much good either.
For true hypnosis benefits, stick to audio files developed by a professional with hypnosis training and accreditation.
Hypnosis Downloads offers over 1,200 self-hypnosis MP3 audio downloads created by active hypnotherapists.
When to Seek Out a Hypnosis Professional
If you have a serious physical or mental health disorder, it’s recommended that you seek the help of a trained professional to get results.
Anyone can call themselves a hypnotist, and hypnotherapists aren’t state licensed.
If you live in the US or Canada, you can find a hypnotherapist in your area using Psychology Today’s referral service.
Choose your state, city or zip code, then select “treatment orientation” in the sidebar.
There you’ll find “hypnotherapy” as one of the options.
An additional benefit of your hypnotherapist being a licensed health care professional is that you may be able to get your sessions paid for by health insurance.
Self-Hypnosis: Take the Next Step
Hypnosis is a relaxed state of heightened suggestibility.
It’s considered a valid medical tool used by many types of health care practitioners to reduce stress and improve emotional well-being.
Self-hypnosis involves inducing a hypnotic state on your own without the aid of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist.
Self-hypnosis can be useful for everything from general stress relief to addressing serious mental and physical health concerns.
You can create your own script or use free audio files or apps, but for best results, stick with versions created by trained hypnosis professionals.