I was living in London and hated my job.
It was a scary time. It’s difficult to imagine what life was like back then, but I knew I had fallen into a whole range of negative thought patterns.
I needed to find a solution to create a sharp break in my mental patterns.
A friend recommended I try hypnotherapy. I hadn’t heard of it and was initially skeptical. But I was struggling in life so decided to give it a shot.
Within three sessions, I managed to turn around some of my negative thought patterns about myself.
My hypnotherapist didn’t just “fix me” with hypnotherapy sessions. She taught me self-hypnosis. Since then, self-hypnosis has become a way of life for me.
Self-hypnosis has changed my life. I’ve able to identify negative thought patterns and quickly shift them.
In this article, I’m going to explore everything you need to know about self-hypnosis, from what it is, the science behind it, to the best ways to start self-hypnotizing today.
What is self-hypnosis?
The idea of hypnosis comes with a lot of baggage.
For most people, hypnosis might be thought of as a joke or a silly caricature, with their references for hypnosis stemming from pop culture: gypsies in tents with pendulums, smoky rooms, and showmen making people quack like a duck.
But hypnosis is much, much more than just an act in a show.
It’s a method by which an individual can access a part of themselves that is usually closed off to themselves — their unconscious mind — and heal and grow in ways that simply aren’t possible without the help of the hypnotic state.
“Put simply, hypnosis can help re-programme the mind with different beliefs,” says Hypnotherapist and Life Coach Malminder Gill. “Self-hypnosis can be really helpful if you’re trying to overcome something, such as a fear, but also for anyone trying to break negative or unhelpful patterns of behaviour.”
According to Gill, people living with OCD, PTSD, anxiety or depression can use self-hypnosis to bring about truly transformative results.
It’s a genuine alternative to meditation or therapy, helping people to take their meditative experience to a much deeper level.
With hypnosis, a person can learn how to:
- Travel in and out of their various states of consciousness
- Consciously manipulate their belief system, emotional state, and physical health by utilizing the power of their mind
- Become intimately familiar with their own sense of awareness, allowing themselves to grow over time
- Facilitate a kind of greater wholeness and overall healing for the mind and body
But truly benefiting from self-hypnosis requires truly understanding what hypnosis and self-hypnosis really mean.
Self-hypnosis is the absolute awareness and control of your mind and body by switching your consciousness to the hypnotic state, allowing you to connect with yourself at a higher level.
Hypnosis does not mean:
- Losing control of you remind and body
- Falling into an unconscious state where you become totally suggestible to whatever is commanded of you
- Dangling a pendulum in front of you or other stereotypes commonly associated with hypnosis
Self-hypnosis empowers you to look after yourself. What you learn becomes part of your own toolkit.
“People who experience anxiety talk to themselves in a negative way, so they’re already hearing a kind of self-hypnosis,” says Gill. “I teach them to use a different voice to inspire positive change. Clients come to understand what their minds are capable of, meaning they’re better able take back control and empower themselves.”
Self-hypnosis has been dubbed “the new mindfulness”
Self-hypnosis has become popular in recent years, and has even been dubbed “the new mindfulness”. It’s seen as a next step in managing your personal health and well-being.
The key point is this:
It’s not just about clearing your mind. It’s about unlocking a new way of living.
Professor Stephen Redford is a brain specialist and has carried out long-term studies in brain activity and hypnosis. He said the following:
“It’s about learning what the brain is capable of. The mind is a funny place, and, for some people, the difference between being able to do something or not, or even living well or not, can come solely down to a single thought. Though it’s not true to say it can help everyone, hypnosis can certainly be helpful for many.”
Benefits of self-hypnosis, and why you should do it
The benefits of self-hypnosis revolve around the singular benefit of connecting with your mind and getting past the mental barriers that cause most of the problems you deal with, mentally and physically.
With self-hypnosis, a person can help themselves overcome issues such as:
- Weight problems
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic pain
- Stress and anxiety issues
- Self-esteem issues
- Other mental health conditions
The medical and therapeutic power of self-hypnosis comes from the learned ability of a person to force themselves into a trance.
This gives them access to their unconscious, allowing them to explore a part of themselves that exists behind the curtains of what they see and feel, and thus make changes and adjustments to themselves that are simply inaccessible during normal waking hours.
What many students discover during their self-hypnosis journey is the great difficulty in accessing their unconscious for the first time, and then learning how to access it repeatedly.
But this also gives you a greater respect for your unconscious: when you enter it and feel it for the first time, you will acknowledge a part of yourself you never knew was there, giving you a transformative intelligence of yourself that you couldn’t have earned otherwise.
How self-hypnosis works: The trance state
The scientific basis behind the benefits of hypnosis isn’t totally understood, but modern technologies such as fMRIs which can analyze brain activity give us a glimpse into how the brain changes once it enters the trance state.
From what we understand, hypnosis relies on the trance state, which is characterized by the following traits:
- Heightened imagination
- Extreme suggestibility
- Absolute mind and body relaxation
Hypnosis and sleep are similar yet different, whereas both states allow a person to enter their unconscious mind, but hypnosis allows a person to stay alert while within their unconscious.
This is the feeling you get when you are still aware of the world around you, but you are hyper-focused on the single thing on your mind.
Researchers commonly compare self-hypnosis with immersive experiences and daydreaming.
Beyond the trance state is the state of deep hypnosis or the hypnotic state. This is generally described as being similar to the feeling a person gets right before they fall asleep.
Self-hypnosis is typically limited to helping a person get into the trance state, as deep hypnosis requires a deeper meditative level, one where you might no longer have complete control over your own thoughts and actions.
While deep hypnosis has its own benefits, this discussion will stick with self-hypnosis, its benefits and advantages, and the techniques a person can do to integrate self-hypnosis into their lives.
Self-hypnosis and meditation: What’s the difference?
Self-hypnosis and meditation are often compared and used interchangeably, with some people arguing that self-hypnosis and meditation are simply different terms for the same activity.
In a way, both terms do describe the same activity, but there are also some subtle yet important differences between the two.
Let’s begin by understanding meditation, the meditative state, and how self-hypnosis and meditation both work in the same way.
Meditation can be thought of as a psychotherapeutic technique, with techniques such as repeating a mantra, focusing on our breath, and detaching from the world while concentrating on our thought process.
This helps us focus on a singular idea while decreasing our depression, anxiety, and any other mental issues we might be dealing with.
The meditative state is reached by:
- Getting into a still position that we can stay in without feeling uncomfortable or too relaxed
- Closing our eyes and listening to our breathing, and slowing down our thoughts and truly feeling our body
- Performing mental exercises to understand how we feel and drive away any existing distractions
Like self-hypnosis, researchers haven’t totally understood the connection between meditation and the many health and therapeutic benefits one experiences by performing it regularly.
Some researchers believe that these two activities work because they force a change in our brain waves.
There are five frequencies of brain waves:
Gamma state: The hyperactive state of the brain when learning is optimal. In this state, the brain is most open to retaining information, as the mind is stimulated and ready to absorb new information. The Gamma state takes a toll on our mental energy, and overstimulation of the Gamma state leads to anxiety.
Beta state: This is the “normal” mental state that we experience most of the time. If you feel normal — you’re working normally, thinking normally, and acting normally — then you are in the Beta state.
Alpha state: The mind begins to slow down in the Alpha state, giving you a feeling of relaxation and calmness. Relaxing activities such as walking in the woods or sitting down with a nice book can induce the Alpha state, allowing the mind to engage in reflective thinking.
Theta state: The Theta state is our first and most common state of meditation. The brain makes a switch from thinking and verbal mode to visual and meditative mode. While thinking becomes slower, it also becomes more focused when engaged, giving you greater ability to solve complex problems with your increased awareness.
Delta state: The deepest type of brain waves are those produced during the Delta state. Most people will only ever experience the Delta state in their sleep, but those who have practiced years of serious meditation such as Tibetan monks can tap into this mental state while conscious.
Both self-hypnosis and meditation aim to help a person reach the Theta state or the Delta state by slowing their minds and lowering the frequencies of their brain waves.
The two terms or activities can be considered different ways of achieving the same goal, entering the Theta or Delta state, which can also be referred to as the trance state, meditative state, or hypnotic state.
Guided meditation — in which a person utilizes CDs or audio recordings to help them settle into a complete meditative state and fall into the Theta or Delta state — is truly just another name for self-hypnosis when looking at its techniques and methods, but there is one subtle difference between the two terms.
The main difference between self-hypnosis and meditation is the end-point or the goal of the activity.
Meditation generally has no goal: a person meditates to slow down their mind and tune out of the noises of the world, giving them the quiet time they need to “be themselves” again.
Self-hypnosis almost always comes with a goal: you hypnotize yourself because you want to figure out a difficult problem, or you want to overcome an addiction or a mental issue, or you need help with understanding something about yourself.
This is why those who engage in regular meditation and self-hypnosis generally report the same benefits and changes to their mind and body.
The process is the same while the purpose is different, with meditation focusing more on the journey of slowing down the mind and body, while self-hypnosis focuses on what can be accomplished once the mind and body have been slowed.
Does self-hypnosis really work? Scientific studies proving hypnosis
A major hurdle that many people have when considering self-hypnosis for the first time is the internalized belief that hypnosis is just a joke, or a scam, or an act in a show.
But when done seriously, hypnosis and self-hypnosis have been proven to truly create real and lasting results by a number of studies.
Here are some of the most interesting studies into self-hypnosis:
1) Self-hypnosis for school-age children dealing with insomnia
Problem: Insomnia in school-age children. Insomnia affects a growing group of school-age children in the US, with one study finding 23% of adolescents aged 12-16 reporting difficulty falling asleep and 39% reporting frequently waking up still feeling tired.
Treatments for insomnia in children generally include pharmacologic therapies and cognitive behavioral therapies, but these have mixed results.
Solution: In one study, students dealing with insomnia were given self-hypnosis sessions, in which they were taught the foundations of hypnosis, a demonstration of self-hypnosis induction techniques, and various relaxation and imagery techniques.
In just two sessions, 90% of students reported a significant reduction in sleep onset time.
2) Self-hypnosis for pain reduction in hospitalized individuals
Problem: Hospitalized older adults dealing with a number of issues generally have problems in regards to pain management, with the only solution available for some individuals being pain medication, which can lose efficacy over time or cause unwanted reactions when taken with other medications.
Solution: One study tested the effectiveness of both self-hypnosis therapy and massage therapy for hospitalized older patients, dividing patients into either the massage group or the hypnosis group.
While a few sessions of hypnosis and massage were enough to reduce self-reported pain levels for both groups of patients, it was found that self-hypnosis provided the added bonus of also reducing depression.
3) Self-hypnosis for anxiety reduction
Problem: Individuals who are waiting to get a potentially life-changing test or biopsy can end up riddled with anxiety for weeks, which can lead to a weaker immune system more prone to sickness.
In this particular study, researchers studied individuals waiting to get a breast biopsy, which tests for potential cell abnormalities in the breasts that could cause cancer and other issues.
Solution: Researchers wanted to study whether self-hypnosis could help patients deal with their anxiety, but they also wanted to test whether any positive results could be attributed to self-hypnosis itself, or simply the act of relaxing and taking time for yourself regularly.
So they divided patients into two groups: one group who listened to relaxing music for some time everyday, and another group who engaged in self-hypnosis everyday.
They found that while the music group did report having less anxiety and stress, the hypnosis group had a much more significant self-reported reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress, with an increase in optimism.
Other studies proving self-hypnosis:
- Self-hypnosis helped inhibit the fear reaction of patients with dental phobia
- 72% of patients with HIV neuropathic pain reported improved pain scores after self-hypnosis
- 54% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome experienced long-term relief with regular self-hypnosis
- Self-hypnosis led to a 68% decrease of hot flashes amongst female breast cancer survivors
- Patients undergoing coronary artery bypass grafting had significant lower depression and anxiety when practicing self-hypnosis
- Women in labor experienced empowerment, confidence, calmness, and significantly less pain if they practiced self-hypnosis before labor
How to hypnotize yourself: Everything you need to know
Tips before you start
Self-hypnosis requires a level of belief that you might not be comfortable with, because you need to engage with it with your whole heart, full of conviction.
And self-hypnosis is an activity that is just as much about the mind as it is about the body, meaning no matter how many hours you practice the technique, if your mind isn’t properly in it, you will never truly hypnotize yourself.
Here are some mental tips to remember every time you begin a self-hypnosis session:
1) Your unconscious self does not understand negatives.
This means that the mantras and beliefs you repeat in your head should be framed with positives in mind. Instead of saying, “I am not stressed, I am not anxious, I am not weak”, you should say, “I am calm, I am at peace, I am strong.”
You want to remove the negativity from your mental space and from your complete vocabulary during the self-hypnosis; you should only have room for straightforward positive affirmations.
2) Your affirmations must be in the here and now.
Ask yourself: who are you? The answer is simple — I am me. You are not who you were yesterday, and you are not who you will become tomorrow. You are you, and every present moment you are still you.
So your affirmations must be stated in the same way. Instead of saying, “I will be stronger, I will become stronger, I will become more confident”, you should say, “I am becoming stronger, I am becoming more confident.”
Remove the barrier between you and your idealized future self — become the person you want to be by speaking as that person.
3) Believe in it and focus on it.
Self-hypnosis requires absolute conviction. There is no room for the small voice in the back of your head that may be saying, “This is so silly.”
If you can’t sit down and have full confidence in the role of self-hypnosis, then you aren’t ready to truly experience self-hypnosis.
And finally, you must focus on the most crucial goal you have, one at a time. Fix one addiction, one flaw, one issue at a time, or else your unconscious will have too many things to juggle in one go.
Hypnotizing yourself with the 6-step pirate formula
All hypnosis methods follow the same foundational formula:
1) Induction Stage: Relaxing the mind and body
2) Change Stage: Addressing your targeted issue
3) Exit Stage: Returning to your normal consciousness
One of the simplest ways to practice self-hypnosis for beginners is to follow the PIRATE formula, which stands for Privacy, Intention, Relaxation, Actualization, Transformation, and Exit. Let’s go into each step:
Step 1: Privacy
- Find a completely private place where you can rest in peace and quiet.
- Sit down in this place and be comfortable, but not so comfortable that you might fall asleep. If silence is too difficult to begin with, then listen to soothing music with headphones.
- Begin with a time limit of just 15 minutes, although this can become longer as you become more experienced.
- Say out loud, “I will exit this trance at the end of this period.” You can also set an alarm with that extra time frame to help you exit on schedule.
Step 2: Intention
- Understand why you want to engage in hypnosis. What is your main goal? What is your priority and intention? Do you want to break a habit, become a better person in some way, or simply relax?
- Once that intention is identified, hold onto it and focus on it. Don’t let it stray from your mind.
- Write the intention down on a piece of paper. Say it out loud. Remember it, repeat it. Make it clear to yourself that this intention is your guiding light during this session.
- Prime the unconscious to tackle the issue by repeating affirmations against the issue. For example, if you want to stop drinking so much, you might say, “I can survive easily without alcohol. I can be happy without alcohol.”
Step 3: Relaxation
- Relax. Focus. Become comfortable without resting and falling asleep.
- Listen to your breathing. Follow it as it enters through your nose and exits out your mouth. Feel your body relax further with every breath.
- Let your breathing guide you into your trance-like state.
Step 4: Actualization
- Once you feel calm and relaxed, try to go deeper into yourself.
- Leave the words and verbal thoughts behind and enter the state of visualization. Stop thinking; just try to see things with your mind’s eye.
- An example of this would be: Instead of counting while going up or down a flight of stairs, just imagine yourself walking up or down those stairs. And imagine yourself getting closer and closer to the bottom or the top, where you don’t know what to expect.
Step 5: Transformation
- Once you’ve achieved the deepest level you can reach, start focusing again on your intention.
- With the intention in mind, focus on making that change. Repeat your affirmations. If you want to avoid alcohol, say things like: “I am strong and full of willpower.” “I can resist all types of alcohol with ease.” “I am happier in a healthy body with healthy substances.”
- For those seeking to solve problems outside of addictions and bad habits, engage in visualization. Envision your problem as a large rock, and imagine that rock crumbling away.
Step 6: Exit
- Exit your trance slowly, allowing the brain to speed up again to its normal conscious self.
- There are a number of techniques to effectively leave the trance state. One way is to count backwards from 10 to 1, reminding yourself that once you reach the last number, you will be fully conscious again.
- Let the session end naturally. Even if the set time frame isn’t done (or finished earlier), make sure that you feel that your self-hypnosis session is done before you end it.
- Don’t be afraid of the possibility of falling asleep. If you fall asleep during self-hypnosis, your mind will wake up again once you are ready.
Other hypnotic induction techniques
While the PIRATE technique is a great foundation for hypnosis, there are many self-hypnosis induction techniques that you can incorporate into your self-hypnosis sessions to help access your trance state.
It all depends on what works best for you. Here are some popular hypnotic induction techniques you might want to try:
1) Magnetic hands:
This technique helps you get your mind away from your thoughts and towards the energy of your hands.
Rub your hands together, feel their heat, and move them around slowly until you can feel their natural magnetic pull to one another. Play with that energy and focus on it.
2) Arm levitation method:
Similar to the magnetic hands technique, the purpose here is to avoid your thoughts and think about your body.
Lift your arm up and down; become familiar with the physical movement. Try to feel all the micro-muscular movements, and try to slow down your brain until you are moving your arm almost unconsciously.
3) The betty erickson 3-2-1 technique:
The 3-2-1 technique by hypnotist Betty Erickson asks individuals to notice three things they can see, hear, and feel; followed by two things they can see, hear, and feel; followed by one thing they can see, hear, and feel.
Repeat these steps with your eyes closed, with what your mind believes it can see, hear, and feel; first three, then two, then one. This should take you into a trance.
Self-hypnosis: Your intention, your way
There is no right or wrong way to do self-hypnosis.
Like meditation, yoga, and other activities, self-hypnosis has no agenda or overall end-goal: it’s about you becoming a better person, and giving your mind and body the opportunity to grow in ways that have been scientifically proven, with the help of self-hypnosis.
Become your best self with self-hypnosis, and listen to yourself and change yourself in ways you might never have before in your life.
How to get started with self-hypnosis
The unfortunate reality is that hypnotherapy is expensive. However, there are free alternatives online to help get you started.
One free option is a hypnotherapy masterclass with Marisa Peer. Peer is a bestselling author and celebrity hypnotherapist. She’s spent almost three decades treating a client list including CEOs, Olympic athletes and royalty in the United Kingdom.
Peer partnered with Mindvalley Academy to create a free masterclass teaching how to do self-hypnosis.
I took the masterclass and found it really powerful. It reminded me of what I learned from doing hypnotherapy in London many years. It was basically a refresher course for me.
“Inner child hypnosis uses a variety of tools and techniques to access, communicate with, calm, and heal a client’s inner child. Hypnotherapy to heal the inner child can create positive changes in the adult who seeks greater self-worth and self-acceptance. It can help them to overcome self-sabotaging behavior that their inner child learned in order to cope with dysfunctionality. But to achieve these goals requires the full cooperation of the client who must really want to heal and make the changes, must believe that they can heal and make positive changes, and must be open to using the tools and techniques provided.”
The free masterclass with Marisa Peer was a really great way to reconnect with my inner child and start to shift some of my negative thought patterns.
If you’re looking to find out more about self-hypnosis and see whether it’s an effective path for you, check out Peer’s free masterclass here.
I would love to know whether self-hypnosis is effective for you. Reach out to me on Twitter and let me know.