Introduction

Hypnotherapy and self-hypnosis has been shown by several clinical trials to boost the immune system. The understandable anxiety that many people are feeling at the moment can affect the immune system, so it is vital to take time for yourself. Read on to learn more…

Many of us have changed our routines in recent weeks (e.g. working from home, home-schooling children, ensuring homebound elderly relatives and friends have sufficient supplies of food). This can cause anxiety, but the good news is that the change in routine can allow us time to re-evaluate priorities, and look after ourselves.

Relaxation is good for our health (as long as we are active at other times!)

Benefits of relaxation and using your imagination

Relaxation can (1) :

  • Reduce breathing rate
  • Reduce stress hormones
  • Reduce muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce heart rate
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve digestion
  • Improve immunity
  • Improve blood sugar levels
  • Improve concentration
  • Improve mood
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Minimise practice of stress-related habits (e.g. smoking, drinking) which have negative health effects

I’ll use the term “visualisation” in the rest of the article, but remember that the visual sense is only one of many senses that we can use to improve ‘immersion’ in an imagined scene. 

If you are not particularly visual, then why not imagine how you would feel (emotionally and physically), what you would hear, what you might smell, and even what you might taste in your imagined situation.

Most of us are aware that negative anticipation or rumination (i.e. dreading a forthcoming event or ruminating on something that we regret) can make us feel unwell, but the good news is that positive thoughts can have the opposite effect. Many clinical trials have shown that positive, specific, visualisations can bolster the immune system, improve health and aid wellbeing.

Gruzelier and colleagues (2001) (2), (3) found that hypnosis using active imagery appeared to be more effective than simple relaxation in combating the effect of exam stress on the immune system (specifically on lymphocytes). The participants using imagery in this study reported less illness during the exam period than those doing simple relaxation.

Another researcher, Naito et al (4), found in 2003 that 4 weekly sessions commencing with relaxation, combined with immune stimulating imagery, was effective at combatting the effects of exam stress on the immune system. The participants also practised regularly during the period of study by using an audio recording between the weekly sessions.

Ruzyla-Smith et al (1995) (5) found that hypnosis including positive immune system imagery improved immune system response (T cells, B cells, helper cells) more effectively than a group which practised relaxation or a control group which did neither relaxation nor hypnosis.

Hall, Minnes, Tosi and Olness (1992) (6) found that a group of children were able to increase the stickiness of one type of white blood cell (neutrophil) using hypnosis and positive imagery compared to a control group which did not have hypnosis. The effect was even greater for those who had two hypnosis sessions.

Visualization can definitely change how we feel, and as a result change how our body operates, as shown in the above clinical trials.

This effect works through chemicals released under the control of the brain’s hypothalamus, limbic system and pituitary gland. The activity of these areas of the brain affects our hormones, and the constituent parts of our immune system – e.g. B cells, T cells and cytokines. Our body and mind are closely interlinked, so we often speak of the ‘body-mind’.

How to get the most out of your relaxation / imagination practice

  1. Decide what you want from the sessions. It is important to be specific – set a clear idea of what you want to achieve. You can use the goal setting acronym SMART: make sure it is specific, measurable (how will you know that you’ve achieved it), achievable, realistic, and perhaps timed (the date by which you will have achieved it)
  2. Stick at it. Practice and be determined to stick at it. You may need to practice every day (or twice per day) for 4 to 6 weeks. Results may of course appear sooner than this. Choose a time (or times) when you will practise this each day, and if something prevents you from doing it at that time, then find another time – don’t just omit the practice.
  3. Find a quiet place, either in your home or even outside in your back yard or car.
  4. Make sure that you are comfortable with no tight clothing. You can be sitting or lying down. It is best if your arms and legs are uncrossed to avoid uncomfortable pressure on them.

If you would like to discover more, please book a time for a free chat about your situation and how hypnotherapy could help by clicking on the button below.

Discover how I can help you

References

  1. Billingham, L. (2019, March 26). Benefits of relaxation and how to do it. Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy. https://sunsetcoasthypnotherapy.com.au/2019/03/26/benefits-of-relaxation-and-how-to-do-it/
  1. Gruzelier, J., Levy, J., Williams, J. and Henderson, D. (2001). Self‐hypnosis and exam stress: comparing immune and relaxation‐related imagery for influences on immunity, health and mood. Contemporary Hypnosis, 18, 73-86. https://doi.org/10.1002/ch.221
  1. Gruzelier J., Smith F., Nagy A., & Henderson D. (2001) Cellular and humoral immunity, mood and exam stress: the influences of self-hypnosis and personality predictors. International Journal of Psychophysiology,  42 (1), 55-71. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0167-8760(01)00136-2
  1. Nato, A., Laidlaw, T.M., Henderson, D.C., Farahani, L., Dwivedi, P., and Gruzelier, J.H. (2003).The impact of self-hypnosis and Johrei on lymphocyte subpopulations at exam time: a controlled study. Brain Research Bulletin, 62 (3), 241-253. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brainresbull.2003.09.014
  1. Ruzyla-Smith, P., Barabasz, A., Barabasz, M., & Warner, D. (1995). Effects of hypnosis on the immune system: B-cells, T-cells, helper, and suppressor cells. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 38, 71-79. https://doi.org/10.1080/00029157.1995.10403185
  1. Hall H.R., Minnes L., Tosi M.,  & Olness K. (1992). Voluntary modulation of neutrophil adhesiveness using a cyberphysiologic strategy. International Journal of Neuroscience, 63 (3-4) 287-97. https://doi.org/10.3109/00207459208987203

© 2020 Lisa Billingham
Sunset Coast Hypnotherapy
Perth, Western Australia

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