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If you have been interested in relaxation techniques such as meditation, you have also met the terms hypnosis and self-hypnosis. While these often come up as extremely useful and beneficial to find relaxation and focus our minds, there is confusion about what they are and how they differ from meditation. Which one should you opt for?
Meditation is a relaxation technique that can change your mind-frame by focusing on the present and your breath. Hypnosis focuses on memories and thoughts to promote positive change and focuses on the present, past, and future. It can also help you achieve faster results in only one session.
Both meditation and hypnosis are beneficial practices that can significantly improve your physical and psychological health. Find out more about the differences between the two below.
Hypnosis and Meditation: Definitions and Similarities
Before pointing out the differences between the two practices, it is crucial to understand what they are and how they can help you. If you have been learning about mindfulness practices, yoga, or just drug-free ways to relax, you already know what meditation is and how it works.
This practice allows you to focus on your breathing, slow down your mind, and gain a better awareness of your body and present moment. Through meditation, you can build a better connection with your mind and body, which, in turn, can help you gain better control over your reactions.
Meditation encourages you to focus on your breathing while freeing your mind. Undoubtedly, this is not always possible – especially if you are a beginner. Indeed, each meditation session is unique, and it is not uncommon for other thoughts to interfere with your meditation.
While still refining your skills, it is normal to face upsetting, painful, or unsettling thoughts. It is not the objective of meditation for these thoughts to be there, but they are likely to cross your mind. Being able to observe and accept them is part of the aim of meditation.
While it is still a practice that encourages deep relaxation, hypnosis differs from meditation in many aspects.
What Is Hypnosis?
Hypnosis is a form of deep relaxation that shares many aspects with meditation. Both techniques can help with anxiety, relieve stress, and create a stronger bond with your body and mind.
However, some differences might make you opt for one over the other one.
Hypnosis has been used for thousands of years in cultures around the world in a form or another. While it was considered a healing practice, it was also linked to a place’s culture and religious beliefs. The study of hypnosis as a therapeutic treatment did not start until the late 1700s with Franz Anton Mesmer.
Since then, the subject, as well as associated practices and techniques, has been significantly developed. Today, hypnosis and hypnotherapy are among the fastest-developing fields and have been seen to be beneficial in helping patients and individuals achieve their goals.
Indeed, studies show that when experts conduct hypnosis, even just one session can be beneficial in encouraging positive changes. Some of the health goals hypnosis can be useful for include:
- Insomnia and sleep issues
- Weight loss
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Quitting smoking
- Chronic pain
Because of the changes hypnosis can bring to the lifestyle and general wellbeing, it is a type of therapy today appreciated in fields such as Integrated Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine. One of the most significant benefits of hypnosis as a treatment is that it does not require surgical procedures, medicines, or medical treatments to work.
Hypnosis vs. Self-Hypnosis
Terms such as hypnosis, self-hypnosis, and hypnotherapy are becoming increasingly popular. They all derive from the Greek word “Hypnos,” which means sleep, but they refer to different practices.
Hypnotherapy refers to the use of hypnosis practices with therapeutic intent. This term has become part of alternative medicine, and it has been studied and developed over time.
Instead, self-hypnosis and hypnosis refer to the actual process of inducing a trance or a state of deep relaxation. Many argue that all types of hypnosis are “self-hypnosis” because you lead yourself through the process, even when a therapist is there to guide you. However, generally, self-hypnosis refers to those trances or deep-relaxation states that are self-induced through hypnotic techniques.
In the sections below, you can find all the characteristics that differentiate hypnosis from meditation, so you can pick the practice that is more suitable to your needs.
Hypnosis Is More Oriented Towards a Goal
The first and most apparent difference between meditation and hypnosis is that the former does not focus on a specific aim. Indeed, the philosophy behind mindful practices and meditation encourages practitioners to stay away from a defined goal or objective.
If you have ever practiced meditation, you will know that the aim is to clear your mind and focus uniquely on your breath. Rhythmic inhaling and exhaling represent the vital energy flowing through the body, soothing aches, relieving pain, and clearing the mind.
However, meditation, like many other practices, requires consistency and regular exercise. In the beginning, it is only standard for your concentration to be interrupted by thoughts and emotions. These are normal, and meditators are encouraged to acknowledge them and return to the breath.
In contrast, hypnosis focuses on a specific goal. As seen above, this practice is often used to encourage positive change and reduce certain negative aspects. For this, it is crucial to keep in mind what the aim of the hypnosis process is.
When approaching hypnosis, you (or your therapist) will use tools such as imagery, suggestion, visualization, and guidance to rewrite specific present pathways in your mind.
For example, when practicing hypnosis, you will relieve anxiety, quit smoking, or reduce chronic pain.
Hypnosis Is Not Only a State of Relaxation
Meditation is a state of focus and relaxation that has been seen to have the power to reshape specific essential brain structures and pathways. When introducing meditation, it is possible to start seeing changes in our lifestyle almost immediately. Nonetheless, keeping up these changes require you to keep up your meditation practice and make it an essential part of your daily routine.
Ultimately, meditation induces relaxation, no matter what type of meditation is more suitable for your needs. You can relax through visualization, body scans, or mindfulness.
While hypnosis can do all this and encourage you to exercise better control over your emotions, it can bring something else into your life. Indeed, this practice can help you amend your feelings and reconstruct several pathways and habits.
It is not likely for a therapist to ask you to direct your feelings, emotions, and thoughts to a recent trauma or painful emotions during a hypnosis session. They might be asking you to think about when you started smoking, a recent break-up, a life-changing injury, or a pain you have suffered.
Through these thoughts, you will start examining what happened and recall emotions, which can then help you process the event and reduce its consequences in the present moment. While these techniques have been seen to be helpful, they might not be so relaxing – that’s why hypnosis is more than a relaxation technique.
Instead, this does not happen during a meditation session, where you are purposely trying to clear your mind of rational thoughts and just follow your breath.
Meditation Allows for Upsetting Thoughts
As seen above, hypnosis allows for those upsetting thoughts to come to your mind. You won’t be trying to clear your mind and get rid of them. Instead, the whole hypnosis process relates to the power you have to examine such thoughts and use them to encourage positive change.
Indeed, this particular point is what truly brings meditation and hypnosis apart. In the former, you are looking at clearing your mind, following your breath, and living your life with increased mindfulness and awareness. In the latter, you will use your negative experience and the power of visualization to understand your thought process and emotions better.
In both cases, you will be able to see positive changes in your current lifestyle, something that can translate into increased serenity, higher stress resistance, and improved happiness. However, it is essential that you carefully decide on a more suitable technique for your lifestyle.
Hypnosis Might Use Mantras and Images
When practicing meditation, you might be chanting mantras, using visualization techniques, or repeating specific affirmations to yourself. These are all different ways to meditate, but they can all be equally effective, mainly if you have determined that they best suit your goals and lifestyle.
However, aside from body scans, most meditation types focus on breathing, inhalations, exhalations, and clearing the mind. Mindfulness meditation can also be practiced everywhere, in silence, while sitting in a comfortable place.
Hypnosis, instead, focuses on different processes and mechanisms. You might be repeating intentions in your mind, but this technique also focuses on imagery or guided imagery. These types of methods can be beneficial when you are trying to change specific processes.
Generally, hypnosis can be considered a more physical experience. It can be practiced with your eyes open or by using tools such as hypnotic spirals and pendulums.
It is worth keeping in mind that specific hypnotic therapies such as visualization and body scan actually overlap with some meditation techniques.
Hypnosis Promotes Positive Change
Many people who approach hypnosis do so because they require a drastic change in their lives. And, when approaching it with such a powerful mind-frame, hypnosis becomes even more effective.
Meditation is one of the most accessible practices for relaxation and focuses out there. Because of such accessibility, it is often used to improve the general quality of life.
Meditation can be helpful to keep your levels of stress under control and work towards gaining better control over your emotions and reactions. You are likely to see improvements even when meditating without a clear objective in mind.
Instead, hypnosis works best when you have a precise goal you wish to reach as an outcome of your practice. You might approach hypnosis with the idea of quitting smoking or fight chronic pain. Whatever your objective is, this will change the type of session you will have.
Indeed, depending on what you wish to achieve, you and your therapist might devise a type of session that can help specifically for that goal.
A typical example is using hypnosis to stop smoking. For this specific goal, hypnotherapists might use the power of positive suggestion and imagery. They might ask you to picture a happy memory, such as a wedding, a happy place, or a dear memory. The therapist will lead you to visualize how something so bad as cigarette smoke can disrupt and ruin such a memory.
This technique is designed to change the way you look at cigarette smoking and the association you have with it. In turn, you might start noticing that your relationship with that aspect of your life begins to change.
Hypnosis Offers Faster Results
You can practice self-hypnosis whenever you prefer and for how long you’d like. However, you might also decide to see a hypnotherapist if you are looking for more specific guidance. Indeed, it is normal to need help when trying to change deeply engraved behavioral patterns such as smoking or anxiety.
When trying hypnosis with a therapist, you will see that they will recommend a specific journey for you to experience. This process might include several sessions and meetings. Or, the whole process might just be constituted by a singular, more intense session.
When it comes down to meditation, you might decide to find mentorship or practice as part of a group. Indeed, like many other practices, meditation requires you to train your body and mind.
Unlike hypnosis, meditation does not represent a “quick fix” for stress and anxiety issues. Undoubtedly, this practice is beneficial, and you will start seeing some results almost immediately. However, more drastic changes are not bound to happen so quickly, especially when you practice without an expert’s guidance.
Meditation Is Better Studied
Undoubtedly hypnosis is a powerful practice that can encourage positive changes in the mind and body. However, in terms of studies, scientific proof, and research, you are bound to find more information and confirmation when exploring meditation. Indeed, at present, meditation literature and reviews are much broader and in-depth than the ones conducted on hypnosis techniques.
While hypnosis has been used for hundreds of years, several aspects are still not so well-understood. More and more sessions have become successful, and the results of this practice have become tangible. However, not so many studies can confirm why specific pathways are reconstructed or changed through hypnosis.
Instead, when it comes down to understanding meditation from a scientific point of view, you will see that many of the benefits it claims to bring have been proven by science. Several articles and studies have been conducted regarding its effects on anxiety, stress, and chronic pain, among many others.
Because of these studies, meditation has taken a leading role in the modern lifestyle and integrated medicine.
Ultimately, if you wish to start meditation or hypnosis without professional guidance, you might opt for meditation because the results it can yield have been better studied.
Hypnosis Is About a Train of Thoughts
When practicing meditation, you will try to clear your mind of every logical and upsetting thought. With practice, you will bring your mind away from schedules, appointments, emails, or stressful thoughts. These results are not bound to appear overnight, but you will be working towards clearing your mind.
Oppositely, during a hypnosis session, you will focus your attention on a determined train of thought. These might include past experiences, memories, and events that have been significant during your life. You will then be asked to follow this train of thought to find the source of specific pain or emotion, to then remove it or modify it.
Meditation Focuses on the Present
During a meditation session, you will be encouraged to bring all of your energy and thoughts to the present moment. You will try to keep off memories and plans and stick to observing your breath.
Meditation does not present itself as a solution to a problem you might be experiencing, but rather as a technique to shift your mind frame. In turn, this will change the way to approach specific issues and situations in your life.
While meditating, you will be encouraged to focus uniquely on the present moment. This kind of mind- and breath-work will help you develop a greater awareness of your mind and body.
Instead, when undergoing the hypnosis process, you will focus more on the events that have shaped your pasts and how you wish to use them to change your future habits.
Both meditation and hypnosis can help you reduce feelings of anxiety and stress. They are helpful techniques if you wish to find a state of relaxation, awareness, and focus. However, each of them is more suitable for a specific type of goal.
With meditation, you can reconnect with your breath and explore a state of relaxation and awareness. You will be primarily focused on the present moment. With hypnosis, you will focus on the present, past, and future, using thoughts and feelings to promote positive change. Hypnosis can also represent a quicker solution when pursuing specific goals.