Today I want to explore the difference between meditation and hypnosis, and relaxation beause they’re often used interchangeably but there are actually important yet subtle differences.
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One message that is never far away from the ears of a pregnant woman is around the idea of self-care and relaxation. The importance of taking the time to reduce stress and to relax is brought into stark focus when you’re carrying a baby, but this isn’t always easy. Unfortunately, being pregnant doesn’t mean that life is put on hold; you still get all the usual stressors coming your way. Now add hormones to the mix and keeping calm and stress-free is suddenly made a bit more tricky.
In seeking ways to help to return to this place of calm and relaxation, many women are prompted to start finding new ways to deal with life, or at least start adopting practices that can help them live more calmly day-to-day. This is not only to help them to relax, but also as a way of preparing for birth. Some of the new things that women discover around this time might include meditation, hypnosis and relaxation but what’s not always clear is the difference between meditation and hypnosis, and whether relaxation is different again. So, I thought it would be great to shine a light on this to help you understand the difference, so that you can decide which one is right for you.
To help me do this, I invited Suzy Ashworth onto the podcast for a chat. Sure, I could have talked through all this myself, but it’s always nicer to chew it over with someone, and Suzy is perfect for the job. As the co-founder of the Calm Birth School (an online hypnobirthing programme) and someone who’s recently cranked up her meditation practise, Suzy has got a good handle on how they differ. She’s even written a piece for Huff Post on this: What’s the Difference Between Meditation, Self-Hypnosis and Relaxation?
What is the difference between meditation and hypnosis?
During my chat with Suzy, we explain what these differences are and in summary this is what we said;
It’s an active practice that takes discipline and focus. It can be invaluable in helping you to process your emotions and handle your thoughts, while also offering you potential moments of clarity and inspiration. When pregnant, meditation can be a great time to visualise your birth as well as to connect and communicate to your baby.
Suzy describes hypnosis as a state whereby you have a narrowed focus of attention, where you become really engrossed in something and you don’t notice the passage of time. In this state, you’re less aware of your surroundings and you’re more open to suggestion. Think watching TV or being engrossed in a good book. Suzy went on to say that as you’re more suggestive, it means that you’re more open to change which can be helpful if you’re looking to let go of some fears and beliefs that don’t support you. This is what makes hypnosis such a great tool for birth preparation.
Suzy described relaxation as “letting the tension in your mind and your body release”. At its very simplest she encourages using your breathing to help you to relax; breathing in for 4 and out for 7. When your exhalation is twice as long as your inhalation, then you trigger the relaxation response in the body, which can have a immediate and direct impact on your mind and body. This is such a great way to restore calmness in your mind during pregnancy and birth.
Understanding the difference between these three approaches can help you to decide what is likely to help you the most depending on where you’re at and what you need.
Fearful of birth?
If you’re in a place of fear, Suzy recommends starting with education so that you become informed about birth, and I completely agree with her. Education can sometimes be all you need to move past fear. If you need more support with releasing fears, then hypnosis tracks can help you to shift your focus and perspective so that you’re better able to release your fears and beliefs that aren’t supporting you.
If your fears are more deep-rooted, or you find that hypnosis doesn’t work for you then you might need more direct clearance action to tackle your fears, such as the 5 Step Head Trash Clearance Method or seeking professional help.
It’s important to find tools and techniques that you enjoy using and that work for you and your personal preferences. Practising relaxation techniques during your pregnancy will make it much easier for you to use them during birth if you need them. Using your pregnancy to tackle an address your fears is much more preferable to facing them during birth.
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Alexia supports families planning pregnancy and birth. She helps them to overcome their fears and feel calm and confident about birth and pregnancy.
Alexia also trains birth professionals in the Fearless Birthing, a unique approach to birth preparation that is ideal for those who have fears around birth.