From non-stop news flooding our phones to the threat of climate change increasing by the day, Americans are freaking out. In fact, almost 40 percent of the population is anxious, and one in six are on psychiatric medication. We all know that meditation is on the rise, but part of the issue with today’s society is an inability to focus; in fact, the average attention span is only eight seconds. Enter self-hypnosis.
Self-hypnosis is a technique that aims to create a state of self-awareness and relaxation in an individual. In a state of self-hypnosis, an individual’s subconscious is open to suggestions, which can be used to bring about powerful lifestyle changes. In fact, Adele claims she quit smoking thanks to hypnotherapy. Plus, with apps such as Hypnobox, self-hypnosis is easier than ever. There’s even a WikiHow page describing how to practice self-hypnosis.
So, what’s the difference between self-hypnosis and meditation?
Generally speaking, meditation is a form of relaxation that focuses on mindfulness surrounding your thoughts, or the act of “emptying your brain.” Like guided meditation, hypnosis is about being open to new ideas. That being said, hypnotherapy typically focuses on a specific goal, such as improved self-confidence, cessation of smoking, or weight loss, said Bernhard Tewes, a hypnotherapist from Berlin and the inventor of HypnoBox, a self-hypnosis app.
“For me, meditation is about the quantity of thoughts, and hypnosis is about the quality of thoughts,” Tewes said. “Self-hypnosis is like fine-tuning.”
Before we get any further, though, let’s debunk a popular myth. Hypnotherapy doesn’t take place on a stage with a magician manipulating you with a swinging watch to perform involuntary acts. Hypnotherapy is the clinical use of hypnosis to achieve emotional and physical benefits, ranging from easing anxiety to losing weight.
“Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes,” said David Spiegel, MD in a 2016 Stanford School of Medicine press release. “In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.”
And the evidence is clear. In a 2007 randomized trial of 286 smokers, 20 percent of people who received hypnosis quit smoking, compared to 14 percent of participants who received counseling.
In a 2003 study, 204 people with irritable bowel syndrome received hypnotherapy, then completed questionnaires before, immediately after, and up to six years following the treatment. Seventy-one percent of patients experienced a positive impact from the treatment. Of those who saw a difference, 81 percent sustained their improvement, while the majority of the remaining 19 percent noted that their deterioration of symptoms were only slight.
Teanna Campbell said hypnotherapy has been invaluable in terms of her mental health. She was struggling with depression and suicidal ideation when she discovered the benefits of hypnotherapy. Since then, she started Self Revolution, which offers hypnosis audio courses and mentoring.
“I found that I’m able to heal others, and was guided to gifts such as hypnosis to do so,” Campbell said. “That was a pretty big one. My [journey] led to a career path in a thing I didn’t even know existed, where I get to heal myself and others.”
So, how can self-hypnosis help you? The trick is to believe in the science. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of the population is labeled as “highly hypnotizable.” On the other end of the spectrum, 10 to 15 percent of the population is labeled as “low hypnotizable.”
Marie Harper, 24, tried self-hypnosis in college to help manage her classwork. While she saw a bit of improvement in terms of anxiety management, she ultimately thinks that meditation helped more.
“When I tried transcendental meditation, my grades improved,” Harper said. “It helped me focus in a way that I just couldn’t with hypnosis.”
Plus, hypnotherapy isn’t a cure-all. If you’re looking to stop smoking or kick your fear of flying, hypnosis can be a great supplement, but you should also seek out a therapist to address potential underlying issues, Tewes said. That, and self-hypnosis takes work.
“It isn’t aspirin,” Tewes said. “People ask, ‘How long until it works?’ I tell them to do a session every day for two or three weeks, and then see what happens.”