Hypnotherapy has become a widely accepted tool in the modern medical field to support pain management, breaking bad habits, addictions, and phobias, and even fertility issues. Much like mindfulness and meditation, which have exploded into the mainstream in recent years (MNDFL app, anyone?), hypnotherapy has seen a surge in popularity as we try to make our way through all the noise of modern life. The technique, which dates back to ancient Egyptians and Greeks who used it in sleep temples and healing sanctuaries, works by accessing the subconscious mind through our alpha and theta brainwaves.
That distinctive feeling when you’re about to drift off to sleep and strange thoughts pop into your head? Those are your alpha and theta waves getting to work. And a big difference between mindfulness and hypnotherapy lies in the mind’s receptiveness to suggestion during hypnosis. “Hypnosis uses the brain’s natural ability to receive positive suggestions while in that state, making it the ideal time to plant your wishes for what you really want for yourself,” says clinical hypnosis practitioner Shauna Cummins and creator of the Wishcraft technique. “Using this, we work to bring your best intentions into action.” It’s a tool for mastery of mind and manifesting your potential, she adds.
While hypnotherapy techniques will vary, depending on the practitioner, below are the basics.
It starts with self-compassion
Ever wondered why the one bad experience from your day, no matter how small it is, really gets under your skin and plays out over and over in your head? That’s your negativity bias kicking in. With our minds acting like a sponge for the negative and as slippery as neoprene for the nice things, our brains are still hard-wired towards this inclination, despite coming a long way since our cave-dwelling days. “It’s part of our survival, our fight or flight network. It registers the stress hormone cortisol and adrenaline with more intensity than it does progress and positivity,” explains Cummins. “It was helpful when we were running from predators, but these days, it can wreak havoc in our nervous system and keep us in a negativity loop in our thinking and behavior.”
Over time, these experiences and thoughts can build up within our minds to create a hamster-wheel of negative thinking — affecting how we see and feel about ourselves. “With all my clients, it didn’t matter what they were wanting to change with hypnosis; it always came down to having a more compassionate inner-dialogue with themselves in order to rebuild their self-worth and confidence,” says Cummins. “Once they were increasing these traits, learning how to ease the self-blame and not self-sabotaging as much, they were able to start to change the things they wanted to change.”
Then you re-train the brain
Much like prepping for a 10k race, the brain is, in effect, a muscle that has neuroplasticity. In other words, it can be taught. “You can exercise your thought patterns like muscles. When you do that, you can start to have some agency over repeating positive associations and thoughts,” Cummins explains. “Through the practice of hypnosis, you can start to see a bird’s eye view of your life and tackle triggers as they come up.”
With between 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts on average, per day, per person (no wonder we feel burnt out), a thought only resonates if we let it. No brainer, right? It’s easier said than done, which is where using hypnosis and self-hypnosis daily can help. It can rewire your thinking to weigh more meaning to positive suggestions, allowing you to become more receptive to manifesting the things you want out of life.
Try thinking about this way, says Cummins: “Just like the Olympic athlete imagines having the gold medal before they play the game, envisioning what we want to happen is a positive step in the direction of making it happen. Since the brain references the past, it's very powerful to engineer our imagination to move us forward and expand our potential, instead of repeating the past or keeping us in a limited mindset. Hypnosis can be the art of using our imagination as a gravitational force towards our best self.”
Where the wishing comes in
If you’ve ever heard of the Law Of Attraction, the belief that we have the ability to attract into our lives whatever we are focusing on, Shauna’s specialist technique takes a similar approach. “I like to ground it in practical ways, though,” she notes. “The world is chaotic, and, of course, we can’t always control what’s going to happen. But we can get better in believing in ourselves and that we have the ability to move through whatever happens.”
Identifying a list of things you love about yourself or life in general, then another list of the things you want to achieve in the year ahead is how you can start to focus in on your goals. Using hypnosis as a tool, a diving-in point, as you start to switch off that cynical, self-observing, rapid-fire conscious mind and head into the deep brainwave state of hypnosis, your mind becomes more receptive to what you wish for yourself and imagining how you would feel if it came true, as well as actually experiencing those feelings. “It’s like a proverbial wishing well,” Cummins points out. “It's the ideal way to plant your wishes with yourself and allow yourself to believe in them.”
But the work doesn’t end with one hypnosis session. Continuing the practice in your everyday life through a few daily, easy-to-do exercises can help you shift deep-rooted perspectives and begin to feel more empowered and positive about yourself. “You begin to wish the best for yourself, working with positive affirmations and an intuitive blueprint every day,” says Cummins.
With a little courage, self-belief, and effort from within, you can start to bring about the change you want to see in order to live your best life.
Hypnotherapy and hypnosis are not the practice of medicine, psychology or psychiatry and are not intended to be a replacement or substitute for diagnosis or treatment of mental health issues. If you need help finding a practitioner or need to talk to an expert, get free help now: Text CONNECT to 741741 in the United States to Crisis Text Line who can connect you.