Last updated: 3 February 2018
As you probably know, all hypnosis is really self-hypnosis.
In some cases, you might be guided into a trance state by another person, such as a hypnotherapist. But you’re the one running the show – as hypnosis only occurs if you allow it to.
The truth is, going into hypnosis is actually a breeze. In fact, you’ve done it yourself on countless occasions.
It can happen when you’re watching a movie or TV show. Or reading a book. Or doing some repetitive task like sanding a wall, driving a car, or washing the dishes.
For a few seconds, your conscious mind switches off. Instead of analyzing all the information you’re being bombarded with, you take a break. You drift off into some peaceful place, leaving the outside world behind.
In these examples, it happens accidentally. But that shows you just how easy it is to slip into a trance-like state under the right conditions.
And when you do that, it becomes possible to make positive and long-lasting changes in your life.
The Differences Between Self-Hypnosis & Meditation
A lot of people get mixed up when they try to work out the differences between certain techniques, such as meditation, mindfulness and self-hypnosis.
Are they for relaxing, or are they for stimulating the mind?
Do they follow the same steps?
And are they just different forms of the same thing?
This last question is where many people get confused. And understandably so, however, the answer is a definitive no.
Whilst they share commonalities (which is where the confusion comes in) meditation and self-hypnosis are very different practices.
(And we’ll cover how mindfulness differs in a minute).
But first, let’s take a look at the steps you might work through as part of a very basic form of meditation:
- Get comfortable in a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed.
- Close your eyes and breathe slowly, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Focus on your breath. If your attention wanders, simply concentrate on your breathing again. Follow this process for as long as you desire.
- When you’re ready to end your session, open your eyes, stand up, stretch, and return your awareness to your surroundings.
If you examine these steps carefully, you’ll spot something significant. The first 3 steps could also be part of the induction phase during self-hypnosis.
The other thing you’ll notice is that fewer steps are required to get into a meditative state. While hypnosis (and self-hypnosis) involves 3 major stages (induction, change, exit) – meditation is basically part of the first stage, the induction stage.
Meditation is often touted as a way to quiet the mind, a way to get centered and get in touch with one’s inner being.
Meditating is a goal in itself – it’s not meant to be a method that leads to anything other than its own rewards.
Self-hypnosis, on the other hand, has a definite goal or end-point. It begins in much the same way as meditation (using the hypnotic induction as described above), but then moves into the change phase. This is where the change work takes place.
It’s where suggestions are made that can lead to new behaviors or attitudes. It’s where the individual can connect with their unconscious mind to try to find answers to questions or solutions to problems.
When using self-hypnosis, the goal is to change something. Or to help you improve yourself as a person, if you like.
This could involve any number of options and possibilities including:
- Breaking bad habits such as smoking, overeating, nail biting, etc.
- Accepting/making peace with negative emotions
- Changing limiting beliefs
- Forgiving yourself
- Boosting your confidence and self-esteem
- Overcoming sleep disorders
- Reducing fear or anxiety
- Fighting phobias
- Relieving stress
- Managing weight loss
- Improving your relationships
- Managing pain
- Releasing creative blocks
- Battling depression
- Solving problems
- Setting achievable goals
Some of these are broad categories which can be broken down to more specific areas. For example, you wouldn’t use self-hypnosis to get rid of every phobia known to man in one fell swoop.
Instead, you’d use the technique to focus on a single phobia that you wanted to eliminate.
Like fear of heights. Or fear of spiders. Or fear of open spaces.
And the same goes for breaking bad habits. You’d be more likely to use self-hypnosis to tackle one bad habit at a time. This way you can really target the problem and focus your attention on it adequately.
Sure, you can use hypnosis techniques just to relax. Absolutely. But even then, you’ve got a goal in mind. And that goal is relaxation.
With meditation, there is no other goal except the ability to meditate. To be able to quiet the mind and enjoy some inner peace and tranquility.
With self-hypnosis, you can achieve the same thing. But you can also address other areas of your life that you want to change or improve.
And that’s what makes self-hypnosis so powerful. It lets you communicate with your unconscious mind, where you’ll find everything you need to learn, to grow, and to become a better person.
But it’s not just for breaking habits or conquering phobias. Tap into your unconscious and you have access to creativity, intuition, problem solving, out-of-the-box thinking – an almost unlimited supply of resources.
And self-hypnosis offers you the fastest and easiest way to gain access to those resources.
So, What’s This Mindfulness Business, Then?
Mindfulness has been described as the process of paying attention on purpose.
In the most basic sense it means being able to pay attention to and clearly see what’s happening in your life.
When you practice mindfulness, your focus is on the present. You’re trying to experience what’s happening right now.
You’re not concerned with what may have happened in the past, or what’s likely to happen in the future. Mindfulness means being mindful of what’s going on right here, right now, in the present moment.
And philosophically speaking, that’s the only thing you should really be focusing your energy on anyway.
The past is behind you, and the future is unknown. You can dwell on the past, but you can’t change it. You can imagine what the future might look like, but you can’t predict it.
The only “time” you can exist in is the present, and that’s what mindfulness helps you to focus your attention on.
And that includes everything that’s going on around you, as well as all your thoughts, emotions, desires, urges and sensations.
Why Mindfulness Is Not A Relaxation Technique!
Mindfulness is a way of looking at and experiencing the world.
It isn’t just another relaxation technique. When you relax, the idea is to hit the off switch.
You want to chill out and forget about what’s happening for a short period of time.
When you practice mindfulness, you want to do just the opposite. You want to hit the on switch. You want to awaken all your senses so that you become aware of everything that’s happening in your life.
You can’t do that if you simply relax. The aim with mindfulness is to bring your attention to your life in the present moment. That means being able to focus on whatever might be going on.
Such as your emotions. Or what you’re doing or feeling right now.
For example, suppose you feel frustrated by something that’s not going as well as it should. Instead of ignoring the frustration, mindfulness helps you to confront it and deal with it at the time, i.e. now.
This prevents it from becoming bottled up and leading to potentially even more frustration, or anger, both of which could result in anxiety and stress.
Mindfulness Helps You Get More Out Of Life… & Out Of Hypnosis
When you are more aware of the present moment, things change. You’re able to enjoy the world around you in a new way. You’re able to get to know yourself better and come to a deeper understanding of what makes you tick.
The folks at mindful.org put it like this:
“Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.” tweet
In a nutshell, when you practice mindfulness, you become more aware of your own thoughts.
You take notice of the sights, sounds, smells and sensations around you. It’s really all about learning to control your focus of attention.
Practicing mindfulness can bring you lots of physical, emotional and mental benefits. Some of these are:
Sounds good, right? And you can get all of that just from learning to focus your attention. Do those bolded 5 words ring any bells?
They should do. Because they’re also part of the definition of hypnosis. The ability to focus your attention on a single thought or idea.
So, what has mindfulness got to do with self-hypnosis? What’s the connection? How do the two techniques fit together?
How Mindfulness Complements Self-Hypnosis
Mindfulness is a process that allows for greater mind-body connection. It helps put you in touch with your intuition.
A lot of the techniques associated with mindfulness are also used in hypnosis and NLP. For example, you can use various mindfulness techniques to help shift perspectives or refocus your attention, which will help you go into trance and experience greater transformations.
Here are two typical mindfulness techniques that complement self-hypnosis and might make going into trance a bit easier for you.
Mindfulness Exercise 1: Breathing Count
The idea is to practice counting your breaths with your eyes closed.
- Start counting your breaths, and as soon as a thought other than counting your breaths enters your head, stop there. However many breaths you’ve counted up to, that’s your breath count.
- If you’ve never tried this exercise before, you might only manage 2 or 3 breaths. After that you might get distracted by another thought. That’s perfectly okay.
- Next, repeat your breath count a few times times until you feel more focused and calm. Then just sit and let your mind be free, not focusing on anything in particular.
- Just “sit with it.” That means let your mind run free without using any effort, just enjoying the feelings and sensations of your experience.
- Every time you do the exercise, count your breaths without distraction at the beginning. You’ll discover that the more you practice, the more breaths you’ll be able to take before you get distracted. This is a sure sign that you’re improving your ability to focus on a task.
Mindfulness Exercise 2: Body Scan
The idea behind this exercise is to develop heightened states of awareness in your body without having to touch your body.
- To begin, place your hand on a part of your body, such as your forehead.
- While focusing on the sensations associated with this part of your body, slowly work down to another part of the body, such as your nose, followed by your chin, shoulders, chest, rib cage and so on.
- Each time you touch a new body part, place your focus on the sensations you experience.
- As you get better at the exercise, you will be able to focus on the sensations associated with different parts of your body without actually touching them. This tells you that you have developed a greater sense of awareness.
- The aim is to eventually be able to scan and connect with your entire body without having to physically touch it. This a fantastic technique to do first thing in the morning so you’re able to connect with any areas you’re feeling stress, discomfort, tension and so forth.
For example, upon scanning your body, do you notice that your shoulders feel really tight, like they’re edging their way up to your ears? Or do you have knots in your stomach? When you take the time to identify these sensations – sensations that may have otherwise gone unnoticed – you can acknowledge them, and then resolve them during self-hypnosis.
As you can see, mindfulness exercises are great for directing your attention inwards, which means they’re a highly-useful way to prepare you for self-hypnosis.
They put the wheels in motion for you to connect with the unconscious mind. This is because they allow you to bypass the analytical part of your mind and put you into a more “sensing/feeling” mindset – helping you to connect with your body.
And why is connecting with your body so important?
Well, in essence: your thoughts and feelings, regardless of whether their positive or negative, leave their “footprints” over your body.
So by identifying where these “footprints” are located using mindfulness techniques, you can gain greater insight as to why you might be feeling a certain way. Which is especially useful when the cause isn’t obvious.
For example, are there certain parts of your body that feel: heavy, light, tense, wired, tired, free, closed, tight, open, relaxed, etc?
Suppose during your body scan you notice there’s a lot of tension in your face, shoulders, back and arms, and your heart is beating faster than usual – you can then peel back the onion.
What’s the cause of all this tension? Is the issue obvious?
What are your thoughts like at the moment?
What unresolved negative emotions are causing your body to be in a constant fight-or-flight response?
And likewise, if you notice when counting your breath that you can barely even get to two counts – whereas usually you can count up to 20 before your mind wanders, it’s probably a sign you have a lot on your mind.
Somedays the reason for this will be obvious (and may indeed be the reason you’re using these techniques in the first place), but other days, less so.
When it’s the latter, your unconscious might be warning you to take action, like to prepare for a big meeting that you’ve been avoiding.
Or there might be an undercurrent of annoyance circulating your body because you need to set stronger boundaries with someone in your life.
So one of the added advantages of doing mindfulness exercises before self-hypnosis is that they help you to unlock a goal for your self-hypnosis session.
Mindfulness exercises makes what’s not obvious to your conscious mind, more obvious. And then once you’ve been able to identify the issue, you can acknowledge it during self-hypnosis.
Make no mistake: This insight is precious. Many people run through their days not realizing the reason for their irritability, annoyance, anger, sadness or whatever negative emotion they may be feeling.
Often, when the cause of the emotion isn’t obvious, people shrug it off and attribute their mental state down to them having a “bad day.”
And yes, it’s part of the human experience. You will have days where you feel down, low on energy or just a little lack-lustre.
However, if you often go through your day feeling a host of negative emotions and you’re not really sure why, mindfulness exercises are a great starting point that will set you down the road of discovery. From there, self-hypnosis, can be used to further identify, heal and dissolve these issues.
Which is why they complement one another so well.
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