Surprise, surprise: Our DIY version of hypnosis never really worked. And, as an adult, I’ve never considered that I could use hypnosis for something practical, like making my time on the gym a bit of more intentional. But that’s the thought behind self-hypnosis app Reveri, co-created and voiced by psychiatrist and Stanford University professor David Spiegel, MD, certainly one of the foremost experts on hypnosis within the United States.
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Reveri (priced at $15 per thirty days) offers a big selection of hypnosis exercises designed to assist users do things like log higher sleep, quit bad habits, and eat intuitively. I used to be interested in how self-hypnosis for exercise might help my fitness, so in a month-long experiment, I took advantage of the apps’ pre- and post-workout sessions presupposed to “tune your mind and body for optimal athletic performance” and provide help to “relive successful facets of your routine and examine areas to deal with next time.”
When I started using Reveri, I used to be smack dab in the midst of a rigorous, three-month bouldering training plan. For the unordained, bouldering is a type of mountaineering that’s performed on “short” partitions (about 15 feet high on average) and not using a rope. This movement style requires each power and raw strength, and it will probably be tough on the body. Committing to using a tool that will help me set my intentions each before and after my workouts felt like a sensible idea—especially since Dr. Spiegel is an esteemed medical skilled (not a clown).
And so I made a decision to… get… very… sleepy—I mean—VERY… MOTIVATED… and begin my journey of self-hypnosis. Here are my honest thoughts about the way it went.
What is self-hypnosis?
Over the years, popular culture has portrayed hypnosis as a type of mind control that strips people of their free will. According to clinical hypnotherapist Julie Costa, that portrayal couldn’t be farther from the reality. “[Hypnosis] is a tool to tap into your inner knowing or your subconscious mind to provide help to achieve your goals more easily,” she says. “In simplest terms, hypnosis is the act of entering a state of deep rest. It is a natural state that lots of us actually enter several times a day, like after we daydream.”
“In simplest terms, hypnosis is the act of entering a state of deep rest.” —Julie Costa
In self-hypnosis, you guide yourself into this state of fixed attention through breathwork, a point of interest, a visualization, or one other focusing technique. “The goal is to loosen up your body so that you may then loosen up your mind,” says Costa. “This permits you to bypass your critical faculties and open the doors to your subconscious mind.”
On Reveri, Dr. Spiegel helps you enter self-hypnosis mode by asking you to look up, shut your eyes, and take a deep breath. After that, he instructs you to boost a hand within the air that may stay awake over the course of the hypnosis as you “enter your subconscious mind.”
While the entire process may sound a bit airy, hypnosis is grounded in lots of solid scientific research. In a phone interview, Dr. Spiegel references one 2017 study during which he and a team of other researchers placed high and low-hypnotizable people in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. Some participants were placed in a hypnotic state before entering, while others weren’t—allowing the doctors a peek at what was happening within the brains of those in hypnotic mindsets.
First, Dr. Spiegel and his team noticed that the brains of those under hypnosis showed less activity within the cingulate cortex, which processes acute stimuli like loud noises. These same participants’ brains also displayed hyperconnectivity between the chief control region and the prefrontal cortex, a sensitivity which will allow people to higher control the connection between their bodies and their brains. For example, when perceiving pain, those under hypnosis may find a way to pause before they react to that pain.
“The third thing that happens [in hypnosis] is a disconnect between the chief control region and the back a part of that cingulate cortex, which we call the ‘default mode network,’” says Dr. Spiegel. Similar to the effect of mindfulness, this disconnect permits you to imagine latest possibilities to your life and relationships without judgments, says Dr. Spiegel.
“I like to consider hypnosis as a form of childlike peak state that a few of us aren’t in a position to reconnect with as we grow old,” says Dr. Spiegel.
The advantages of pre-workout hypnosis
These effects make hypnosis practice before any focus-driven activity, whether or not it’s a run, a pickleball game, or a climbing session. “Entering a state of hypnosis before a workout has so many advantages,” says Costa. “While in hypnosis, you may visualize yourself understanding, receiving the advantages of doing so, and achieving your health and fitness goals.”
Dr. Spiegel says that this process also permits you to focus less on the end result of a workout and more on how your body is feeling at each moment. “You’re not sitting back and acting just like the coach saying, ‘Oh, come on, you may do it!’ You’re just engaging in what it seems like to let your body do what it wants,” he says. This feels much like slipping right into a flow state or achieving a “runner’s high,” he adds.
My experience trying hypnosis for exercise before workouts
I began my Reveri journey on a tough training day. My climbing program requires one workout each week of trying problems (bouldering routes) on a 9 or 10 effort level—and which means I fall. And fall. And fall again. Even with the large bouldering mats below to catch me, tumbling on repeat is each physically and mentally taxing. So, I downloaded Reveri and commenced the “Prepare for Your Workouts” hypnosis.
One of the good things about Reveri is that every exercise comes with the choice to interact or simply take heed to the practice, which will be helpful if you happen to’re out in public and wish to stay under the radar. Since I could be completing my workout on the gym, I opted to easily listen in to Dr. Spiegel within the yoga room. I sat in a crisscrossed position, as I’d in meditation, and Dr. Spiegel counted me right into a hypnotic state with one hand hovering in front of me.
The hypnosis itself felt much like deep meditative states I’ve experienced before in longer mindfulness sessions, in yin yoga classes, and on long runs. My body felt buoyant as my thoughts drifted farther away, and Dr. Spiegel asked me to visualise the movement patterns I would wish for a successful workout ahead. I pictured different climbing holds and the way they might feel against my hand. I pictured engaging my core to assist me stay on the wall. I pictured executing the ultimate, exhausting movement I would wish to complete an issue.
Once I opened my eyes, I discovered that my focus had sharpened. My to-do list for the remaining of the day not had a front-row seat in my mind, and I walked as much as the climbing partitions with a presence I hadn’t felt shortly. As Dr. Spiegel said, I discovered myself focused on each individual movement as an alternative of questioning whether or not I’d make it to the highest. To be clear, I still fell (persistently!), but I not felt like I used to be fighting my way up the wall. I used to be just reaching for one hold, then the subsequent one, and the subsequent. Sometimes, I missed a hold completely. Sometimes, I couldn’t quite reach it. Sometimes, I couldn’t hold on. But I discovered myself comparing my progress to other “higher” boulderers less and fewer as my workout continued.
Once I opened my eyes, I discovered that my focus had sharpened.
After that, I made a ritual of running through the hypnosis before starting my warm-up. On some days, I actually believed that the hypnotic state itself was the rationale I felt more in tune with my body. And on others, it gave the impression of just getting my intentions straight before the beginning of the workout was where the magic really happened. Either way, the experience of adding Reveri to my routine made me go deep on the “why” behind my bouldering workouts.
I discovered that I don’t climb because I need to be the strongest person within the gym or because I need to find a way to scale tiny plastic handholds (imagine that). I just love the movement itself. The act of creating calculated decisions about where to put a hand or foot next so I can stay on the wall—if just for a moment longer. I like it once I surprise myself and complete a tough move or discover that an issue that appears like a puzzle from the bottom could be cracked with enough focus.
In other words, I don’t need someone to “hypnotize me” into having fun with my time on the gym. I just need a practice that helps clear away the brain smog so I can remember one easy truth: I already really freaking love this.
- Jiang, Heidi et al. “Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Associated with Hypnosis.” Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991) vol. 27,8 (2017): 4083-4093. doi:10.1093/cercor/bhw220