Hypnosis has existed since early civilization when the Egyptians practiced inducing an altered state of consciousness for healing purposes. During the first part of the century Freud experimented with hypnosis recognizing that a patient in a hypnotic state was open to receiving and acting upon suggestions leading to beneficial outcomes. Today hypnosis is no longer regarded as an ancient or experimental treatment technique and is practiced widely by doctors, dentists, nurses, psychiatrists and psychotherapists. In 1958 the American Medical Association approved hypnosis as a safe practice with no harmful side effects. This sparked extensive empirical research into how hypnosis can be applied to a myriad of human health and mental health concerns from allergies to chronic pain, from exam anxiety to phobias and from stress related illnesses to trauma and abuse. Numerous studies found that hypnotherapy, or the use of hypnosis as a treatment modality, is effective, cost efficient and longer lasting when compared to other treatment approaches. Recently the focus of many clinicians has been to use hypnotherapy to help treat society’s most combated of all ills – weight and smoking.
Most individuals who wish to loose weight or quit smoking struggle with their unhealthy habits in a cycle of attempts and failures. Anyone that has ever been in this situation knows the pros and cons of their unhealthy habits on a conscious level yet have little control over it, leading to impulsive behavior, regret and guilt. Since impulses and addictions seem to be beyond our control or reason, it is fair to say they reside deep in our subconscious mind. Hypnotherapy is a pathway to accessing the subconscious mind, whereby an individual can learn to control their impulses and to increase motivation for a healthier lifestyle. Most importantly, when an individual is in a hypnotic state, he or she may gain clarity and understanding of their physiology and explore the emotional reasons behind their eating habits or smoking. Unhealthy habits may stem from a physiological dependence or need such as seeking a sugar high or the relaxing effect of nicotine. An emotional state may be associated with the physiological craving as an individual may be feeling down or lonely when reaching for that cookie or feeling stressed when reaching for the cigarette. Once the mind-body connection becomes apparent it is easier to work towards eliminating the unhealthy habit and replacing it with healthier ones. For example smokers get the suggestion to breathe deeply instead of reaching for a cigarette when they are stressed. As for the sugar seekers, a suggestion may be made that a juicy piece of watermelon can be as effective in increasing positive feelings.
Hypnotherapy for weight loss and smoking cessation is a gradual process where the focus is on systematic release and reduction in the habit or behaviors. The treatment may entail a series of guided visual imagery, positive suggestions, motivational exercises as well as age regression or emotional release exercises related to weight and smoking. Hypnotherapy is a process that is highly individual and dependent on a person’s level of commitment and motivation to achieve one’s goal.