Do you experience stress from specific problems you just don’t know how to solve? If so, you might consider adding a little self-hypnosis to your arsenal of stress fighting weapons. Self-hypnosis can relieve stress much like meditation. It starts out with deep breathing and an awareness of the present moment. But whereas meditation seems to invoke our spiritual nature, self-hypnosis is especially suited to fix practical problems in our day to day physical world.
No hocus-pocus here.
Some people shy away from the idea of self-hypnosis because of “hypnotist” stage acts, which seem to delight in embarrassing audience members to their everlasting remorse. Self-hypnosis, in contrast, is far from silly and is totally under your control. If you’ve ever practiced Conscious Relaxation exercises, then you have already experienced the basic idea.
When we are in deep state of relaxation, our minds are more receptive to suggestions that help us modify our behavior or approach problems without fear. Things we wish we could change about ourselves or our circumstances can cause us a lot of stress if we feel we can’t fix them. Among popular uses for self-hypnosis you’ll find weight loss, stopping smoking, getting out of debt, or overcoming a fear public speaking, flying, or even asking your boss for a raise.
I have been doing self-hypnosis off and on since I was a pudgy teenager in a skinny world. It works well to change habits, deal with anger, or even to experience really deep muscle relaxation after a walk or yoga. I also meditate, and at least for me, there is a real physical difference I can feel between the two practices. So, I’ll use my own experience to see if I can set them apart.
Self-hypnosis focuses your attention of the sensation of your body as you feel it unwind.
As I mentioned above, self-hypnosis begins with slow, deep breathing, with instructions to relax. You can use guided hypnosis recordings, or simply think the suggestions to yourself.
After a moment or two of conscious breathing, you begin to instruct different parts of your body to relax even further. Starting from your feet and working up to your head, you tell yourself that each part of you feels heavier and heavier, and you allow yourself to experience this feeling of weight. You are very aware of your body. You might feel you are melting into the floor or the ground, becoming a part of the earth itself. Feel the sensation of relaxing your muscles, your skin, your blood vessels, and every part of you. You may even feel as if your entire body is just dissolving away.
A common technique while relaxing this way is to count backwards, mentally assigning a number to each part of your body as it continues to sink down. After you’ve practiced this for a while, the counting alone will relax your body without any additional cues. Leave your head for the last, as it is the hardest part of yourself to quiet down. You can repeat the final number as many times as you need to for your head to get with the program.
Only when your body is totally relaxed do you offer suggestions of how to change your life.
I can’t attest that this is true for everyone, but for me self-hypnosis relaxes my body more than meditation, while meditation is more relaxing to my mind. That doesn’t mean that self-hypnosis doesn’t relax my anxieties or feelings of stress. But conscious relaxation does not require the mind to be still. It just becomes so absorbed in the body’s relaxation that it doesn’t stray far away.
After your body is fully relaxed, you can begin to introduce ideas to change your stress causing behaviors. Something like, “My favorite foods are healthy and fresh. I enjoy how much better I feel when I eat less,” or, “I feel calm and prepared to speak before an audience. I am confident in my ability to speak, and I enjoy giving valuable information to others.”
Keep your suggestions positive.
I have tried self-hypnosis tapes which encouraged a form of aversion therapy, forming negative images of things like sweets or cigarettes which you want to avoid. I don’t personally recommend that idea.
Self-hypnosis will only let your thoughts take you where you really want to go. If you create icky images to associate with something you want to remove from your life, those negative thoughts stick with you. If you make them too revolting, you might decide to throw out your improvement program rather than the habit you want to change.
Picturing positive images of the change you want to see is far more appealing, and will draw you toward the action or situation you want to achieve.
So how are hypnotic suggestions different from daily affirmations?
It is really the deep level of physical relaxation that makes the difference. Affirmations can play easily in the background of your day, and you can say them as often as you choose to. Affirmations and self-hypnosis don’t interfere with each other. Your conscious mind hears your affirmations, while, the experts tell us, self-hypnosis has a better chance of being heard by your subconscious mind.
Return to full alertness with a recorded tone, or by counting up from 1 to 10.
Self hypnosis recordings are especially helpful if you fear you’ll fall asleep. With or without them, you set your intention to return awake and refreshed, count forward again, and stretch your body back to life. You should find your muscles far less kinked and your mind less stressed and ready to take charge.
If you use recordings, be sure and find a guiding voice that you enjoy. Recently I have begun using brain entrainment music containing self-hypnotic messages, and I am very impressed. The music is lovely, and the voice especially soothing. I’ll let you know in a few months if I make new progress.
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