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A Beginner’s Guide to Self-Hypnosis (+3 Tips to Get Started)

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Summary: Stress and anxiety weighing you down? Discover how self-hypnosis can help you with inner peace, freedom, and success.

Remember Mesmerino the Hip Hypnotist from The Simpsons? Pocket watches waved back and forth, trippy spirals, mind control by evil villains… Stereotypical representations of hypnosis seem to make their appearance in the media all the time.

Naturally, these misrepresentations may be what’s kept you from trying the practice yourself. And the same can be said about self-hypnosis, too. 

While you may consider self-hypnosis a bit “wacky,” you already experience it much more often than you think. 

Whenever you get absorbed in a new K-Drama episode or lose track of time reading a book, that is a routine form of hypnosis. Practitioners call it the “everyday trance.”

What you may not know, however, is that self-hypnosis is also a powerful therapeutic tool.

So, how does it work, what are its benefits, and most importantly, how can you do it properly to “reprogram” your mind? Before trying to “Mesmerino” yourself, it’s essential to understand the power and responsibility that come with this tool.

As Paul McKenna, world-famous hypnotherapist and trainer of the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program, explains, “If you don’t take responsibility for programming yourself, then someone else will.”

What Is Self-Hypnosis?

In basic terms, self-hypnosis can be described as putting yourself in an intentional trance, also known as a “hypnotic state.”

A hypnotic state is very similar to daydreaming or being lost in your thoughts. Like when you drive home from work and arrive but can’t remember a thing about the journey. 

Self-hypnosis doesn’t just help you find a sense of calm, though; it also helps your subconscious mind enter a suggestible state. Once in this state, you can give yourself clear suggestions about ways to reach your goals. 

And working with your subconscious is extremely important because that’s the little “dark corner” of your mind where all your self-limiting beliefs and fears live.

Is self-hypnosis the same as meditation?

The main difference between self-hypnosis and meditation is that when you practice self-hypnosis, you have a specific goal in mind. Something that will bring positive change and make improvements in your life, like eliminating a bad habit or changing your thought patterns. 

When meditating, on the other hand, you typically just let what happens happen. There is no immediate end goal. You are only observing where your mind takes you, free of judgment and intention. 

Think of it this way: Meditation encourages you to release your thoughts and find stillness within. Self-hypnosis, on the other hand, encourages you to use them in a purposeful way.

How Does Self-Hypnosis Work?

When you hypnotize yourself, the area of your brain that helps you switch between tasks settles down. This same area seems to detach itself from another region that’s responsible for introspection and daydreaming.

Have you ever watched a real stage hypnosis show? These changes in brain activity could explain why hypnotized people appear 100% unbothered, not worrying about who they are or what they’re doing. 

Much still remains a mystery about what occurs once you enter a self-induced trance. However, brain-imaging studies have given scientists a sneak peek inside the hypnotized brain.

Research has shown that hypnosis calms the brain regions that help control your body’s “autopilot” functions, like your heart rate and blood flow.

Essentially, self-hypnosis allows new pathways in the brain to be formed by bridging the gap between your conscious and subconscious minds. This helps bring you into a place of serenity and deep relaxation. 

Once you reach that place, you can begin to uncover the root cause of issues and rewrite the stories you tell yourself about the past. 

Paul McKenna, UK's #1 hypnotherapist and trainer of the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program
Paul McKenna, trainer of the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program

What Can You Use Self-Hypnosis For?

Self-hypnosis won’t magically make all of your problems vanish into thin air. But it’s been proven to have positive effects on a wide range of issues, from insomnia to anxiety and low confidence. 

Because the thing is, the only things you can control in life are your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

And so, here are the most common uses of self-hypnosis: 

Self-hypnosis for weight loss

Should we eat meat? Is fruit high in carbs? Can we snack after 9 p.m.? Oof.

According to Paul, when it comes to weight loss, “diets are essentially training courses in how to feel fat and feel like a failure.”

Instead, targeted hypnosis for weight loss helps you adjust your attitude towards food by teaching you to better control your thoughts. It can help increase your present awareness during meals, promote feelings of fullness after eating, and even reduce cravings. 

A 2021 report on the use of self-help strategies regarding obesity treatment suggests that “both hypnosis and mindfulness provide a promising therapeutic option by improving weight loss, food awareness, and self-acceptance of body image.”

Stories from the Mindvalley community:I used to do stressful eating and overeating without being mindful. As a result, I have become overweight. After taking this course, I feel a lot calmer and more comfortable with myself. I am more relaxed and mindful about how and what I am thinking.” — Sauda Parvin, acute care nurse practitioner; London, United Kingdom

Self-hypnosis for sleep

If you’re struggling with sleep, you’re not alone. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 3 adults in the United States don’t regularly get the recommended amount of sleep they need to protect their health. 

In addition to encouraging relaxation, self-hypnosis can be a useful tool for enhancing sleep for people with conditions like insomnia

A study of 90 women who experienced difficulty sleeping due to postmenopausal symptoms showed that self-hypnosis can be an effective treatment for insomnia and other sleep disturbances. Most participants reported that hypnosis helped them sleep longer and better. 

Stories from the Mindvalley community:Two years ago I had a home invasion, and there are times when I feel like those people are walking around my house. I don’t sleep well. I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but I haven’t been seeing those guys lately! 

That is something I hadn’t even considered when I signed up, but I’m so grateful it happened!” — Sita Mangal, bank examiner; Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago

Self-hypnosis for anxiety

Maybe you’ve tried it all: Yoga classes, chamomile tea, breathing exercises… And yet here you are, still feeling anxious.

As Paul explains, “Everybody has some stress, but hardly anyone has the skills to deal with it.” And while self-hypnosis for anxiety can’t make the causes of your stress go away, it can help the chaotic blur of negative thoughts and emotions quiet down.

According to research, getting trained in self-hypnosis is a quick, cost-free, and side-effect-free alternative to medications for treating certain types of anxiety.

Another study from Stanford University suggests that hypnotherapy can alter brain areas related to trauma and other psychiatric conditions.

Stories from the Mindvalley community:Initially, I was excited but a bit skeptical that I could learn hypnotherapy skills in 3 months to help myself and nurses with anxiety, overwhelm, and burnout… During this class, I learned many skills to help me give care and compassion with greater ease to my clients in the hospital environment. This course has really transformed my life.” — Ruth Pouchie, coronary care unit nurse; Clermont, United States of America

Self-hypnosis to quit smoking

Quitting smoking is no easy feat, but it’s one of the best decisions you can make to protect your health.

If nicotine patches, chewing gum, and other alternatives haven’t helped you get rid of the habit, don’t give up; self-hypnosis is also an option. 

In fact, research indicates that hypnotherapy is actually more effective than nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation. 

Stories from the Mindvalley community:Because of the course, first off, I do not smoke anymore!” — Sandy Pomales, coach; Raleigh, United States of America

Self-hypnosis for confidence

Confidence. We all need it to conquer the world, but it’s often hard to achieve, and even harder to maintain. 

From trying new things to standing up for yourself, to expressing ideas with your chin up, the benefits of being confident and having faith in yourself are endless. 

Self-hypnosis provides you with all the right tools to let go of negative thinking patterns and silence the annoying inner critic once and for all. It helps you challenge the belief systems that stall your personal growth by “reprogramming” your brain.

According to research, even athletes use it to improve their performance.

Stories from the Mindvalley community:Discovering hypnotherapy allowed me to take control of the wheel and steer where I wanted to steer. Thanks to this program, I feel more confident and in alignment with where I want to be.” — Daniel Burgess Smith, entrepreneur; Charlottesville, United States of America

A man learning how to hypnotize yourself

Self-Hypnosis Techniques

If it’s your first time dipping your toes into self-hypnosis, just remember to approach it with an open mind. It’s a powerful tool for self-improvement and mental wellness, but you have to be ready to reap its benefits.

Generally, all hypnosis methods are based on the same three-stage foundational formula:

  1. Inducing: Relaxing your body and clearing your mind.
  2. Visualizing: Addressing your problem and planting the seeds of change.
  3. Exiting: Returning to full consciousness.

How to hypnotize yourself to do anything with the 6-step PIRATE formula

One of the easiest ways to practice self-hypnosis if you’re a beginner is to follow the PIRATE technique. And no, it doesn’t involve dressing up as Captain Jack Sparrow.

It actually stands for Privacy, Intention, Relaxation, Actualization, Transformation, and Exit. Here’s a breakdown of each step:

1. Privacy

An important aspect of learning how to hypnotize yourself is creating the ideal setting. And peace and quiet are the way to go. 

Even the smallest disturbance may make it difficult to enter or remain in a hypnotic state. So, choose a completely private place where you feel mentally and physically comfortable, but not so comfortable that you might fall asleep.

If you find the silence hard to deal with, put on your headphones and listen to some soothing music.

To begin with, set a time limit of only 10-15 minutes; you can extend this time frame as you become more experienced. 

Set an alarm and say out loud, “I will exit this trance at the end of this period.”

2. Intention

Next, you need to understand why you want to engage in hypnosis. What is your main goal?

Whether you are addressing a specific emotion, habit, behavior, or memory, define your intention and focus on it. Don’t let it stray from your mind. Remember to keep it direct, powerful, and positive. 

But because your mind thinks in images and feelings, not words, make sure to also:

  • Phrase your intention as if you’ve already achieved it—you are confident.
  • Imagine yourself being confident. What does confidence look like on you? What does it feel like?

You can write your intention down on a piece of paper and repeat it out loud. Make it clear to yourself that this is your driving force for the session. 

For example, here’s a short script of affirmations to tackle social anxiety:

“I am the master of my thoughts and emotions.
I can enter a state of pure calm whenever I choose.
The source of my calmness is a golden light located in my belly.
I shine with confidence as I effortlessly interact with all kinds of people.”

3. Relaxation

After you’ve set your intention, it’s time to clear your mind.

Allow your breath to consume your senses — simply observe its rhythm, the movement of your belly filling and emptying, and any tingling sensations in your fingertips, toes, and nose.

Follow it as it enters through your nose and exits out of your mouth. Feel your body relax further with each breath.

While you do this, roll your eyes upward into your head as if you’re looking at your third eye. Create a slight eye strain and relax your eyelids. If you feel your eyelids fluttering, you’re doing it right.

4. Actualization

Once you’ve reached a calm and relaxed state, try to go deeper into yourself.

The actualization stage deepens your self-induced trance and primes your subconscious to visualize the next step.

Here are two popular hypnotic deepeners you can try:

The staircase method

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Imagine you are at the top of a small set of 10 steps or stairs.
  1. Tell yourself that with every step down, you will double your relaxation.
  1. Start counting slowly in time with your exhales, all the way from one to 10. Deeper and deeper… 
  1. When you are ready to return to full consciousness, gently walk back up the steps, counting backward from 10 to one.
The “creating a scene” method

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Close your eyes and keep your awareness on your breath. With each breath, become more relaxed.
  1. Now, imagine a natural setting you find peaceful, perhaps an evergreen forest. Place yourself in the forest, and continue breathing with awareness and increasing relaxation. 
  1. Imagine aspects of this forest setting in and becoming more vivid and saturated—the aroma of the air, the moss between your toes, the color and texture of the trees. 
  1. Continue to construct this mental picture until it fills your sensations and you feel completely immersed in this forest’s serenity.

5. Transformation

Visualization is the crux of transformation in self-hypnosis.

Start by simply visualizing yourself. Use any imagery that you feel has a strong connection to your identity.

Perhaps you see yourself in the peaceful space you created in the previous step. Or, you envision yourself as a bright light. Or maybe you just imagine yourself as a floating point of awareness. 

Recalling your intention, begin to imagine the defining elements of your best self: positive, confident, loving—you name it.

Reaffirm your intention with positive “I am” statements:

  • “I am positive.”
  • “I am confident.”
  • “I am loving.”

Take your “I am” statements personally; they define your identity.

Your mind thinks in pictures, so create positive images with emotional value. Really feel your best self.

How are you thinking and behaving? What are you accomplishing? What are you attracting? How does it feel to be this new you?

The more you reinforce a self-image, the deeper it becomes into your mind. And then, the faster it will manifest itself in your reality.

Think of this stage as the planting, watering, and nurturing of the seeds that will flourish into your most incredible self.

6. Exit 

Exit your trance slowly, allowing your brain to return to its normal conscious state.

There are a number of ways to effectively leave the trance state. One way is to use a timer. However, it’s even better to leave the hypnotic state naturally.

Another way to exit your self-induced hypnosis is on command, by using a pre-set wake-up phrase like, “I am now ready to enter waking consciousness.” 

 Even if you finish earlier, make sure you feel that your session is actually done before you end it.

And don’t be afraid of falling asleep; dreaming can actually help you explore the deeper depths of your subconscious. Your mind will wake up once you are ready.

How to Do Self-Hypnosis: 3 Tips From Paul McKenna

When you’re looking to achieve goals, release negative patterns, or reinforce positivity, your subconscious mind can be an ally. 

And practicing the fundamentals of self-hypnosis is one way to get a better understanding of the world that lies within.

Turning to Mindvalley expert Paul McKenna, here are three suggestions to get started:

1. Start with guided self-hypnosis

The PIRATE method is just one way to approach self-hypnosis, but you can reach a hypnotic state using several methods. There is no right or wrong; try to find what works best for you and stick to it. 

If you are new to the practice, follow this 20-minute guided hypnosis with Paul McKenna, also available on the Mindvalley app.

Paul McKenna’s Hypnotic Trance for Instant Confidence | Mindvalley

Tip from Paul McKenna: “If you want to knock down the wall between you and the life of your dreams, it’s best to do it one brick at a time.”

2. Experiment with different relaxation strategies

If you find it hard to relax, trying different relaxation techniques could help.

For example, if you find water images comforting, you could picture yourself swimming deeper and deeper into an underwater world, leaving your worries behind on the seaside.

To exit the hypnotic state, simply imagine swimming back to the shore.

Tip from Paul McKenna: “The way you feel from moment to moment is a direct result of the way you are using your body and the pictures and sounds you are making in your mind.”

3. Add self-hypnosis to your daily routine 

As with any new skill, making self-hypnosis a habit can increase your chances of noticing improvement. Even just 10 minutes a day can help.

You can try adding self-hypnosis to your morning routine, or set aside a few minutes to practice it before going to bed.

Tip from Paul McKenna: “The key programs of human behavior are habit and imagination, and they are far more powerful than logic and willpower will ever be.”

Retrain Your Mind, Transform Your Life

Your brain is malleable like play-dough. It’s designed for learning. With self-hypnosis, you’re using that flexibility to rewire your mind to be free of negative, limiting beliefs.

Realizing your power can make all the difference.

And if you’d like to truly transform one or more areas of your life or support others on the journey to transforming theirs, Mindvalley can be your launching pad.

By joining the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist FREE webinar, guided by world-famous hypnotherapist Paul Mckenna, you’ll find out:

  • Why hypnotherapy can help with lasting positive life changes,
  • The ins and outs of becoming a pro hypnotherapist in a fraction of the time,
  • Ways to integrate hypnotherapy into your existing practice if you’re a coach or teacher, and
  • So much more.
Success and happiness are not just accidents. They are created by certain ways of thinking and acting. — @ImPaulMcKenna Share on X

Think of what you really want to achieve in life, and let hypnotherapy light the way. Your future self will thank you for it. 

Welcome in.


Images generated on Midjourney.

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Written by

Callie Bakola

Callie Bakola is a content writer for Mindvalley and a self-improvement enthusiast. Her personal journey with ADHD has been the driving force behind her fascination with mindfulness, the human brain, and holistic health.
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Callie Bakola

Callie Bakola is a content writer for Mindvalley and a self-improvement enthusiast. Her personal journey with ADHD has been the driving force behind her fascination with mindfulness, the human brain, and holistic health.
Learn from one of the world's leading gurus - Paul McKenna. Experience his unique brand of personal transformation for true self-confidence and success.
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Paul McKenna, Ph.D., is the trainer for Mindvalley’s Everyday Bliss and Total Self-Confidence Quests, as well as the Mindvalley Certified Hypnotherapist program. Having helped millions of people successfully quit smoking, lose weight, overcome insomnia, eliminate stress, and increase self-confidence., Dr. McKenna was named by The London Times as one of the world’s leading and most important modern gurus, alongside Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. He has also worked his unique brand of personal transformation with Hollywood movie stars, Olympic gold medalists, rock stars, leading business achievers, and royalty.

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