If you’re like most folks, you know that hypnosis can be an effective tool at helping you reach a wide variety of goals.
But how powerful is hypnosis really?
A recent article in The New York Times , published April 2011, sheds some light on the subject.
According to the article, Kirsten Ritchie used hypnosis to heal herself after a MAJOR surgery.
Earlier this year, Kirsten had a plum-sized tumor removed from her brain. As you can guess, it was a pretty invasive surgery.
What surprised her neurosurgeon the most wasn’t the size of the tumor. It was Kirsten’s speedy recovery and the very little amount of medication she needed before and after the surgery.
Instead of waking up groggy and in pain after having the tumor removed, she felt “alert and awesome.” In fact, she even ate a full dinner the same night as the surgery and went home in two days.
How’d she do it?
Prior to the surgery she’d gone to four hypnosis sessions at the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine. There she addressed her fear of the surgery.
In addition to that, Kirsten also practiced self-hypnosis daily.
Here’s another story about the power of hypnosis:
“I recently had elective surgery for the first time and was very nervous about it. Once I began to listen to Dr. Ginandes, I felt less anxious in general and I was able to sleep peacefully every night. When the big day came, I took my CDs with me in the waiting room – it was wonderful to be able to feel peaceful and calm during that time!
After the surgery I listened to the final session and healed so quickly that I did not even need to take any pain medication. The CDs were the most wonderful tool to get me through this stressful time – from beginning to end. I would highly recommend them to anyone going through a surgical procedure, whether it is your first time or not.”
- J. Tyler, Image Coach, Co-founder of Fabulous Over Forty
It’s no surprise here that hypnosis helped Kirsten and J. Tyler recover so quickly. After all, hypnosis has been used for more than two centuries.
In certain cases, hypnosis has been used in place of anesthesia for certain surgeries – with amazing success.
It’s why many respected hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in New York are welcoming it with open arms.
A Harvard Medical School study done in 2000* found that patients who receive hypnosis during surgery required less medication afterwards. But that’s not all – the patients had fewer complications and the procedures went faster than patients who did not receive hypnosis.
The Power of Your Unconscious Mind
If you don’t know already, your unconscious mind is pretty much “at the helm” when it comes to creating your experiences and your reality.
Harvard neuroscientist Dr. Stephen M. Kosslyn puts it best: “Top-down processes override sensory, or bottom-up information. People think that sights, sounds and touch from the outside world constitute reality. But the brain constructs what it perceives based on past experience.”
Simply put, your reality and the way you experience it is created by your brain and the unconscious.
It’s what explains things like the placebo effect.
Dr. Amir Raz, professor of neuroscience at Columbia University, studied the nature of this very phenomenon.
His study used the Stroop effect.
Rather than go through a lengthy explanation, let’s see the Stroop effect in action right now.
You’re going to read a series of two words in just a moment. What I want you to do, is to identify (as quickly as you can) the color that the word is written in.
Here we go:
How’d you do?
If you’re like most people, it probably took you a second or two to identify the correct colors as red and blue.
The reason this is challenging – especially when you have to answer quite a few in a row – is that reading is deeply ingrained in the mind. So it might take a few seconds to identify the word GREEN (colored in red) as the color red.
Here’s how this was used in the study…
Dr. Raz split the subjects into two groups. One group was hypnotized and given the posthypnotic suggestion to see the words on the screen as gibberish. The other group was not under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion.
The subjects entered a brain scanner, where the Stroop effect test took place. For the group who received the posthypnotic suggestion, the Stroop effect was null and void. They identified the correct colors instantly. The second group took a lot longer to identify the correct colors shown.
Dr. Raz then analyzed the brain scans and found that those under the influence of the posthypnotic suggestion had somehow shutdown the visual area of the brain that is used to identify words and language.
Use your mind to accomplish your goals
If the mind is so powerful to be able to act as an anesthetic during major surgeries… help patients heal faster, with less need for drugs… and able to shut down major areas of the brain at will… then the sky’s the limit when it comes to achieving your goals.
All it takes is giving yourself the right “programming” and overriding the beliefs that are creating limitation.
That said, I’d love to hear about your experiences with hypnosis and the results you got. Have you ever used hypnosis to help an ailment or disease? Any occasions where you used it to achieve your goals faster than you thought possible?
*Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2000 May;18(2):327-38, x. The use of hypnosis in emergency medicine. Peebles-Kleiger MJ, Menninger School of Psychiatry and Mental Health Sciences, Menninger Clinic, Topeka, KS, USA
* Raz, A., Kirsch, I., Pollard, J., & Nitkin-Kaner, Y. (2006). Suggestion reduces the Stroop Effect. Psychological Science, 17(2), 91-95
If you are like most smokers, you realize the negative effects on your health and might even calculate the monthly or yearly cost of each pack of cigarettes you buy.
However, if you aren’t statistically minded, you probably aren’t calculating the TRUE cost of a pack of cigarettes. And, according to a new study from the Polytechnic Institute of Cartagena in Spain, the cost is dramatically higher than you may expect…
When you account for the VSL (which we will get to later) the true cost of one single pack of cigarettes is…
$150 For Men And $105 For Women – WOW!
If you had to whip out over $100 for a pack, would you still be smoking?
But thinking statistically can be difficult – I know it is not easy for me.
However, now that you know the true cost of a pack, try keeping it in the front of your mind whenever you are thinking of buying a pack. And whenever a friend or a loved one is about to buy a pack – reminding them of the true economic costs might just help them end this habit.
How In The World Did They Get This Number?
A metric called the Value of a Statistical Life (VSL) was devised to analyze the problem from a cost-benefit standpoint. Without getting too complicated, what is being figured here is the cost of premature death.
Smoking cuts an average of 7.13 years off the life expectancy of a man and 4.5 years for a woman.
According to the study’s author, “one must not confuse the cost of premature death with the cost of healthcare. The cost of premature death is borne by the smokers themselves.” So this figure is actually a bit modest.
Obviously since we sell a hypnosis program for smoking cessation, I am a little biased. But the research does strongly support that hypnosis is a highly effective tool to help you quit.
However, people quit without hypnosis all of the time. Nicotine itself, for example, does not cause cancer, and the use of gums and patches is definitely a better option than lighting up.
I have found a free resource online that I think is excellent. It is called, “Why Quit,” http://whyquit.com/, and it completely unbiased. If you are struggling, it will be worth your while.
And since we are talking about the personal monetary costs of smoking, I simply have to give you a special offer for Dr. Randy Gilchrist’s hypnosis smoking cessation program, The Non-Smoker’s Edge. We have a special on the program for $99, but since the tone of this article is all about dollars – you can use this coupon code until Monday November 11th and get $50 off our already discounted price of $99.
So you can get this program for only $49, which is actually half the true cost of just one pack of cigarettes!
Use coupon code: quitnow
This code will expire on Monday, November 11th!
Source: Nicolas, Angel Lopez, and M Belén Cobacho Tornel, José María Ramos Parreño. “El Coste de la Mortalidad Asociado al Consumo de Tabaco en España”, Revista Española de Salud Pública 84(3): 271-280, 2010.
New research presented at the 24th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies* exposed alarming information for insomniacs.
Results of the study indicated that individuals with chronic insomnia have an elevated risk of death. In fact, people with insomnia have a “hazard ratio” for all types of mortality that is over three times as high as people without insomnia.
According to lead author, Laurel Finn, “The most surprising result was the increased high risk for mortality among individuals with chronic insomnia versus those without insomnia, even after adjustment for all of the potential confounding variables.”
So, if you have chronic insomnia, this is something you are going to want to take care of right away.
Treating Chronic Insomnia
Some proven strategies to help beat insomnia include:
- Good sleeping habits.
- Go to bed only when sleepy.
- Sleep only in the bedroom.
- If still awake after 20 minutes, leave the bedroom and return when sleepy.
- Get up at the same time each morning regardless of the amount of sleep during the night.
- Discontinue caffeine and nicotine in the evening (if not completely).
- Establish a daily exercise program.
- Avoid alcohol because it may disrupt continuity of sleep.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
Hypnosis and Insomnia – The Not-So-Good News…
Surprisingly, although hypnosis in practice seems to help people with sleep issues – we have not been able to create a program that gets the results we require in order to sell a program. Believe me: we have created a bunch by some prominent psychologists! We just can’t sell them because they do not meet our standards. We have also evaluated competitive hypnosis products and found them lacking as well.
On a positive note, we have found a home use program that is getting great results that does NOT involve hypnosis. We are almost done with the evaluation, and when it is done I will share it with you, so stay tuned.
Please comment here if you are interested in such a solution.
*The study was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the National Institute on Aging; and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health.
Sorry for the over the top headline, but the answer to the question appears to be yes…and please read this whole post, there is something really good at the end.
How Being Overweight Affects The Brain
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh scanned the brains of 94 people over the age of 70. They were looking to see the differences in the brains of people who were of normal weight (BMI under 25), overweight (BMI 25-30), and obese (BMI over 30).
If you are 5 foot 10 and you weigh 220, you have a BMI of 31.6 and would be considered obese. If you are 5 foot 10 and weigh 180, your BMI is 25.8 and you would be considered overweight for purposes of the study. There are certain athletes with lot of muscle mass that make the BMI inaccurate, but for the rest of us it is a valid measurement.
If you are 5 foot 5 and weigh 155 pounds, you would be considered overweight. At 185, you would be considered obese.
Don’t let the fact that all participants were over 70 distract you; this shows the effects of being overweight over time.
The Scary Results
It turns out that Obese people have 8% less brain tissue than people of normal weight. Overweight people have 4% less brain tissue than people of normal weight.
According to Dr. Paul Thompson, a UCLA professor of neurology, “This represents ‘severe’ brain degeneration, that’s a big loss of tissue and it depletes your cognitive reserves, putting you at a much greater risk of Alzheimer’s and other diseases that attack the brain… But you can greatly reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s, if you can eat healthy and keep your weight under control.”
*Source: Raji CA, Ho AJ, Parikshak NN, Becker JT, Lopez OL, Kuller LH, Hua X, Leow AD, Toga AW, Thompson PM. Brain structure and obesity, Hum Brain Mapp 2009 Aug 6
Losing Weight is not Just About Looking Good
It is kind of sad that “looking good” is the number one motivation for losing weight, but if that does the trick, then great.
However, to me, this new research is way more important. There is nothing more important than having a brain that works. It affects everything in your life, especially the people around you.
There are also a plethora of studies showing that being overweight decreases short term memory, and for lack of better words – can make you stupider and lazier than you otherwise would be.
And in case you forgot, being overweight also increases your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and has been shown to inhibit sexual performance.
More Bad News
The parts of the brain that degenerated for overweight people are very important, it wasn’t brain mass that we can spare.
Here are the areas effected:
- Frontal and temporal lobes: Critical for planning and memory
- Anterior cingulate gyrus: Responsible for attention and executive functions
- Hippocampus: Important for long-term memory
- Basal ganglia: Essential for proper movement and coordination
Furthermore, the brains of overweight people looked 8 years older than those of people of normal weight, and the brains of obese people looked a whopping 16 years older!
It is All About Eating
I hope that this article has helped motivate you to get to a normal weight if you aren’t already there. I think you probably know that there is really only one thing you can do in order to get there, and that is to eat the right foods at the right portions.
Exercise can help, but recent research demonstrates that exercise plays a much smaller role than calorie consumption. In fact, it can hurt your weight loss efforts if you aren’t careful because people seem to overestimate how much more they can eat after exercising.
So when you do exercise, make sure to track the calories burned and do not eat any more “extra” than what you have used. I am not saying not to exercise – just don’t exaggerate the effects in your mind.
Do You Have the Willpower?
If you have the desire to get to a normal weight and for whatever reason just can’t seem to get yourself to eat right, then you are not alone. Only about 5% succeed in losing weight over the long term.
These habits are hard to break, and we just aren’t designed to “not eat” the food that is around us. In this case, abundance is a double edge sword!
Furthermore, willpower is kind of a myth. We consciously only have the ability to exhibit conscious self control in one area at a time. I have written about the cookie study before, but I think it is worth repeating (in a very short form).
Subjects were brought into a room and asked to solve some brain puzzles. Another group was brought into the same room and asked to solve the same brain puzzles, but in this case they had a plate of cookies in front of them – and were told that they could not eat them!
The group that had to “not eat the cookies” performed dramatically worse than the group without cookies.
*Source: RE Baumeister, E Bratslavsky, M Muraven, and DM Tice. “Ego Depletion: Is the Active Self a Limited Resource?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 74, 1998.
This means that when you are trying to avoid “bad” foods, it affects just about every other aspect of your day. So when a bit of stress hits, bye, bye diet.
So unless you have a stress free life, or amazing self control – changing your eating habits consciously is a tough road.
There is Hope
This is leading somewhere! If you can’t make the change consciously, then you have to make these changes unconsciously. A great strategy for nudging your unconscious mind in the right direction is to control your environment. Get rid of the bad foods in your house and workplace. Put reminders on the refrigerator, plan and prepare your meals ahead of time, etc… the more you can do with your environment to prime your unconscious mind the better.
And if this isn’t enough, try hypnosis. Hypnosis is the ONLY scientifically validated method for training your unconscious mind to eat right (and this is without using willpower – which just doesn’t work). Hypnosis works at a totally different level in the brain. It actually works at the level of self image.
A Tool You Can UseAfter reading this post, I thought you would be interested in being able to find your own BMI. Here is a great resource. Just type in your height and weight.
Also, please comment on the research at the beginning of this article – I respond to all posts.
The June 2009 issue of the Journal Neuron just published a fascinating study that could be the next step towards figuring out how hypnosis actually works in the brain.
As you probably know, I am big into brain science – and especially studies employing functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). What I like about fMRI is that it provides a window into the brain; allowing scientists to find out what is really going on as opposed to solely relying on reporting or behavioral assessments.
I wish they had this technology when I was in graduate school in the mid 90’s – I never would have left.
Anyway, let’s take you through the experiment. I think you will find this interesting and maybe even helpful in some strange way.
Researchers recruited 18 healthy volunteers, and asked them to perform a “go-no go” task while their brains were being watched via fMRI.
The participants were first required to fixate on a cross which was shown for half a second. This was followed by a grayscale picture of either a left or a right hand; this was a cue shown to indicate which hand was at play.
After an interval of 1-5 seconds, the hand changed color.
If it turned green, they had to respond, as quickly as possible, by pressing a button with the corresponding hand.
If it turned red, they were to withhold the prepared movement and do nothing.
Here is the Fun Part!
Twelve of the participants played the game both under hypnosis (and told that their left hand was paralyzed), or in a normal state.
6 of the participants performed the task while feigning paralysis (acting “as if” they were unable to move the fingers of the left hand).
Both the control group (the group that feigned paralysis and the hypnosis group were able to resist pushing the button with the left hand – but the brain scans showed that the mechanisms involved were completely different!
This alone blows away the hypothesis that there is no difference between hypnosis and just acting. The evidence against this theory is more than compelling, but it is nice to see this happening in the brain itself.
More about The Test (and why science is so cool)
There were two tests going on here.
First, they were testing how the hypnosis paralysis group suppressed the movement:
It either suppressed the movement in the preparatory level (by not “gearing up” the left hand when the grey left was displayed).
It suppressed the movement after the preparatory level (meaning the brain recognized the left hand and it geared up, but just didn’t allow the left hand to move.
Second (and what is really interesting to me)
By comparing the brain activity measured during hypnosis and in the feigned paralysis group, they could see whether the mechanisms in the brain were similar.
Test One Results – It is Not about the Planning
The results of the first test were pretty interesting. It turns out that when the hypnosis group was shown the grey left hand, that there was in fact brain activity in the right motor cortex which is associated with planning to execute a necessary command on the left side of your body.
In fact in both the hypnosis group and the feigned paralysis group, both group’s brains planned and/or “got ready” to move the left hand. This was true of all the subjects regardless of whether they were not hypnotized or just pretending.
So the answer to the first test is that the preparatory part of the brain is NOT blocked, it happens after preparation.
Test Two Results: Why Hypnosis is not like Pretending
The next step was examining the activity of the motor cortex at the time of actual hand movement execution.
At the time when the movement should be executed, the normal group again showed activity in the right motor cortex, but the hypnotized group did not (kind of expected since they did not move their left paralyzed hand).
However, the hypnotized group did show increased activity in the prefrontal and parietal cortexes (these are involved in executive control and attention). More relevant, there was also increased activity in a part of the brain called the precuneus.
The precuneus is involved in mental imagery and especially in making representations of self (it is heavily involved in creating your self-image).
In the feigning or “pretending” group, these areas of the brain did not experience more activity. Instead, there was increased activity in the right inferior frontal gyrus, which is involved in motor inhibition. (The hypnosis group did NOT experience increased activity in this area).
So What Does this Mean?
Sorry for all the brain talk (don’t worry; I have to refer to charts as well). And of course it is not wise to jump to conclusions. But, this not only shows a difference between pretending and hypnosis – it indicates that hypnosis uses internal representations and self imagery to take control of your behaviors – while “pretending” relies on will power.
Instructions given under hypnosis seem have the ability to override habitual action, without conscious awareness. And it seems to do so by working at the level of self image. This is why it is such a powerful tool for self-change.
The author of the study, Dr. Yann Cojan, said it differently, “These results suggest that hypnosis may enhance self-monitoring processes to allow internal representations generated by the suggestion to guide behavior but does not act through direct motor inhibition,” says Dr. Cojan.
Here is my two cents. Having been “hypnotized” more times than I can count, and talking to our customer base (full disclosure – my company sells hypnosis CDs), the results make sense.
When folks use hypnosis for weight loss, for example, they report that when they go to the fridge to get a snack – it is almost as if something pulls them away from this action. It seems like as the self image is built, it gets in the way of behaviors that were causing you trouble. And this is without a person having to think about it, or use will power.
Anyway, there is still a lot to learn!
I am very interested in what you think about this article, and would love to start a good conversation about brain science and behavior in general.
Please comment and sign up for Intense Debates. I promise to answer any questions on the blog. My answers are usually replies to specific posts.
Just click the blue “reply” by any comment to see my response.
The Brain under Self-Control: Modulation of Inhibitory and Monitoring Cortical Networks during Hypnotic Paralysis
Neuron, Volume 62, Issue 6, 25 June 2009, Pages 862-875
Yann Cojan, Lakshmi Waber, Sophie Schwartz, Laurent Rossier, Alain Forster and Patrik Vuilleumier