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Self hypnosis vs. meditation

Friday, July 09, 2010

Many of us have heard of the benefits of meditation: a calmer, more focused mind; feeling less emotional; a reduction in anxiety; feeling happier because of the cascade of beta-endorphins and serotonin (“feel good chemicals”) that is produced. But how do we achieve that? Isn’t a meditation practice time consuming and frustrating? How does it differ from self hypnosis, since both practices take you into trance? Why would you choose one over the other? These are some of the questions we will look at here.

Self hypnosis, or auto hypnosis, is defined as entering the state of hypnosis on one’s own, without the assistance and guidance of a hypnotist or hypnotherapist. The benefits of self hypnosis are similar to those of meditation, because the same brain wave states, alpha and theta, can be achieved in self hypnosis. Therefore, if one is choosing a method to reach these brain wave states to experience their beneficial effects, the choice of self hypnosis or meditation is an individual one. Self hypnosis is more commonly associated with providing suggestion to the subconscious mind with the goal of changing behavior than meditation is; however, meditation upon a given phrase or desired goal can also provide a type of suggestion, so in some ways the lines between the two techniques blur here as well.

Meditation is most often a practice entered to calm and focus one’s mind, to release one’s mind of thought. Meditation, like self hypnosis, brings the mind into a trance brainwave state, alpha or theta. These are much calmer and quieter brainwave states than beta, which is our waking, thinking state. Alpha and theta states are associated with creativity and intuition, and with super learning.

The chief differences between self hypnosis and meditation lie in the primary goal and the method of achieving the trance state. The primary goal of self hypnosis most often is to provide positive suggestions for change to the subconscious, while the primary goal for meditation is usually to achieve a relaxed, thought-free state in alpha or theta, with the goal of training the mind.

There are a variety of different techniques to achieve either self hypnosis or meditation, such as following a count-down or a proscribed method of tiring the conscious mind by counting objects, etc. Trance in meditation or self hypnosis can be achieved by closing one’s eyes and repeatedly bringing the focus back to the breathing or focusing on a point such as a flame, while gently releasing thought. If analyzed carefully, someone experienced in both meditation and self hypnosis will recognize that all methods of entering the trance state involve the same mechanisms of tiring the conscious mind, through eye fixation or confusion, etc.

A beneficial practice does not need to be time consuming. Many people are reluctant to begin meditation or self hypnosis practices because they think they need to spend an hour every morning in the state. That isn’t true. The benefits can be achieved with much briefer periods of time, and I encourage clients to start with 20 to 25 minutes, four or five times a week. With practice and consistency, the time required to get into the state will shorten considerably, and then you can reduce the overall time to 15 or 20 minutes, and still gain benefits. The time of day to practice is individual as well. Fit it into your schedule, and listen to your mind and body to determine the right time of day for you.

Consistency is important. Practicing every day is wonderful, but not absolutely necessary if it isn’t realistic for your lifestyle. Four or five days a week is a good goal. The beneficial changes will remain with you as long as you continue your practice. Just like exercising a muscle, if you stop working out it gets flabby. If you stop your trance practice (self hypnosis or meditation) then eventually you will find the old thought patterns and emotional reactions creeping back into your life.

Since the benefits of entering the trance state through either technique are similar, the choice of meditation or self-hypnosis is really an individual one. Often this choice comes down to which method works best for the individual to enter the trance state quickly, easily and reliably, and what their goals are: releasing thought to experience the space between thoughts, or the application of positive suggestions. Try each method, and remember whatever method you are trying, to give it time. It may feel awkward at first, but with time you will enter the trance state more quickly, more deeply and more easily.

Regular practice of meditation or self hypnosis has beneficial effects on many conditions and situations, including ADD/ADHD, anxiety and depression, nervous conditions, psoriasis, headaches and migraines, insomnia and more. Benefits come quickly and grow over time. With a regular, on-going practice, you will feel calmer, become more creative and intuitive, more relaxed and focused.

Article by: Cindy Locher, Minneapolis Hypnosis Examiner


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