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I tried self-hypnosis to get my stress under control—here’s what happened


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Photo: Stocksy/Dominique Chapman
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If you’re trying to score a promotion or find love, there are a ton of wellness tools to help you get in the mindset to make that happen—like journaling, intention-setting, and prioritizing self-care. (Bath time FTW!)

But there’s another goal-getting strategy that could be a powerful complement to the usual suspects: hypnosis.

Okay, before you start picturing mind control and quacking like a duck, hear me out. Morgan Yakus, a practitioner of integrative hypnosis and past-life regression who sees clients in both New York City and Los Angeles, swears real-deal hypnosis isn’t that far removed from meditation. In fact, if you’ve ever gone to a group sit or tried out a mindfulness app, you’re already halfway there.

“Self-hypnosis is essentially a step beyond a guided [meditation] practice.”

“Self-hypnosis is essentially a step beyond a guided practice,” explains Yakus. “Instead of letting someone else lead you, you’re the driver—and you direct your mind to where it needs to be.” That’s the beauty of hypnosis, she says: Since you’re in charge, you can use the practice to achieve whatever you want.

Clinical studies indicate that the technique is especially effective for decreasing stress and anxiety, which will also help you in pretty much every area of life—whether that’s sleeping more soundly, gaining confidence at work, or getting over a breakup.

So how does it work, exactly? “We can actively override preexisting neural networks [in our] brains to create new ones during hypnosis,” Yakus says. (In layman’s terms, that means it helps create new thought patterns.) “A person can let the subconscious know they no longer need a habit. Then, they can let go of repeating that negative thought and feeling for good.”

So, how do you hypnotize yourself? And does it work? Keep reading for a 4-step guide—and find out what happened when I tried it.

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Photo: Stocksy/Guille Faingold

How to hypnotize yourself

“There are so many uses for this technique: balancing the body, calming the mind, finding clarity in your life, or helping you visualize finishing a project,” says Yakus. It might take you a few tries to get the hang of self-hypnosis, but the expert swears there’s really no way to mess it up. “Be patient with yourself…and enjoy the process!”

Step 1: Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Locate a spot above eye level to rest your eyes upon—this starts the relaxation process. Have a soft focus and take in the whole room without moving your eyes.

Step 2: Mentally state your goal. Why are you going into hypnosis, and what do you intend for your mind to do?

“I am going into this meditative state for the purpose of _____________ .”  (Examples: calming the mind, balancing the body, finding clarity, or working towards a goal.)

“During this process my mind will make adjustments so that _____________ occurs naturally and easily.” (Examples: a calm mind, a balanced body, clarity, a goal.)

Step 3: Repeat the following sentences to yourself as many times as needed to feel very relaxed. (At least four times.) The observations are all coming from what’s popping up in your imagination—no matter how weird or random it is, roll with it. Eventually, your eyes will want to close. Let them—that’s the whole idea.

“I am now aware that I see _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different visual observation each time.)

“I am now aware that I hear _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different auditory observation each time.)

“I am now aware that I feel _________.” (Repeat four times, with a different observations of how you feel right this moment each time.)

Step 4: Next, tell yourself how you want to feel when you complete the process and how long you wish to be in meditation. If your mind wanders, be an observer—and come out of the meditation whenever you’re ready.

“In 10 minutes, I’m going to feel __________.”  (Examples: calm, grounded, motivated, energized, balanced.)

While it may read like a lot of steps, when you’re in the moment it’s quite easy. It’s simply a tool to control your thoughts and shift your perception of a mood or event—and I should know, because Yakus led me through three rounds of self-hypnosis myself.

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Photo: PicJumbo/Viktor Hanacek

What it did for me

Before we began, Yakus had me chat about something that I wanted to work on. In my case? Feeling stressed about an influx of projects at work and letting the pressure affect my performance. As we went through the steps, she told me to imagine myself reacting in my normal way.

On the second round, she told me to envision myself acting the way I wish I would react and playing it out in my mind. On the third round, she told me to play out my “dream scenario” again, but for an extra couple of minutes. By the time we were finished, I had been sitting there for five minutes straight, without getting distracted, and I felt way more calm and ready to tackle the inevitable tension in a manageable way.

I was never “out,” as people in shady, quack-like-a-duck hypnotism sideshows are, so I never had to “come to”.

I was never “out,” as people in shady, quack-like-a-duck hypnotism sideshows are, so I never had to “come to”—in fact, I felt more focused and my mind was super sharp during and after the session. The process gave me an approachable and practical method of try to visualize and manifest my goals. And just like meditation, I can do it just about anywhere. (Translation: I’ll be adding self-hypnosis into my daily routine.)

So, next time you’ve got a major meeting with your boss or a nerve-wracking first date, you might want to try it out in your bedroom, on the subway (with noise-canceling headphones), or even in the office bathroom—no swinging pendulum required.

For more ways to give yourself an instant boost, check out this happiness-inducing breathing hack and the mood-elevating morning practice one Kundalini yogi swears by.