Can Hypnosis Help You Finally Get Fit?
Free Your Mind, Meet Your Goals?
When I hear that phrase "You are getting sleepy," all I get is skeptical. Hypnosis makes me think of a pendulous stopwatch and audiences at comedy shows quacking like ducks. You too, I bet. But it's making a comeback. Celebs have been lining up to try it: Ellen DeGeneres, Drew Barrymore, and Matt Damon all have used it to quit smoking; Mandy Moore and Fergie, to reduce anxiety; and Lily Allen and Courtney Love, to drop pounds.
There's a good reason for the resurgence: A pile of new research shows that it works. "In the past 10 years the empirical data on hypnosis has exploded," says Guy Montgomery, PhD, director of the integrative behavioral medicine program at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. "Hypnosis has been shown to be effective in hundreds of rigorous studies." Plus, there's more awareness and acceptance of alternative therapies now; nearly 40 percent of us use some form of alternative medicine, according to a new government survey of more than 23,000 U.S. adults.
While most researchers and doctors agree on the definition of hypnosis -- an altered state of consciousness characterized by heightened suggestibility and receptivity to direction -- the jury's still out on how it works. Some scientists theorize that hypnosis bypasses your conscious thoughts and goes directly to your unconscious mind, while others believe that it helps you change the way you perceive the world. One thing that's clear is the strength of the mind-body connection. Simply thinking a negative thought triggers the release of stress hormones, but focusing on happiness, love, or joy produces feel-good chemicals, such as serotonin and endorphins, which diminish anxiety, says Tracy Latz, MD, a psychiatrist and coauthor of Shift: A Woman's Guide to Transformation.
Still skeptical? You don't have to schedule an appointment to reap the benefits. We sorted through the research and grilled the experts on how you can think yourself into doing almost anything. Hypnotists have an arsenal of mental tools you can borrow and use on your own that range from "hypnosis light" -- visualization exercises and positive thinking -- to outright self-hypnosis. Get ready to master them -- and run faster, face your fear, feel less pain, and more.
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