Hypnosis & hypnotherapy: The mind and body connection

Recent research into psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) explores how changes in our thoughts and emotions can bring about changes in our physical health and wellbeing. PNI examines the workings of a complex communications system within the body; of chemical transmitters or messengers called neuropeptides that affect the functioning of every cell in our body. The first neuropeptides to be discovered were endorphins which can not only act as a natural painkiller but also create the physical sensation of pleasure. Other neuropeptides are able to stimulate the creation of Natural Killer Cells that our bodies use to kill off damaging cancer cells.

The immune system is largely responsible for protecting us against the development of cancer cells. When we become anxious, tense or worried over a sustained period of time, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are released and this may impair the efficiency of the immune system. PNI looks to bring balance to the emotional self by tapping into methods which will stimulate endorphins. For example, in imagining or experiencing a pleasurable event, we can create a sense of relaxation and promote feelings of physical wellbeing. Activating positive and calming emotions will immediately strengthen the immune system. This can be tested: Cortisol is measurable through a simple saliva test. PNI shows that by influencing our state of mind it is possible to significantly affect the immune system’s ability to fight disease and restore healthy balance within the body.

Primarily in this country work in PNI is all about working to reduce the stress levels of the person diagnosed with cancer. People react very differently but common reactions include feelings of grief, anger, shock and fear. This must surely be scratching the surface. People are facing a traumatic crisis. However one important thing to note is that whilst looking to bring calming feelings to the patient, The PNI is not to add pressure or expectation to the person by expecting them to be relentlessly positive. This in itself may only produce more stress for them. It is more about how that person may find ways of releasing natural emotions whatever they may be within a safe and supporting environment. Relaxation, meditation, visualisation and massage are a few of the therapies used to achieve this.

The relaxation techniques help people to get back to feeling hopeful, typically, wounds heal more quickly and energy levels are boosted.