Habit, Belief, and Change: Using Self Hypnosis to Boost Affirmations

by Gail Jankovski on August 6

 habitchangebelief “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle

 Without a doubt, humans are creatures of habit. Our habits, our unconscious choices and actions, make up our days, and shape our lives. While we often curse our “bad” habits and bemoan our inability to change them, the formation of habits actually serves an important evolutionary purpose.

Without habits we would become overwhelmed with the thousands of minor decisions we are faced with every day. Imagine that everything you did during the day, every seemingly inconsequential action, had to be consciously weighed and decided upon. From how to tie your shoelaces to the surprisingly complex series of actions one takes just pulling a car out of a driveway, every action originally had to be performed through careful thought and attention. Over time they became habits we don’t even think about. The actions we perform every day, out of habit, free up our conscious minds to focus attention on other things.

Habits are the foundation of our daily lives—we can’t escape that. But why would we want to? By understanding how habits are formed, we can use them to our advantage. Let’s let go of the negative connotation that surrounds the word habit, embrace our habit-forming ways, and strive to develop habits that enrich and empower us. Addressing our thinking habits is the first step in that process.

As Charles Duhigg explains in The Power of Habit, it is precisely because habits are so important to our daily functioning as humans that we form them so strongly. But it is also why we sometimes feel we have no control over our negative habits and are powerless to change them. The habit loop of: “cue-routine-reward” reinforces and ingrains our habits, sometimes to the point of addiction. Breaking this loop, by identifying the cue, changing the routine, and providing a similar reward, is the basis of habit change. However, even breaking the loop is sometimes not enough to effect permanent change, and we often revert back to our old behaviours, especially in times of stress and fatigue. In seeking to establish the best program for positive outcomes, the research compiled by Duhigg determines that belief is the intangible key to making lasting shifts in our habits. Therefore, any strategies used to change habitual behaviours are much more effective when belief is also addressed.

That is where affirmations come in. Affirmations help us to plant the seeds of belief from which we can grow the life we desire. It makes sense that changing our minds is the first step towards changing our lives: after all, if you don’t believe that you can do something, how will you ever be able to do it? People all over the world quit smoking every day, they lose weight every day, they run marathons every day. But if you can’t even imagine yourself achieving something, chances are pretty slim you will achieve it. Hypnosis is one tool we can use, with affirmations, to strengthen our belief, and make positive, lasting changes in our lives.

The relaxation of the hypnotic state allows us to bypass our conscious objections, and more easily accept suggestions and positive affirmations. During hypnosis, despite the conscious thinking process, our subconscious mind is in rapport with, and accepting, the suggestion being given. All hypnosis is really self hypnosis, and while a hypnotist can certainly guide you through the process, the benefits are available to anyone.   As outlined briefly below, successful self hypnotic suggestion has three key elements: relaxation, affirmation and repetition.

Relaxation: Achieving a relaxed state is important to successful self hypnosis. Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, focus on your breathing, and allow yourself to let go and relax deeper with each breath out. You can visualize a safe relaxing place, floating on a cloud, walking down stairs or numbers counting down. In our increasingly stressed and busy lives, many of us have forgotten how to really relax, but it is a skill that can be practiced and learned. A simple three step self hypnosis program adapted from the National Guild of Hypnotists curriculum provides an easy to follow guide.

Affirmation: Affirmation is the basis of self hypnosis practice, as the most effective suggestions are simple and positive. Phrases like “I remain focused on my tasks” rather than “I won’t procrastinate” create positive “moving towards” rather than “away from” motivations. Suggestions should be results-based and believable; anything beyond the realm of realistic possibility will trigger resistance. And they should carry a reward, emotional rewards (..and I feel wonderful) are especially motivating.

Repetition: Most of us hold some negative and limiting beliefs about ourselves, but beliefs are nothing more than thoughts we have practiced. Our thinking habits, especially negative thinking patterns, are the basis on which our other habits are built. By repeatedly practicing affirmation, we can begin to shift our beliefs about ourselves, and these new beliefs become the default baseline from which more desirable habits can emerge.

We often attempt to change our habits by simply will powering our way through. When that fails, as it often does, we are left feeling that we just aren’t strong enough, thus reinforcing our negative beliefs. Positive beliefs support positive habits. By using hypnosis and affirmation to address our beliefs, and using the “habit loop” to our advantage, we set ourselves up for success, rather than failure. And we can begin to make success a habit in our lives.

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Gail Jankovski

Gail is a certified hypnotist, life coach, and aspiring writer and poet. Her approach to personal development is pragmatic: baby steps are OK—and small changes can add up to big rewards. She also keeps busy as an admin assistant, wife, and mom to three grown children.

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