People are choosing to learn self-hypnosis, for many reasons. It’s easy to learn, doesn’t take long to do, you naturally get better at it the more you do it, and it is a natural stress reliever. It’s not a replacement for therapy from a professional, especially for larger issues, but if you’re disciplined enough, it can have long-term value in making you feel better, have a more positive attitude, fight depression, lower stress, and just improve your mental (and physical) health in general.
The simplest and cheapest way to learn to do self-hypnosis is to do what you’re doing now: read the instructions. You may also try a group workshop, which can be free or have a small fee. You can buy an MP3 which acts as an induction and can let you really let go of your conscious thoughts as the audio track walks you through going into trance. And you can schedule time one-on-one with a professional to really teach and train you to do the process yourself.
Different people go into trance in different ways, these are instructions on how to go into a simple trance to help provide some stress relief. Make sure you read through the instructions once before starting and once you’ve learned it, go try it!
Step 1: Get Comfortable
Sounds obvious, but it’s important. Wear comfortable clothing, sit or lie in a comfortable place where you won’t mind moving for however long you plan on practicing (shoot for five minutes initially) and make sure you won’t be interrupted. Turn off your phone, lock the door – this is “you” time, no disturbances allowed. Once you get good at self-hypnosis, you can add in pre-planned suggestions you want to give yourself, but for now, let’s just to teach you how to do it. What you use it for you can figure out later.
Summary: comfortable clothing, comfortable position, no disturbances.
Step 2: Quieting the Conscious Mind
Close your eyes or focus on a single point in front of you, whichever is more comfortable, and clear your thoughts. That doesn’t mean “force yourself not to think”; the harder you try to relax and think about nothing, the more you might find yourself tensing up again and letting random thoughts disrupt you. When you begin, you might find it difficult not to think. Instead, simply let things be. If a thought comes up, just casually note it, and let it slip away. If you have experience meditating, this should feel familiar.
Just as you are recognizing thoughts and letting them go, recognize any tension in your body and let it slip away too. Take slow, deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth, and as you feel every breath helping you to relax, you can feel any stress and tension slip away as you become aware of it. You can even do this systematically, starting with your feet and working up your body to your head. Continue to focus on slow deep breaths, and allow any thoughts in your mind and stress in your body to just fade away as you notice it.
The overall effect of this is you’re letting your conscious mind (also known as your “critical factor” for the purposes of hypnosis) become quiet. You’ll have thoughts, but you aren’t analyzing them. You’ll notice sensations, but you aren’t dwelling on them. We’re just giving the conscious mind a break for a bit.
Summary: Slow deep breaths, allow thoughts and tension to fade.
Step 3: Engaging the Subconscious Mind.
Now that the conscious mind isn’t interfering as much, we can try engaging our subconscious a bit more. Continue to breathe deep, letting thoughts and tension drift away. Try to imagine and focus on the idea that you are floating in a pool, or drifting like a cloud, or becoming very heavy, or melting like a Popsicle on hot pavement. Whatever idea seems most enjoyable to you. You may surprise yourself at how real it feels, and how comfortable it becomes. The more you focus, the more you can imagine it is real, and the easier it becomes to imagine.
If you notice that you can imagine those sensations easily, try to imagine yourself somewhere specific. You can revisit a memory of a favorite vacation or Christmas or any other moment. You can imagine yourself somewhere new, or a location from your favorite work of fiction. Try to get a sense of where you are in every regard. What do you see? What details do you notice? What do you hear? What are the ambient sounds around you? What do you feel? What is the texture of the surface you’re standing, sitting, or lying on? Is it warm, or cool, or is there a breeze, or are you holding something? What are the smells? Are you eating something? Just notice every detail your five senses are picking up. Get as immersed in the experience as much as possible.
Summary: Focus on an idea in your imagination, notice your natural experience.
Step 4: Coming back out
It sounds simple, because it is – stop focusing on what you are imagining, and allow yourself to notice your thoughts and physical sensations more alertly. Allow yourself to become more aware of yourself and the room, and when you’re ready, open your eyes. Try to guess how long you were doing it for before you look at a clock.
Now, think back on your experience. Did it really feel like you were drifting, or getting heavier? How much detail were you able to experience in your imagination in that scene? What differences did you notice in how you felt then and how you feel now? If you didn’t feel very different, don’t worry. It’s hard to gauge our own experience when doing a trance. If you at least found it relieved stress, try it some more, and you’ll find you get better at it the more and more you do it.
Now, what’s the point? Well, your subconscious has a lot of power over how you live your life, since that’s where all your emotions, memories, habits, and behaviors are. If you’ve gotten good at imagining scenes, try imagining one where you’ve made a change in your life that you’ve struggled with in the past. Maybe from now on, you imagine scenes where you have quit smoking. Perhaps you’ve lost 30 pounds. It can be a scene where you are no longer afraid of dogs, or have more confidence. Keep it simple and positive. Try looking into MP3s that can also help you imagine beneficial outcomes like that; there are many out there made just for this purpose.
If you’re able to do self-hypnosis well but have trouble getting a specific change in your life, call me and we can work out why. When you work with a hypnotherapist, it allows me to worry about the conscious analysis, and allows you to focus on the change. For deeper issues, a trained professional becomes necessary.