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Love Witch (2016)

Is hypnosis the next big wellness trend?

As the last year makes us reassess our habits and health, the power of hypnosis is coming to the forefront in a whole new way – here’s how you could tap in

If you’ve seen someone staring out into space lately, they may not be day dreaming, they may not even be meditating. It’s possible they’re in a deep state of hypnosis. 

As 2021 chugs on, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression are at an all-time high, many are looking for new wellness treatments that feel both holistic and new. Hypnosis is a fast emerging option – it’s even offered at major spas such as the Four Seasons New York City, and at various acupuncturists and yoga studios across the globe. 

“There has been an increase in demand for hypnosis lately, which I believe is due to a few factors,” explains Ana Tucker, licensed psychotherapist and clinical hypnotherapist. “COVID has made people assess the quality of their lives in a new way and this life review has brought about a desire to change old habits or situations that no longer serve them, such as ending an unhealthy relationship or finding more meaningful work. I also see a growth in neuroscience, a deeper understanding of neuroplasticity and the role that hypnosis plays in changing the way we think, feel, and experience the world. The power of hypnosis is coming to the forefront in a whole new way.”

So, wondering what exactly hypnosis is? If it sounds like meditation, it kind of is, but it takes that concentrated thought to the next level: “The truth is that a guided meditation or visualisation can be very similar to a hypnosis session,” explains Ewa Josefsson, a certified hypnosis practitioner in Miami, Florida. “The main distinction is how focused hypnosis is on changing your thoughts, unlike meditation which is generally about noticing, observing and accepting your thoughts.” Hypnosis – or hypnotherapy as it’s often called – uses guided relaxation, intense concentration, and focus to attempt to get to a heightened state of awareness. 

“Our emotional state is controlled by our subconscious mind… we can’t consciously convince ourselves to feel better” – Ana Tucker

Studies have shown that hypnosis has helped people quit smoking, and feel less pain. “Hypnotherapy is a powerful tool to clear both anxiety and depression,” adds Tucker. “Our emotional state is controlled by our subconscious mind, and this part of the mind has what is called the critical factor. The critical factor is considered a gatekeeper to the subconscious mind and will not allow in any information that does not match the established subconscious belief. This is why we can’t consciously convince ourselves to feel better.” 

During hypnotherapy, the conscious mind is able to relax, and the critical factor is open to new information. It’s a direction line into the autonomic nervous system, which controls feelings of anxiety, offering a sense of wellbeing. “A hypnosis session always begins with the practitioner asking what you would like to change in your life – change is the core of what we do. Sometimes we even call it ‘change work,’” Josefsson adds. 

Hypnosis has been depicted many times in pop culture, and therefore people tend to think of it as an extreme treatment. But once it’s distilled, the core of hypnosis is just a tool for shifting thoughts, behaviours and habits. “It can be a way to remove damaging beliefs from childhood, to change habits such as quitting smoking or getting more daily exercise, and it can also be a way to fine-tune your mindset and create the life you want,” says Josefsson. 

And while hypnosis can’t erase memories like it does in movies, it can reformat memories to make them less painful. It’s often combined with counseling or therapy, in an attempt to help people block pain or perceive things differently. “We often think and feel that our personalities are set in stone, but in reality our self-talk and habits follow patterns we’ve learned in the past – and they can be updated.”

“Change is the core of what we do. Sometimes we even call it ‘change work’” – Ewa Josefsson

If you’re thinking of trying hypnosis yourself, there’s a number of ways you can test it out. Some yoga classes make it an emphasis. Josefsson, for example, integrates it into the yoga classes she teaches. She uses positive affirmations to guide her students into a statement of hypnosis. “During a yoga class you may be more open to seeing, thinking and feeling something new, to experience a shift in your mindset.”

“Many skilled yoga teachers use this opportunity to give positive and uplifting suggestions, which is essentially a form of hypnosis, whether they know it or not,” she explains. “If you’ve ever had a big epiphany during a yoga class, then you know what I’m talking about! The teacher might have said an affirmation such as ‘you are perfect right now’ and although you’ve heard that phrase before, this time it really hit home.”

You can also do it on your own. Tucker recommends finding a comfortable private space to relax, having a hypnotic goal in mind, and writing it down in positive language on a piece of paper, repeating the positive statement three times silently or out loud. After stating your intention, close your eyes and take 10 slow deep breaths to relax, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth. “At this point you can imagine yourself growing more relaxed by counting backwards from ten down to one, or imagine descending a staircase with ten steps,” she says. 

 “At the bottom of the staircase imagine yourself in a healing safe space and repeat your hypnotic suggestion ten times. Allow yourself to feel the excitement that comes with attaining your goal and visualise yourself attaining your goal. When you feel ready, imagine ascending your staircase then simply open your eyes and enjoy your new ability.”