Could using the power of your mind really help you to achieve your goals?
Struggling to beat your personal best, lift heavier weights or lose those last few pounds?
Learning to hypnotise yourself could be the answer, according to Valerie Austin, hypnotherapist and author of new book Self-Hypnosis: Work With Your Subconscious Mind To Reach Your Full Potential.
‘Hypnosis allows you to reprogramme your mind by removing old, unhelpful thoughts and replacing them with
new, positive beliefs and associations,’ she says. Best of all, you’ll see results fast, with minimal effort. ‘Once you’ve mastered self-hypnosis, which isn’t difficult to learn, it only takes a few minutes a day for two weeks to re-programme your subconscious to direct you to do what you want,’ Valerie adds. Just a few minutes every day for a fortnight? Even we can find a way to squeeze that in!
How it works
‘Hypnosis is a state of deep physical relaxation that lets your conscious mind “get out of the way”, allowing you to communicate directly with your unconscious mind, where all the information that influences your actions is stored,’ explains Lisa Jackson, hypnotherapist and author of Adore Yourself Slim. ‘When you’re hypnotised, it’s easier to accept positive suggestions, which, if you were in a waking state, you might reject.’
Joseph Clough, hypnotherapist and author of Be Your Potential, agrees. ‘The unconscious mind is in control of our weight, self-esteem and performance and, through habit or past negative experiences, often creates limiting beliefs or behaviours. Self-hypnosis is a way of getting back into rapport with your unconscious, so that you can teach and re-direct it to your desires to achieve your outcomes.’
But, more serious issues may need another approach. ‘Self-hypnosis can help you improve your tennis game or take minutes off your marathon time, but it’s not recommended to treat serious issues, such as extreme anxiety or full-blown eating disorders,’ says cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist and author of The Power of Accepting Yourself Michael Cohen (). ‘It’s ideal for breaking specific bad habits, such as smoking, biting your nails and over-indulging a sweet tooth.’
When diets don’t work
‘Hypnosis is a highly effective weight-loss and weight-control tool, as it can be used to create and maintain better eating habits, such as cutting out junk food, excess sugar and alcohol,’ explains Valerie.
‘You can introduce your inner mind to the idea of a healthy eating plan rather than a “diet”, which can have negative connotations, especially if you’ve tried and failed to stick to one before.’
Want proof it works? ‘There’s plenty,’ says Joseph, citing a study published in the Journal Of Consulting And Clinical Psychology that found ‘hypnosis to be over 30 times more effective at helping women lose weight than willpower alone’.
Self-hypnosis can also help weight loss by helping you enjoy exercise. ‘By repeatedly imagining yourself happy to work out, enjoying your runs and finding gym sessions fun, you convince your subconscious that you really do love exercise,’ says Lisa.
And Joseph cites another study that supports this theory: ‘109 people completed a behavioural treatment (diet and exercise) for weight management, either with or without the addition of hypnosis. At the end of the nine-week programme, both interventions resulted in significant weight reduction. But at eight-month and two-year follow-ups, the hypnosis subjects were found to have continued to lose weight, while those in the behavioural-treatment-only group showed little further change.’
Faster, fitter, stronger
Self-hypnosis can also improve your performance. Roger Bannister famously self-hypnotised by visualising himself running each lap of the 400m track in under a minute to help him run the sub-four-minute mile. ‘Then there’s comedian David Walliams, who employed self-hypnosis to prepare for his epic cross-Channel swim: he feared being plagued by thoughts he’d become too tired or too cold to continue, and so rehearsed feeling tenacious, determined and optimistic instead,’ says Lisa.
Visualisation is key to the process of hypnotising yourself. ‘Because the unconscious mind cannot distinguish between a real event and an imagined one, mental rehearsal and visualisation for something like sports works incredibly well,’ explains Valerie. ‘Anyone can do it; just envisaging yourself beating your PB in a race, hitting the ball harder or pedalling faster while you are in hypnosis can bring about great results.’