Whenever we find ourselves embarking on a new journey towards our goals, it always seems to begin with a set of intentions that mirror the very best part of ourselves and our greatest hopes and dreams. Often these steps can start strong but life can get in the way and it can be easy to sometimes let these best intentions fall by the wayside and we blame a lack of motivation or busy-ness or another external factor getting in the way.
While setting a clear intention is a critical step for achieving goals and even manifesting desires, in order to make this intention an action and then turn the action into an ingrained healthy habit that serves us well, we need to practice repetition. It is here that the skilled use of hypnosis can greatly speed up the process of forming new healthy habits.
Experiencing a mental rehearsal
Your subconscious cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined. This means if we are able to be guided through a mental rehearsal of the steps required to reach our goals, then we have already been able to practice how it might play out and how good you can feel.
Hypnosis plays with time distortion. I can help somebody acquire the virtual experience of how they would feel had they followed the steps towards creating a healthy habit and then sustained this healthy habit for a period of time. If we are able to visualise how we would think, look and feel as if we had already achieved our goal then we start feeling the emotional benefits immediately. This might be linked with pride and achievement, gratitude, satisfaction, and building self-esteem.
This might be activated by creating a virtual experience. For example, I once helped a woman whose habit of drinking a bottle of wine every night was impacting her health and happiness. It took around thirty minutes with her deeply hypnotised to help her see herself in her evenings feeling cool, calm and confident without a glass of wine. We then worked on the ‘virtual’ experience of weeks and months of exercising daily, waking up feeling fresh and motivated, clear and happy. I talked about how, “one day, this day will be months and years ago”. I then got her to feel as if he had already experienced all this future time as a natural and easy light drinker. I suggested he experience seasons, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases, all as a light drinker, going through typical days without even thinking about it. By the time she came out of the trance, she felt as if his new habit wasn’t ‘new’ at all, and she had been free of this old habit and it’s debilitating side effects. And this is how we can encourage new healthy habits in an amazingly accelerated way.
It is a surprisingly powerful technique to practice hypnotically how a ‘typical day’ in your mind might play out with this new positive habit, and then many such days until we reach the point where the habit is truly ‘second nature’.
At Brisbane Natural Health we are deeply committed to supporting our people on a health journey that is much more than symptom reduction – it is about holistic care that includes the emotional support to take enables people to transcend their old stories and believe they feel different and be different. I like to offer my clients the experience inwardly of what it’s like to feel that a new positive habit is long-standing and deeply embedded.
This approach has been validated by research as well as our own clinical experience.
A famous piece of research showed that mental rehearsal wires the brain in the same way as actual rehearsal. Basketball players who practised a new move in their minds, without actually doing it for real, were able to accomplish the move as well as – and often even better than – players who only practised it for real. This is because you can always do something ‘perfectly’ in your mind. So the new habitual skill was acquired purely through hypnotic means.
So practising that new basketball move or that new piano piece in your mind, with your eyes closed, even though you might be miles from a basketball court or a piano keyboard, can help you get better at those activities because you are deepening the right neuronal pathways. A new habit, any new habit, can and (I think) should be practised mentally to speed up the process of making it automatic. And the best way to practise something mentally is to learn how these habits can be real while under hypnosis.
Rebecca Brewster, registered Counsellor and Hypnotherapist practicing strategic psychotherapy and clinical hypnosis.