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12 Ways That Hypnosis Can Help Change Your Life For the Better

It’s a simple and safe intervention

Image-Point-Fr/ShutterstockCoined by English physician James Braid, who studied the practice during the 19th century, hypnosis gets its name from Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep. The practice uses guided relaxation and focused attention to achieve a heightened state of awareness, sometimes referred to as a trance. (Check out the nine things you need to know about hypnotherapy.) "They lie on a sofa or sit in a comfortable chair and we talk to the subconscious mind and deliver a script that puts them in a state of relaxation," says Orlando, Florida-based hypnotist Richard Barker. "I distract them from normal things around them by having them stare. I use verbal confusion to get the critical mind to go under duress and then quit." When a person is in a hypnotic state, they are more open to discussion and are better able to respond to suggestions, this makes it possible to help them with certain conditions such as smoking, insomnia, overeating, or even the perception of pain. The critical faculty of the brain is turned off, explains Barker, and the subconscious mind is listening—that’s where their habits lie. "I tell them what’s going to happen and then it happens, but first I set up the mind to let it happen." Hypnosis is not regulated in the United States, so the best way to find a certified hypnotherapist is through the National Guild of Hypnotists, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the practice. While treatment varies based on each individual’s condition, many conditions require just one session. A typical therapy session lasts about 90 minutes and can cost anywhere from $200 to $1,500. "Hollywood portrays hypnosis as spellbinding witchcraft, but its not," says Barker. If you have a bad back, you go to the chiropractor, if your teeth hurt, you go to the dentist, but where do you go if you want to increase the thought capacity of your mind?"

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If you want to find the best way to quit smoking, you’ll navigate a long-list of over-the-counter and prescription nicotine-replacement medications as well as non-nicotine prescriptions to find the right fit. Quitting is vital, of course: Cigarettes are responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC also states that among all current U.S. adult cigarette smokers, nearly seven out of every 10 (68 percent) reported that they wanted to quit. Herbal remedies, behavioral therapy, and acupuncture are other methods people choose to quit smoking, but for Jon Bryner, a bar owner in Melbourne, Florida (where smoking is still allowed in bars), hypnosis was the answer to kicking his two-pack-a-day habit. "When you go to a doctor, they give you a pill, but they can’t give you anti-habit pills," says professional hypnotist Richard Barker. Barker worked with Bryner to change his thought process and take away the emotional connection to help change his habit into a positive one. "At first I thought, how will I drive, how will I have a beer and not smoke?" says Bryner, "But now I just think about how bad smoke smells."

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