If you’ve got a bad habit that you can’t break, you may assume that you’re just not leveraging enough willpower or using your logical thinking skills the right way. But that’s not true.
The fact is, the thought processes that drive willpower and logic reside in the conscious mind. But lasting behavioral change starts in the subconscious—where beliefs, emotions, values, habits, intuition and imagination reside.
A WINDOW TO THE SUBCONSCIOUS
Self-hypnosis is widely recognized as one of the most effective ways to access the subconscious. My self-hypnosis techniques use a combination of a slow countdown and some mental-imagery practices to relax your body and mind so deeply that you enter the theta brain wave state.
Once your mind is producing theta brain waves (as opposed to beta, alpha or delta waves), you feel ultrarelaxed, and you experience an increase in problem-solving abilities, as well as enhanced creativity. By comparison, the beta brain wave is wide-awake and engaged…alpha is reflective…and delta is the brain wave we enter when we’re asleep.
The theta state is the key to self-hypnosis because it allows you to make new connections in the brain very quickly and thoroughly. In other words, you become open to suggestion—but only the suggestions you want to absorb. Once you are in the theta state, you repeat the suggestions, or hypno–affirmations, thereby increasing the likelihood that these thoughts will become reality.
THE DO-IT-YOURSELF APPROACH
Self-hypnosis is a good choice for many people because it can be done anytime, anywhere—except while driving or performing some other activity that requires your full attention.
It’s free and powerful enough that short, focused sessions, ranging from one to five minutes, are all you need. About three months (or 90 days) of daily practice is sufficient to retrain your subconscious completely and leave bad habits in the past, without any assistance from a hypnotherapist or a recording. Aim for three to five sessions a day.
6 SIMPLE STEPS
To jump-start your self-hypnosis practice, use the following general, 60-second script. After reading it a few times, you’ll start memorizing it, at which point you can close your eyes while practicing. Once you’ve mastered that, you can tailor it to tackle the specific habits you wish to transform by changing the hypno-affirmations in Step 4 and the visualizations in Step 5.
First, begin by ranking your stress level on a scale of zero (completely relaxed) to 10 (panic attack). Then…
STEP 1: While sitting in a comfortable chair with your hands in your lap and both feet on the floor, take four slow, deep breaths. Inhale through the nose for four counts, exhale through the nose for eight.
STEP 2: Imagine a color you love flowing in through the top of your head, down through your entire body, out the bottoms of your feet and down into the ground. This color is washing away any stress.
STEP 3: With your eyes still closed, count down from 10 to one, repeating, silently or aloud, I am going deeper and deeper after each number. For example, Ten, I am going deeper and deeper. Nine, I am going deeper and deeper, etc…
STEP 4: Next, repeat the following hypno-affirmation 10 times, silently or aloud—I am safe. I am calm. I choose to be here.
STEP 5: Take a few deep breaths as you see, feel and experience yourself feeling happy and calm for the rest of the day.
STEP 6: Open your eyes and notice your new, lower stress level on the scale (again, zero is no stress), and congratulate yourself on how quickly you improved your state.
About half of all adults will relax by 50% or more during their first self-hypnosis session. Those who relax by less than 50% during their first session simply need a bit more conditioning and will learn to relax that deeply over the course of a week or so with repeated practice. There is no one who can’t be hypnotized—all that varies from person to person is the amount of conditioning that’s needed.
TO TACKLE BAD HABITS
After you’ve run through the process described above a few times, incorporate the following hypno-affirmations to initiate powerful changes in your life. For example…
• To go to bed earlier. Proper rest is critical for cognitive functioning, mood and memory. Practice this hypnosis ritual two hours before your preferred bedtime for maximum efficacy.
Sample hypno-affirmation: During Step 4, repeat, I easily and effortlessly go to bed at X pm. When I go to sleep early, I enjoy my life even more. During Step 5, imagine yourself getting into your comfortable bed at your chosen time, sleeping soundly through the night and then waking up refreshed, ready for a productive and rewarding day.
• To lose weight. Steady, long–lasting weight loss requires meaningful behavior changes rather than short-term deprivation.
Sample hypno-affirmation: During Step 4, repeat, I choose to nourish my body with healthy foods. Every day in every way, I am losing weight and feeling great. During Step 5, imagine having already lost the weight you wish to lose. See, feel and experience yourself feeling strong, happy and healthy.
• To reduce anxiety. Lots of people feel anxious before giving a speech or going on a job interview. But if you wrestle with these feelings on a regular basis, you know how exhausting and painful they can be.
Sample hypno-affirmation: During Step 4, repeat, I am safe. I am calm. I choose to feel relaxed. I have more than enough time. I am safe. During Step 5, visualize yourself remaining calm throughout your entire day, especially during situations that used to cause anxiety. See, feel and experience yourself feeling safe, calm and relaxed throughout the entire experience.
Important: With self-hypnosis, it is better to tackle one area at a time than to simultaneously work on, say, weight loss and procrastination. Pick one self-hypnosis topic, practice for 90 days (or until you experience the results you desire), and then move on to the next topic.