by Masha Bennett www.practicalhappiness.co.uk
One of my favourite relaxation techniques is the so-called “Betty Erickson Induction”, which is really a type of self-hypnosis approach that relies on using our senses to induce relaxation. It is used by some hypnotherapists to help a client go into relaxing trance, and also overlaps with some aspects of Mindfulness.
When I worked in a women’s prison, I taught this technique to many of the girls suffering with insomnia. Clearly, a prison is not a tranquil or relaxing place and sleep problems are really common. The women found it helpful, especially as the technique incorporates noises or sounds in the environment into the process of relaxation.
So, to start off, sit or lie in a comfortable position, and begin to notice what you can see, hear and feel.
1. Say to yourself gently:
“I can see… [name any object in your field of vision]” and repeat for 5 different objects, for example:
“I can see a window”
“I can see a wall”
“I can see a lamp”
“I can see a book”
“I can see a radiator”
2. Then say to yourself:
“I can hear… [name any sound you can hear]”
and repeat for 5 different sounds, for example:
“I can hear the ticking of the clock”
“I can hear traffic outside”
“I can hear my breathing”
“I can hear a door creaking”
“I can hear the wind”
3. Then say to yourself:
“I can feel… [name any feeling or sensation you experience]”
and repeat for 5 different sensations, for example:
“I can feel tension in my shoulders”
“I can feel my feet on the floor”
“I can feel my tongue in my mouth”
“I can feel heaviness in my limbs”
“I can feel my hand on my lap”
4. Repeat the sequence, this time naming only 4 things you can SEE, 4 things you can HEAR, 4 things you can FEEL. The pictures/sounds/sensations can be the same as last time, or different – it doesn’t matter.
5. Repeat, naming 3 things you can SEE, 3 things you can HEAR, 3 things you can FEEL
6. Repeat, naming 2 things you can SEE, 2 things you can HEAR, 2 things you can FEEL
7. Repeat, naming 1 thing you can SEE, 1 thing you can HEAR, 1 thing you can FEEL
By now, if you are not asleep yet, you should feel more relaxed and with much less “chatter” in your mind. If needed, you can repeat the procedure more than once.
This technique can be used for insomnia as well as general relaxation in stressful situations, e.g. in a waiting room before an interview or meeting, during a test or an exam or when preparing for a difficult conversation. Please make sure you do NOT practise this technique whilst driving or operating any machinery, as it can quickly make some people feel very sleepy!
Masha Bennett is a UKCP registered psychotherapist and a trainer of EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques). She has worked for a number of years within the criminal justice system, including running a drug rehabilitation programme in a women’s prison, and currently combines work in the UK National Health Service with her private therapy and training practice. Masha teaches EFT, trauma awareness and self-help tools to professionals and general public across 10 countries in Europe, Asia and Middle East. Her website is www.practicalhappiness.co.uk.