Millions of people around the world suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, as well as a host of other anxiety-related conditions. While medications are routinely prescribed to offer immediate relief to periods of intense anxiety, there is another, more natural method of providing quick help. Self-hypnosis can offer many of the same results as pharmaceuticals, with none of the harmful side effects. It is a practice almost anyone can learn to use quickly and effectively.
What is self-hypnosis?
Hypnosis is the process of entering a state of deep relaxation. Once in this state, the brain is open to suggestion and for implanting commands and ideas in order to change behaviors or moods. In effect, it allows these suggestions to bypass the conscious mind, where they can be frequently filtered out, and places them directly in the subconscious where they can have a much greater effect. The process of entering a state of hypnosis does not require direction by another person; in fact, it’s easy to do yourself.
How do you use self-hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a practice of guided relaxation; in self-hypnosis, you guide yourself by way of your own thoughts. When you are in this state, you are still aware and able to express ideas, and therefore can “talk” your way through the process.
1) Relax deeply
This can be harder than it sounds, as your muscle groups often are tensed, though you are unaware of it. The key is to relax in a structured, methodical way.
Begin by sitting comfortably. Resist the urge to lie down, as you may end up falling asleep. With your eyes closed and your arms resting comfortably at your sides, focus on your breathing. Try to aim for slow, rhythmic breaths. By concentrating on breathing, you’ll automatically begin the relaxation process.
Then, starting with your toes, flex and relax your muscles. By doing this, you’ll give particular attention to muscles which may be tensed up. Continually flex and relax each muscle group, moving up through your ankles, to your legs, then to your upper body. By the time you reach your head, you should be completely relaxed.
2) Enter a state of hypnosis
Once you are completely relaxed, it’s time to enter a state of hypnosis. To do this, tell yourself mentally “I am going to enter a state of hypnosis, going deeper, deeper, deeper.” As you repeat “deeper,” visualize yourself doing just that. It’s up to you what you choose, but it’s important to visualize progressive depth. For instance, you could picture a series of escalators going down. As you imagine yourself on each successive escalator, tell yourself “I am in a deeper state of hypnosis.”
Repeat this process 5 to 10 times. Once you reach “the bottom,” tell yourself “I am now in a state of hypnosis.”
3) Verify the hypnotic state
There’s a simple way to verify you are indeed in a state of hypnosis. Tell yourself to raise your pointer finger. Your finger should twitch, then slowly rise, without conscious effort on your part. If it doesn’t, you likely haven’t gone deeply enough, so repeat steps 2 and 3 in order.
4) Implant the commands
At this point, you should be in a state of hypnosis. You will notice that your breathing is slow and rhythmic, and that you are in a complete state of relaxation. Resist the urge to engage in extraneous thoughts; you should be focused solely on what you want to accomplish.
The key to this part is repetition. Pick a phrase that you will repeat to yourself over and over again, such as “I am calm, my anxiety is gone.” Repeat this phrase at least two dozen times, and allow it to seep into your subconscious mind. As you hear the words mentally, your anxiety will slowly begin to ebb away. You’ll be able to feel the words take effect.
5) Return to a waking state
Once you are satisfied that your anxiety has passed, you can begin the process of easing out of this state. You don’t want to abruptly open your eyes; this can be disorienting as well as somewhat of a shock.
To emerge, simply tell yourself, “By the time I count to 10, I will be fully alert, rested and free of anxiety.” Begin counting from 1 to 10, slowly returning to full awareness as you do. You’ll likely find that your awareness automatically returns without conscious effort.
You should find yourself calm and relaxed when you return to full awareness. If your anxiety isn’t completely gone, it should at least be dramatically reduced. The next time you feel the tentacles of anxiety creeping up on you, try these steps. With practice, your anxiety symptoms should gradually recede over time.