Hypnosis can help with anxiety, inflammation and intestinal problems
Hypnosis is considered to have powerful health benefits in numerous conditions, including anxiety, inflammation, and gut health. The Hindus of ancient India practiced a deep trance-like "sleep temple" which was a precursor to modern hypnosis. And Avicenna, a Persian physician, noticed the restorative powers of the relaxed trance state of hypnosis as early as the 11th century. In the last 100 years, however, hypnosis has had a bit of an "identity crisis." Hollywood and the hypnotists of the comic stage have hijacked the field.
Here's the truth: Hypnosis can be a powerful form of therapy. And there is a growing body of small but very promising research suggesting that hypnosis really works.
In fact, in many major research hospitals like the Mayo Clinic, hypnosis is now a "first-line therapy" for intestinal disorders like IBS.
But you might be wondering: why is it such a powerful form of therapy? That is of course a long discussion, but a simple way to define hypnosis is as a meditation with a goal.
Hypnosis is used to achieve the same relaxed theta brain wave state as in deep meditation. And when we are in this relaxed and safe space, we can provide the mind with helpful and more positive ways to manage stress, behavior, our emotions, and our health. Here's some of the science behind hypnosis:
How Hypnosis Can Help With Anxiety
Hypnosis has been found to help with anxiety in a number of studies. Simply put, in hypnosis, you feel safe and relaxed. When you are relaxed and confident, you open yourself up to suggestions. That said, despite what Hollywood movies want you to believe regarding "mind control," you're really only open to the suggestions you want to absorb. For that reason, there is a direct correlation between how much you want to control your anxiety and how quickly you will see results during your hypnotherapy sessions.
Hypnosis is a deeply relaxed theta brain wave state. It is the brain wave that we reach just before sleeping. This deeply relaxed state of security is so different from our normal waking state of stress and anxiety that simply being in hypnosis can have a powerful healing effect on the body and mind, regardless of what you are actually working on.
For people who are "highly hypnotizable" (about 10 percent of the population according to the Stanford researchers), complex changes occur in the brain during hypnosis. New connections are forged; wired connections are reduced. Anxiety decreases, creativity increases and creative problem solving. In this space, people are more willing to learn without thinking critically, feeling anxious, or questioning new information.
Many of our thoughts, emotions, and actions are moderated by a complex highway of neural pathways. Our minds use a so-called top-down regulatory system. This means that you feel a stimulus (like a situation fueled by anxiety), which asks the brain for information on how to respond. The brain then forces you to act based on your past experiences and stored memories. Research suggests that hypnosis is an effective tool to moderate this top-down system.
Hypnosis has been shown to improve feelings of anxiety and hopelessness significantly over traditional therapies. Because it can alter brain activity, it has even been effective in treating anxiety in pediatric burn patients.
How Hypnosis Can Reduce Inflammation
One of the most commonly cited benefits of hypnosis is stress reduction, which is directly correlated with reducing inflammation. One small study found that when 11 people followed a 12-week self-hypnosis program, a significant portion of them had much lower levels of inflammation, as measured by the presence of IL-6 cytokine.
Often times, stress is not just something you experience as a result of a stressful situation - it is a conditioning that can result from almost any experience.
Stress is harmful for many reasons, one of which is inflammation. Under stress, the body produces a substantial amount of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone plays an important role in regulating inflammation. Researchers have proposed that "prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because it decreases the sensitivity of the tissue to the hormone."
Hypnosis in Healing the Gut
You have probably already heard about the connection between the brain and the brain. The gut and brain are in constant communication, but this communication can be confused.
Your brain could become, for example, overactive in bowel spasms caused by IBS, and as a result, you will notice them more and cause more pain. Gut-directed hypnosis has been shown to be effective for people of all ages, including children.
Bowel disorders, especially IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), can start with negative thoughts, stress, and anxiety, and not just food. Sometimes a healthy and balanced diet and lifestyle are not enough to minimize the symptoms of IBS. That's where hypnosis comes in. Research has found that hypnosis has a substantial therapeutic impact on IBS.
Hypnosis has also been shown to help balance the autonomic nervous system in some IBS patients, which is an important, and often overlooked part of IBS treatment. You should know that the autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight or flight response) and the parasympathetic nervous system (or the rest and digestion system). It also has a third component, the enteric nervous system, which is found in the gastrointestinal lining and is often linked to digestive disorders. This is the largest and most complex part of the autonomic nervous system, and is known as the brain in the intestines.
These hypnosis success stories are probably just the beginning. As more studies are done, we are likely to see even more benefits. If you are skeptical, remember that the modern health industry overlooked meditation for decades before it became an almost overnight sensation. I think we are about to see the same thing happen with hypnosis.
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