When you think of hypnosis, the first thing that comes to mind might be a pendulum swinging back and forth. “You are getting very tired.” But despite our pop-culture understanding of it as some mysterious, magical process, there is extensive evidence shining a light on the very-tangible benefits of the seemingly ethereal practice.
“Hypnosis is a genuine psychological therapy process,” Healthline reports. Though, “It’s often misunderstood and not widely used… medical research continues to clarify how and when hypnosis can be used as a therapy tool.”
So if hypnosis is actually a thing… how does it actually work? And what could it be used for?
How Does Hypnosis Work?
Similar to meditation, hypnosis puts the mind and body into a state of relaxation. Psychology Today describes this hypnotic state as “a state of highly focused attention or concentration, often associated with relaxation, and heightened suggestibility.” Once the body is in this state, beneficial suggestions are then presented to the person undergoing the hypnotism.
Referred to as “post-hypnotic suggestions”, these statements visualise a change that someone might want to see after being hypnotised. For example, the suggestions could tell someone to stop smoking or start eating better.
“The suggestions given to people under hypnosis appear to be an important part of the mechanism through which the procedure works,” Psychology Today explains. “While many people won’t accept or respond to an up-front, direct suggestion, under hypnosis, suggestions seem to get into the mind—perhaps through the “back door” of consciousness where they often germinate and take root as important behavioural or psychological changes.”
Similar to the way you might react better to advice from your best friend rather than your sister, for example — hypnotism works by giving the suggestion while in a different state: A state in which you’re more receptive to advice.
What Can Hypnotism Be Used For?
Contrary to what movies and television might have us believe, hypnotism can’t make someone do anything they wouldn’t normally do otherwise. For example, a person could not be hypnotised to steal a car, if they already held a moral judgement against stealing. “Although you’re more open to suggestion during hypnosis, you don’t lose control over your behaviour,” the Mayo Clinic confirms.
Most often hypnosis is used to break bad habits or reinforce good ones. People might undergo hypnotherapy to help them break out of addictive cycles or to help them achieve an otherwise hard-to-reach goal. It is also helpful in coping with stress and anxiety, making it a great option to soothe someone who might be facing a medical procedure.
A few other uses of hypnotism include:
- Weight loss
- Quit smoking
- Pain control
- Hot flashes
If you’re intrigued enough to try it yourself, make sure you consult a professional hypnotist or hypnotherapist. Knowing that they’re certified will allow you to trust their guidance and yield the best results. You can even start with self-hypnosis, by sitting or lying in a comfortable position, “then, close your eyes and take in a few deep breaths, slowly, in and out,” Psychology Today suggests. Once you’re in a relaxed state, visualise yourself optimistically, “I can skip dessert” for example.