I’m sitting here imagining myself throwing away my vape, repeating a script in my head that commands me to treat my body with respect and to understand that ‘I need my brain and body to live’. 

I repeat a script about respecting and protecting my body, focusing on the ways in which quitting would benefit me. 

This is the fourth session in my course of hypnosis that is designed to help me quit the habit that is popular with 11 million Americans: vaping.

I’ve been a slave to my e-cigarette for about five years, which I began using as means to stop smoking cigarettes. But like so many, I became hooked.

But amid reports that the devices are linked to lung and heart damage – and even, rather ironically, an increased risk of cancer – I have decided to give up once and for all. It’s just I’m not sure how to.

Senior Health reporter, Cassidy Morrison, attempted for the fourth time to ditch her vaping habit

Senior Health reporter, Cassidy Morrison, attempted for the fourth time to ditch her vaping habit

Senior Health reporter, Cassidy Morrison, attempted for the fourth time to ditch her vaping habit

Dr David Spiegel has been studying the powerful benefits of self-hypnosis for four decades with proof that it works from treating thousands of patients with it

Dr David Spiegel has been studying the powerful benefits of self-hypnosis for four decades with proof that it works from treating thousands of patients with it

Dr David Spiegel has been studying the powerful benefits of self-hypnosis for four decades with proof that it works from treating thousands of patients with it

So, I turned to the man who is said to be one of the world’s most masterful manipulators of the mind – Dr David Spiegel, the pioneer of research into hypnosis as an effective form of therapy.

I’ve been surprised to learn that hypnosis is nothing like I thought it would be. There is no cape-clad man waving a watch in front of someone’s face and snapping his fingers.

Instead, it is a two-step method that first aims to make your mind blank, before inserting ideas that will help you to change behavior.

The blank slate is achieved through ‘triggering a state of peace’ by conjuring pleasant sensory experiences such as imagining a favorite place or food. 

Next, the hypnotist can make verbal suggestions that aim to change the way we think without judging the intrusive thoughts that creep in.

The Reveri app is a helpful tool for guided self-hypnosis for a range of issues. The exercises are interactive and should be repeated whenever the problem, like a craving for a cigarette, arises

The Reveri app is a helpful tool for guided self-hypnosis for a range of issues. The exercises are interactive and should be repeated whenever the problem, like a craving for a cigarette, arises

The Reveri app is a helpful tool for guided self-hypnosis for a range of issues. The exercises are interactive and should be repeated whenever the problem, like a craving for a cigarette, arises

This typically involves conjuring images of oneself overcoming challenges, such as quitting smoking and falling asleep, while listening to suggestions. 

In the case of hypnosis to stop vaping, the suggestions include repeating to oneself that vaping is bad for the body and mind, and that we need both in order to live. 

Dr Spiegel said: ‘Have you ever had the experience of getting so caught up in a good movie that you forget you’re watching a movie and you enter the imagined world, you become part of the movie, not the audience? That kind of intense absorption is the hypnotic focus of attention.’

Self-hypnosis –  Dr Spiegel’s specialty – allows people to enter into a hypnotic state on their own time, utilizing imagery and suggestion to help themselves.  

The field of self-hypnosis research is expanding with Dr Spiegel at the forefront. Several studies have come out in recent years pointing to its efficacy for sleep and pain management. 

One, in 2020 of 90 post-menopausal women having trouble sleeping, reported that all of the women who tried self-hypnosis had better quality sleep and were able to sleep longer. 

Another in 2016 tested the benefits of self-hypnosis against massage for the treatment of chronic pain. 

Not only did pain in the hypnosis group improve more than the massage group, but the hypnotized group also saw improvements in their mood.  

Despite the promising research, Dr Spiegel said the tool is underutilized. That is why he has created a self-hypnosis app called Reveri which allows users to practice self-hypnosis for a wide array of issues, from bad sleep and kicking bad habits.

My experience overall has been positive. While I haven’t thrown out my vape yet, I’ve definitely noticed a reduction in cravings – as well as overall use.

The quit vaping exercise asks the user to imagine themselves floating in a body of water, breathing in a calming pattern, and becoming absorbed in a script about the need to respect and protect one's body and brain

The quit vaping exercise asks the user to imagine themselves floating in a body of water, breathing in a calming pattern, and becoming absorbed in a script about the need to respect and protect one's body and brain

The quit vaping exercise asks the user to imagine themselves floating in a body of water, breathing in a calming pattern, and becoming absorbed in a script about the need to respect and protect one’s body and brain

The Reveri app has self-hypnosis exercises for a wide array of goals including kicking smoking and alcohol, improving sleep, alleviating chronic pain, and boosting concentration

The Reveri app has self-hypnosis exercises for a wide array of goals including kicking smoking and alcohol, improving sleep, alleviating chronic pain, and boosting concentration

The Reveri app has self-hypnosis exercises for a wide array of goals including kicking smoking and alcohol, improving sleep, alleviating chronic pain, and boosting concentration

Dr Spiegel suggests hypnosis may be as effective as psychiatric medication in some instances, and it is a tool that is vastly undervalued.

He even says it could be an effective alternative to risky and addictive pain medication like opioids and benzodiazepines.

Dr Spiegel said. ‘My frustration is with the prejudice that what we’re doing isn’t the real deal.

‘We tend to overvalue techniques that seem scientific, and that’s not always what you need.’

He and fellow researchers tested the power of self-hypnosis versus opioids to manage pain in a 2000 report.

The results showed that pain increased over time in the people who’d received either opioids or emotional support, but remained steady in the self-hypnosis group.

Anxiety decreased in all groups over time, with the hypnosis group showing the most significant reduction.

Hypnosis teaches people how to use their brains to control the way their bodies feel and function, Dr Spiegel suggests.

It’s a state of heightened body awareness and dissociation from other things that might also creep into a person’s consciousness, such as fellow competitors.

He said: ‘Hypnosis, in a funny way, is sort of from the bottom up rather than the top down. So when I want to help someone deal with stress, for example, I don’t start with a stressor, I say, I want you to start with your body and the effect that stress has on your body.

Hypnosis is in fact a far cry from stereotypical depictions of the practice seen in movies like the 2003 comic book action, Bulletproof Monk.

Hypnosis is in fact a far cry from stereotypical depictions of the practice seen in movies like the 2003 comic book action, Bulletproof Monk.

Hypnosis is in fact a far cry from stereotypical depictions of the practice seen in movies like the 2003 comic book action, Bulletproof Monk.

‘There’s a kind of snowball effect with stress where you worry about something. And then you notice that your hands, your palms are getting a little sweaty, and your muscles get tense, and your heart rate seems to be going up and you’re breathing a little more shallowly, and you think, this must be really bad. And you start to feel even worse.

On the self-hypnosis app he designed, interactive hypnosis exercises aim to improve sleep, focus, and concentration, to relieve anxiety, combat pain, and kick bad habits.

My first hypnosis session was with Dr Spiegel himself, before I continued to guide myself via the app.

The personalized session began with a series of eye movements. I was told to look up with my eyes open, then to close my eyes and relax them. 

Next Dr Spiegel instructed me to imagine myself floating in a bathtub or other body of water. The instructions were to raise my arm at the elbow and hold it there.

I was conscious throughout to maintain a sense of buoyancy in my body while keeping in mind three key points: that vaping is a poison to the brain and body, both of which are needed to live, and that we owe them respect and protection.

The exercise went on to say that my brain and body should be thought of as a defenseless baby, and that I would never give a vape to a baby. 

‘You’re not depriving yourself of anything, rather you’re committing yourself to caring for your brain and body,’ Dr Spiegel says in the exercise.

Dr Spiegel’s research over the past four decades involving over 7,000 subjects has revealed that hypnosis can dampen activity in the area of the brain involved in detecting external stimuli like a sudden loud noise and coordinating the brain’s response to it.

This is what’s known as the salience network, which calls our attention to outside stimulus and is ‘always ready to get us moving if necessary,’ he said.

By tamping down activity in this region, the hypnotized person is better able to hone in their focus on addressing the problem at hand and blocking out the noise that get in the way.

Hypnosis is said to reduce the action of another part of the brain known as the default mode network, also known as the mind-wandering network. This network is most active when the brain is focused on the past or the future, or self-reflection.

Dr Spiegel said: ‘It’s the closest thing we have to a little super ego in our brain, that part of us that when we’re not working, we’re not doing something else, when we’re just sitting and reflecting on who we are, what people think of us what we were trained to be what we ought to be.’

This means that the brain prioritizes processing related to the immediate task at hand – following the hypnotic suggestions and envisioning a stressor or problem – and is less engaged in unguided, free-thinking processes that typically occur when the mind wanders.

The executive control region of the brain, which plays a crucial role in regulating various cognitive processes, including decision-making, attention, and emotion regulation, is linked to another part called the insula, which manages how we feel physically and emotionally.

During hypnosis, a person is less likely to get lost in their thoughts and focus on the moment and how the body feels in it because the executive control network and default mode network communicate less.

The dampened salience network allows the hypnotizee to tune out background noise to focus on what they’re hearing in the moment.

He said: ‘The nice thing is that it’s available to anybody, you know, there I am teaching you how to use your ability – I’m not projecting anything onto you. I’m just showing you how to identify and use an ability that you have within and your brain knows how to do it.’

Nicotine is an exceedingly tough drug to quit, especially if the vape has been a permanent fixture on your person for nearly six years. 

But I can honestly say that self-hypnosis has helped me go for an extra hour or two without overwhelming craving for nicotine. 

I found self-hypnosis for sleep to be most helpful. 

Good quality sleep can be hard to come by, and it typically takes me about an hour to sink into a restful REM cycle. The sleep exercises on Reveri cut that time down to around 20 minutes. 

I may not have experienced a sudden impulse to swear off my vape, but I can tell that the exercises have had some benefit to my daily life. 

Source: Mail Online

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