Combating Stress with Hypnosis

There can be many factors contributing to poor health, but one major cause is stress. When we are under stress, our autonomic nervous systems switch into survival mode, slowing down functions that are not essential to surviving. These include the immune, digestive, and reproductive functions. This is why people who are chronically stressed get sick more easily and heal more slowly, develop ulcers and digestive problems, and experience irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, and sexual dysfunction. A form of hypnosis called guided meditation can be an effective means of combating this stress.

Few of us experience true danger in our daily lives, but our nervous systems react to traffic, time constraints, loud noises, and other stimuli in the same way that we used to respond to bears, battles, and other dangers. Stress causes the body to prepare for fighting, fleeing, or freezing, not growing, eating, and reproducing. To bring these normal, healthy functions back online, we need to shut off the survival response. We can do that by relaxing, but many people find that to be more easily said than done.

True relaxation requires mental and physical relaxation. Most of us know how to relax physically but many of us find it hard to relax mentally. Even while receiving a massage, for example, our minds might be active. A mind full of worries or woes is triggering all the same physical stress responses that a massage, a bath, a game of golf, a beer, etc., is trying to remedy. Unless we can quiet the mind, the body cannot achieve complete relaxation.

The best way to quiet the mind is meditation. While there are many different styles of meditation, most people find it easiest to begin with a guided meditation. Most forms of meditation focus on clearing the mind of all thought or focus the mind on a single concept or mantra. In guided meditation, the thoughts are directed. Because the imagination is engaged, guided meditation is actually a form of hypnosis rather than true meditation.

Guided meditation combines progressive relaxation with positive imagery. The progressive relaxation induces a hypnotic state, thereby switching the nervous system out of survival mode into growth mode. The positive imagery then redirects the mind away from obsessive thoughts towards peaceful thoughts, such as imagining a beautiful garden. Since it addresses the needs of both the mind and the body, guided meditation helps you relax both mentally and physically.

By consistently practicing guided meditation, your body will gradually learn what a normal, healthy state feels like. If you have been stressed for a long time, you body may have become stuck in fight or flight mode. Guided meditation will help you to retrain your body to switch out of survival mode so it will become less responsive to stressors and recover more quickly when exposed to them. Your mind will be more peaceful when you replace an active mind with a peaceful mind. Between the mental and physical benefits of guided meditation, you'll feel calmer and more in control of your life, and your immune, digestive, and reproductive functions will flourish.



There are all kinds of therapy available to help you change your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors: hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, art therapy, music therapy, and more. One kind of therapy you can do by yourself is bibliotherapy. Perhaps you know how wonderful it feels to read a good book and escape into another world for a little while. That is one kind of bibliotherapy, but I am talking about self-help books.

You may think self-help books are not for you, but even business books can be considered self-help. Anything that helps you achieve your goals, that teaches you tips and secrets to get ahead or to approach challenges in a new way, is a self-help book. By reading a good self-help book, you can learn how to transform and release your perceived or actual limitations.

There is no shortage of self-help books on the market. Many of them are repetitive or insubstantial and some are even damaging or absurd, so it takes some wading through to find a good one. I am currently reading The Secret Code of Success by Noah St. John. The "secret" St. John presents is the concept of afformations. Afformations is a play on affirmations. In hypnosis, we use affirmations (positive statements) to change the way we think about ourselves. For example, if you often think "I'm a failure," you use the affirmation "I'm a success" to reverse that thought. Every time you start to think "I'm a failure," you substitute the affirmation. This can help over time if there is no benefit to thinking you're a failure. If there is a perceived benefit, then that belief would need to be examined through hypnotherapy or other means to release it. For example, being a "failure" may mean not having to try again, not having to change, not having to work, not having to move or leave home, not having to succeed, not having to maintain success, not having to be visible/responsible/independent/etc. There could be lots of subconscious benefits to being a failure. Until those perceived benefits are exposed and transformed, affirmations will never work.

In his book, St. John talks about afformations, which are questions rather than statements. Afformations are positive questions stated in the past tense, as though the goal has already been achieved. When we ask ourselves a question, our brain starts looking for an answer. For example, what did you eat for lunch yesterday? Your brain is looking for that answer now. By asking yourself an afformation, your brain starts looking for the answer. If there isn't an answer yet, then your brain will try to come up with a solution, like solving a riddle. This is how inventors, scientists, entrepreneurs, and other creative people work. By asking afformations, you are using your own creative subconscious mind to find solutions. St. John compares this to typing a few words into a search engine, like Google, and sending the query off to the internet.

So, to relate this to the example above, if you ask yourself, "Why am I such a failure?" your brain will start looking for answers to that question. Any answers you get are sure to be negative. If you transform that to a positive question, you would ask, "Why am I such a success?" and your brain would start looking for answers to that question instead. To make this an afformation, you would state it in the past tense or state it as if it were already achieved, such as "Why did I become such a success?" or "Why does success come so easily to me now?" This will get your creativity flowing so you can come up with even more answers. You might surprise yourself.

This is not all you have to do. Afformations is the "secret" in the book, but there are several steps that St. John outlines in his book to help you achieve your goals using afformations. It's a clear and handy self-help book with an interesting twist on the use of affirmations. If you like affirmations, use afformations to see if you can go even further. If you like to read, check out The Secret Code of Success. If you'd like to become a success, read the book, use afformations, and work through the action steps.


Starting Afresh

Happy New Year! I hope 2010 has started off well for you. If not, here are two things to keep in mind. One is that it's never to late to have a happy childhood, and the other is that life is a journey.

When I read the books Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman and Negaholics by Cherie Carter-Scott, I recognized myself in many of the descriptions of negative people and negative patterns. I remember a conversation I had with one of my friends in 1994. She called me a pessimist and I said I was a realist. Her response? "All of us experience reality in our own way, but your way is negative."

I didn't agree with her and didn't feel I needed to change at that time... and perhaps I didn't. That world view worked for me at that point in my life. I was young and life was good. But eventually, seeing the world that way did not work for me, so I worked on adopting a more positive outlook. Books like the ones I mentioned above helped me see that thinking negatively was not helpful and was in fact quite harmful both mentally and emotionally. My negative outlook affected me physically as well. I needed to change.

One thing to change was the way I looked at the past. If you have experienced a negative event and you expect the future to be the same, then you naturally tend to be pessimistic. So it helps to revise your memory of the past. Instead of looking at the bad points, think about what you learned or gained from a negative experience.

I understand you may have had a serious trauma in the past. I did too. But there are people who came out of Auschwitz able to love again, able to trust again, able to succeed. Nelson Mandela came out of prison able to forgive and able to lead. These people are not divine masters. They are ordinary human beings. If they can move on from the past, then surely you can too. It takes time and effort but it is possible. When you can look back and see the good points or the learning points of your life, the future seems less scary. You can slowly dial down the negativity until you find that you no longer see the world so negatively anymore. You can have a happy childhood by reframing the way you see the past.

When you feel better about the past, it will be easier to face the future. Now go out and make it a happy new year!