When you start looking into ways to help support your fertility (or any physical or mental health issue, for that matter), it can quickly become confusing and overwhelming — there are so many possibilities. Any every time you read an article online, or talk to another person, everyone says that their method is the absolute best.
The list goes on and on.
They all can have real benefits. They all help some people, some of the time. But which options are right for you? Right now?
You may be sitting there, weighing the possibilities and feeling a tiny bit paralyzed by the decision-making. You can’t possibly try everything; it would take every moment of every day. And with work, and sleeping, and well… all.the.things, no one has time for that.
This is one of the reasons I talk through the ins-and-outs of many of these tools here on the Circle+Bloom blog. I know how confusing it can all be. And I also believe strongly in the power of these tools to help many people.
We’ve written posts about how tweaking your diet can help support fertility. We’ve had trusted partners contribute to our blog with information about yoga and it’s benefits for fertility. And of course you know about the Circle+Bloom guided visualization programs. Next month, we’ll also have a blog post about how acupuncture can be a powerful tool to support fertility.
Today, I want to clarify the differences between three mind-body tools that sometimes can be jumbled up together:
- Hypnotherapy (also known as hypnosis)
All three of these tools rely on the idea that our minds have power over our bodies, but they function in distinctly different ways.
To help you decide which mind-body tools may be the most helpful for you, we’re taking a look at each one, how they work, the effects they can have, and how they differ. (The cool thing is, Circle+Bloom’s programs combine all three of these tools to give you the benefits of all of them at one time!)
Meditation is a mind-body tool that is used to quiet the mind, feel relaxed and peaceful. There are many (so many!) forms of meditation. But what ties them all together is that meditation is an individual or solitary practice. It is based on your exploration and experience of your own mind. No one else is guiding you or influencing your practice.
The intention or goal for meditation is to train attention and awareness.
The action of meditation is simple. For a period of time, we sit quietly and try to be as mindful as we can. This may mean just paying attention to your body breathing in and out — not altering the breath in any way, but just noticing how your body feels as it taking in air and then releases it. And as your mind wanders away from your breath – which it is guaranteed to do – just calmly and gently redirecting your attention back to your breath.
As one develops a meditation practice, it can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and pain, and can create a greater sense of peace, mental clarity, and support an emotionally calm and stable state.
As little as two minutes a day can make a noteworthy difference, and begin to change the way you see and feel about the world around you.
To simplify, meditation is:
- In the present moment
- Hones mindfulness
- Delivers relaxation, calm, peace, and clarity
- A cumulative practice that builds on itself over time
This is an overly simplified description of meditation, however, generally it describes most forms of this ancient practice. Circle+Bloom programs are a guided form of meditation that help your body relax and release some of the stress and anxiety that can build up when TTC.
Visualization is also a mind-body tool, but is a bit more active and goal-oriented. Whether visualization is being used by athletes to mentally prepare for their next event, by musicians to mentally rehearse a piece of music, or by women struggling with infertility to connect with the physical functions of their own bodies — visualization typically has a specific end result in mind.
Your brain has such a powerful capacity to imagine that in some cases it is not be able to distinguish between real things that you have experienced, and those that you have imagined. You can use visualization to help your brain “see” what your body should be doing, and then physically do it.
While meditation is a solitary practice, visualization often integrates a second person who leads an audio. This is typically an audio recording, but could also be in-person. The narrator creates a calm and relaxing environment for the participant, and then uses language to help the participant harness the power of their mind to exert control over their physical body.
The emphasis is on, you, the individual, using the power of your imagination.
Visualization can be focused on experiencing the present moment, like meditation, but it is not defined by this. Just as often, it explores a projection of future desires, a replay of past events, or conjures an entirely imaginary experience.
While meditation creates more of a subconscious state where the mind is quiet and focused internally, visualization is more of a waking-state practice. It requires us to be more fully-conscious, exploring a full-five sensory experience.
To simplify, visualization is:
- Fully-conscious experience
- Led by a narrator
- May be in the present moment, the past, future, or a fully imaginary experience
- Targets a specific desired physical outcome
- Exerts mental control over physical functions
All of the Circle+Bloom programs incorporate visualization that is focused on your reproductive system and its daily, changing cycle.
Not as commonly known as meditation or visualization, hypnotherapy (also called hypnosis) is also a powerful mind-body tool.
Today’s hypnotherapy is not the side-show trick of people who believe they are a chicken, or barking like dogs. The American Psychological Association describes hypnosis as a cooperative interaction in which the participant responds to the suggestions of the hypnotist.
Hypnotherapy induces a wakeful, trance-like state that leaves the person at a heightened level of suggestibility and focused awareness. In this state, beneficial suggestions can be placed directly into the subconscious mind.
Similar to visualization, hypnotherapy also is typically used to achieve a specific goal. The difference is that while visualization engages the mind’s imagination to exert control over the body’s physical functions, hypnosis is more often used to affect neuro-behavioral change. For example, hypnotherapy is often used to help people quit smoking, help with addictions to drugs or alcohol, address fears, or help with weight loss or depression.
Hypnotherapy can be very effective in making changes to self-beliefs and patterns of thinking. In a hypnotic state, you will have no conscious resistance to beneficial suggestions. These suggestions can bypass your conscious mind and make changes to long-held unconscious beliefs and perspectives quickly and naturally.
To simplify, hypnotherapy:
- Induces a wakeful, trance-like state
- Is led by a trained hypnotherapist (or hypnotist)
- Affects a specific desired behavioral outcome
- Changes existing unconscious beliefs and thought patterns
Circle+Bloom’s guided programs are a kind of virtual hypnotherapy that first lulls you into a trance-like state and then deliver specific, supportive messages to help you strengthen your own reproductive health.
Which Mind-Body Tool Will Help You the Most?
As with anything else, which tool is most helpful will depend on your unique needs and situation. Any of these mind-body tools can aid you in making powerful changes to your life. The can help with stress-relief and relaxation. They can support medical infertility interventions, and general improvements in self-care and health. But finding the right path to maximizing your own physical and mental well-being may mean trying out a few different things to see how they work for you.
Hopefully this post makes it a bit easier to choose a starting point for your experimentation! If you haven’t tried one of Circle+Bloom’s visualization programs, get our free fertility relaxation program and see what you think for yourself. If you like how it works for you, we have a whole series of visualization for fertility programs that are specifically tailored to help with IVF/IUI, PCOS, FET, and egg donation.
With love & gratitude,