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How does hypnosis affect our immune system?

Mental attitude and our physical health

It is firmly established that the mind and body are intricately interconnected. There are a plethora of research articles on how our state of mind directly influences the working of our immune system. Our thoughts and feelings have a profound effect on our physical health.

Intense and prolonged anger, anxiety and activation of the stress response will all weaken our immune functioning, just as a healthy sleep, happiness and optimism can strengthen it.

Check out this superb video that explains this in great detail. Robert Sapolsky- Stress, Portrait of a Killer.

Practicing the relaxation response can strengthen your immunity, heal injuries, and prevent disease. When we are able to manage our emotions, cope with the stresses of everyday life effectively and quiet the negative internal voice - we have the opportunity to live life with great vitality, agility, and power in knowing we have more control over our bodies and immune functioning than previously thought.

We all have heard of being able to think yourself sick. Perhaps you've known someone who can be attest to this. Like I've advocated before, why couldn't the opposite be true? We CAN think ourselves well. Our mind is a beautiful and powerful, dynamic mechanism. Like Einstein put it, "Imagination is everything".

We can achieve good health, vigor and strength by harnessing our own creative intelligence and our imagination, with the use of imagery and visualizations, and awakening the mind-body connection.

Substantial research

Research performed at Washington State University in Pullman found that hypnosis can potentially strengthen two different types of immune cells that fight off disease. (1)Sixty-five students participated in the study. Thirty-three participants were highly hypnotizable and responded well to hypnotherapy induction.

All 65 participants were randomly assigned to three separate groups. One group received hypnosis, one group received relaxation therapy, and one group served as the control group and received no form of therapy or treatment.

The participants who received hypnosis displayed a significant increase in two important types of white blood cells. Those who were highly hypnotizable and received hypnosis showed the largest increase.

Researchers said that this shows that hypnosis can help people boost their white blood cell count and thus boost their immune system and so enhance their capacity to fight off disease.

Relaxation fights stress

Another study at Ohio State University found that hypnotherapy can actually prevent the immune system from weakening due to stress. (2) Hypnosis is a powerful way to relax, and counteracts the immune weakening effects of stress.

One of the researchers went so far as to say: “If you look at individuals who continue to practice hypnosis, they will continue to have enhanced immune function, and those who don’t, won’t.”

The power of metaphor

In another experiment, school children were asked, while in hypnosis to imagine many strong white knights inside their blood stream. Measurements of their salivary immunoglobulin levels showed a significant increase. (3)

When you practice self hypnosis, you can use these kinds of approaches to great effect. It is extremely fascinating to me how our subconscious mind can take a metaphor for health, such as a story of a safe armed castle, and transform that into an actual change at a deep cellular level within our body.

  1. Ruzyla-Smith P, Barabasz A, Barabasz M, Warner D. Effects of hypnosis on the immune response: B-cells, T-cells, helper and suppressor cells. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. 1995 Oct; 38(2):71-9.

  2. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Page GG, Marucha PT, MacCallum RC, Glaser R (1998). Psychological influences on surgical recovery: Perspectives from psychoneuroimmunology. American Psychologist 53:1209-1218.

  3. Self-Regulation of Salivary Immunoglobulin A by Children. Olness K, Culbert T, Uden D. Pediatrics. 1989 Jan;83(1):66-71.

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