When you hear the word “hypnosis,” you might picture a hypnotist manipulating someone into quacking like a duck or barking like a dog onstage. But hypnosis has therapeutic benefits, and you don’t need to see a hypnotist (or appear on a stage) to experience them. In fact, you can hypnotize yourself, according to hypnotist Grace Smith, author of Close Your Eyes, Get Free: Use Self-Hypnosis to Reduce Stress, Quit Bad Habits, and Achieve Greater Relaxation and Focus.
“It's possible to hypnotize yourself by training your mind to relax without the use of any recordings and without the assistance of a hypnotherapist,” Smith tells Bustle. “This is beneficial because it means you can improve your ‘state’ (your state = mindset + feelings + behaviors) anytime, anyplace, for free. Of course, weeding out a lifelong issue or completely transforming a deep seated negative belief will benefit from the deeper work of hypnotherapy digital programs and private hypnotherapy sessions, but when you want to change your state both in the short-term and, after enough conditioning, in the long-term... self-hypnosis is quite possibly the most effective, non-invasive, and cost-effective way to go!”
In Close Your Eyes: Get Free, Smith tells the stories of clients of hers who changed their lives through hypnosis. One paralyzed man was slowly able to start moving over the course of many sessions where Smith had him visualize different parts of his body reanimating. A woman overcame her nail biting by reliving a repressed memory of when she first developed the habit.
Hypnosis allows for such powerful transformations because it creates changes in the subconscious mind, the book explains. When we try to break habits just by changing our conscious minds, the subconscious patterns leading to these behaviors still linger, which makes change possible but slow.
These subconscious changes can arise because your brain is in the theta state, where your inhibitions are down and you’re more impressionable. Many children’s brains spend time in this state, Smith says. This is why negative experiences during childhood can shape us so profoundly, and it’s also why people can work past these issues under hypnosis.
There are several different self-hypnosis techniques that Smith shares in her book, but she also shared an additional process with Bustle. Ready to hypnotize yourself? Here are the steps for one technique that can be used to reduce stress, according to Smith.
Notice your starting stress level from 0 - 10 (10 is the most stressed you can be).
Close your eyes.
Take five deep, slow breaths.
Imagine a color you love, say the color to yourself, and now imagine it flowing through your body from head to toe.
Very slowly repeat to yourself, "three, I am going deeper and deeper," "two, I am going deeper and deeper," "one, I am going deeper and deeper."
Very slowly repeat to yourself three times the following hypnoaffirmations: "I am safe, I am calm, I choose to relax."
Imagine the same color you love, say the color to yourself, and now imagine it flowing through your body from head to toe.
Imagine you are experiencing the state you desire. For example, if you were feeling scared, imagine yourself feeling confident. If you were procrastinating, imagine yourself taking action. For the next 60 seconds, imagine yourself thinking, feeling, and behaving the way you desire to think, feel, and behave.
One last time, imagine that color you love, say the color to yourself, and now imagine it flowing through your body from head to toe.
Notice your new stress level from 0-10 (0 is the most relaxed you can be).
Smith suggests imagining a color you love not only because it will make you feel good but also because you probably have it around your house, so you’ll have lots of triggers to re-create that calm feeling. You note your stress levels at the beginning and the end so that you can track your progress. If you find that self-hypnosis is reducing your stress, that in of itself may be reason enough to do it.