Why hypnosis can reduce high blood pressure and how to do it
Elaine was well into her seventies when she came to see me, hoping that hypnosis could help her reduce her high blood pressure naturally and avoid the need for drugs. I asked her about her lifestyle and found that she had done - and was doing - all the things you too should do to naturally lower blood pressure.
High blood pressure and the annual check-up myth
Having your blood pressure checked once a year or even once a month is like putting your head out the window every Christmas day to see what the weather's like for the whole year. It's pretty meaningless.
High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is a problem for many. But it's a travesty that people are prescribed blood pressure meds (and needlessly worried) after having just one high reading. If your blood pressure is too high, you might not exhibit any symptoms; so it is wise to find out - but...
The fact is, blood pressure (BP) readings can change minute to minute; tend to be markedly different in the mornings compared to the evenings; and are influenced by stress, digestion, temperature, and also the mysterious 'white coat syndrome' (more on that in a moment).
Blood pressure: Skewing the results
Drinking coffee, smoking, and exercising half an hour before taking a reading can all skew the results (1); as can having a full bladder.
Talk to your doctor about self-monitoring. You can use what's known as an 'ambulatory blood pressure device' that can take your BP every half-hour (except when you're sleeping, of course) throughout the day.
Or at least get your doctor to take multiple readings every five minutes so you can get an average. One occasional reading will give you little real idea. Sure, you'd think your doctor would know this; but, believe me, that's not always the case.
Okay, before we get to hypnotic interventions for high blood pressure, what are the usual sensible precautions?
Do all the right things
When Elaine came to see me, she had done everything right in trying to reduce her blood pressure:
- She had stopped smoking years before.
- She walked regularly and did yoga.
- She maintained a healthy weight.
- She watched her diet by avoiding too many insulin-releasing carbohydrates and sugary snacks (2).
- She cut down on salt.
- She had started cooking with garlic (3) and drinking the occasional glass of red wine (4).
But for Elaine, there was something missing. Time for some detective work.
The psychology of blood pressure
"Tell me, Elaine, how do you feel when your doctor actually takes your blood pressure? Close your eyes and imagine her taking it right now."
Elaine imagined the clinic, her doctor's face, the sphygmomanometer (that squeezy thingy), and you know what? She looked really tense. She felt anxious just thinking about having her blood pressure taken. She did all the right things...except she wasn't best managing her stress levels.
Ah, this is the famous 'white coat syndrome'! A recognized phenomenon whereby just the presence of the doctor (whether accompanied by white coat or not) sends blood pressure sky high, thereby giving a false impression of heart health.
Blood pressure - in fact, just about any physical condition - can be more affected by our state of mind than we realize. You always need to look at the psychological aspect as well as the physical.
Blood pressure and mind-medicine
Elaine was due to have her blood pressure checked again (just once a fortnight! But anyway...) in a few days. So I taught her how to use self-hypnosis (5) to overcome 'white coat syndrome'. And you can follow the same steps.
First off, I asked Elaine to:
- Imagine a time and place that was, for her, very relaxing (she thought about reading in her garden in the summer).
- Really begin to relax as she started to sense the air, the colours, and the sounds of a sunny afternoon spent in her garden.
- Imagine a dream-like TV screen in her garden, perhaps floating in the air - one she could view at leisure.
- Watch herself on that TV, looking very relaxed and calm, having her blood pressure taken by her doctor.
- Observe the look of happy surprise on her doctor's face upon reading her blood pressure result.
To get a flavour of this kind of hypnotic exercise, click on the free audio session below.
Reduce high blood pressure by regular self-hypnosis
Elaine came back the following week, telling me how her doctor had actually been incredulous and "just couldn't understand" how Elaine's blood pressure had improved so dramatically - whilst I just couldn't understand that the doctor didn't seem to be aware of 'white coat syndrome' at all.
Through practice, Elaine became a wonderful hypnotic subject and would use hypnosis every day (not just when her doctor took her blood pressure reading) to relax deeply, focus, and get back control of her own blood pressure. By combining self-hypnosis with sensible lifestyle choices, you too can do the same.
Related: How to Improve Blood Circulation