Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

How to Help Yourself Through Hypnosis

With clear goals and the right frame of mind, you can achieve major change.

Experts estimate that between 15-30 percent of the population is highly hypnotizable. A Stanford study showed that about 25 percent of the population is very difficult, if not impossible, to hypnotize. The rest of us probably fall somewhere in between.

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In the Stanford study, it was proven that predicting “hypnotizability” is less about personality and more about cognitive style. Most hypnotists agree that people with a good imagination, who are highly susceptible, and who possess the ability to “picture” things clearly, are more easily hypnotized than those who are analytical by nature and try to figure out the hypnotist’s machinations.

Hypnosis is used for everything from curing allergies to promoting weight loss. And for many behavioral changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, minimizing anxiety and overcoming certain fears, self-hypnosis can be a useful tool.

While you may not be someone who can be easily hypnotized by a hypnotherapist, let’s look at the self-hypnosis steps you can use to help move you toward the behavioral changes you desire:

  1. You don’t have to be able to meditate and clear your mind, but sitting quietly and repeating phrases is important. Your subconscious mind already has a number of “tapes” it plays—“I’ll never lose the baby weight,” “I’m just not good at public speaking,” “I’ll never find another person to love me,” etc. Self-hypnosis works to replace these negative statements with more positive ones. You will have to find the time and the space to sit quietly for a few minutes each day. Five minutes, five times a day is best.
  2. Identify a spot in your home or office that is a restful place for you. Some people actually use their cars. You want to have a regular spot that your mind begins to associate with the self-hypnotic state. The more you practice in one spot, the easier it will be to reach a deeper state in which your mind is open to more positive suggestions. If you are able to do so, create the space as something appealing and enjoyable to you. Have a favorite chair or some calming reminders waiting for you there.
  3. Be sure you have 5-to-10 minutes of uninterrupted time. Take the phone off the ringer and silence your cell phone—in fact, leave it in another room altogether. Let your roommates or family know you need a few minutes of personal space. And don’t do it a time immediately before you have to rush off somewhere. Do it at a time that is somewhat relaxed for you.
  4. Be ready with your objectives. Write out some positive statements in advance: “I am making good eating choices every day. I choose the foods that are good and healthy for my body.” Be sure you stay in the present tense (something you are doing now, not that you are going to do), and that you stay positive but not overly “rah-rah.” If your mind doesn’t believe whatever you are saying, it can reject it. In other words, say things like, “I know the right foods and I make good choices,” instead of, “I am looking more like a runway model every day.”
  5. Remember that to be successful, you don’t have to create pictures in your mind. Some people see things very clearly; others are more kinesthetic or auditory. As long as you can “sense” what you want and somehow create a reaction or an image of it in your mind, you can self-hypnotize. Before you start, write down a few things about the desired goal—quantitative and qualitative. Get clear on what your success will look like. This is where you can be more future-looking. For example: “My goals: to reach a goal weight of 150 pounds by eating mostly fresh foods and vegetables, chicken and fish for two of my three meals a day.” Be as specific as possible about what you want to accomplish and how you will get there. Focus on measurable activities as much as you can. You can also add some qualitative aspects: “… and I feel more and more healthy and active every single day as a result!”
  6. Remember that it takes repetition. You have accumulated bad habits by practicing them; you didn’t come out of the womb reaching for a bag of potato chips. Bad habits are learned behaviors, and so are good ones. Any new behavior takes about 21 days to become a habit. Commit to yourself that you will practice this process for 21 days, straight. If you get off track, start tracking again so that you achieve three weeks of consecutive practice.

For some people, seeing a professional is the best option, but if you aren’t able to do so because of time, money, or access concerns, begin to practice these techniques on your own and see what positive changes you can incorporate into your life.

Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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