Though it seems strange to say it, I actually have smoking to thank for introducing me to guided visualizations, hypnosis and ultimately mindfulness. I smoked perhaps 10-30 cigarettes a day for a number of years and had been thinking about quitting for most of that time. I used to say to myself: "when I sort my life out, that's when I'll quit smoking…" But it actually worked out quite the opposite. When I quit smoking was when I began the process of sorting my life out.
Having tried and failed with 'will power' I thought I'd give hypnosis a go. I wasn't expecting much, so you can imagine my surprise when it actually worked! I didn't really know anything about hypnosis other then an old book from the 1980s that someone had given me about the basics of self-hypnosis. The route to success seemed pretty clear: create some empowering visions of me as a healthy non-smoker, find a comfortable space to relax with some soft music playing in the background, and then just drift off for a little while with only these 'stop smoking visions' as company. To me, this seemed too easy, too basic, but I persevered twice a day, every day, for a week and things soon began to change! I didn't seem to reach for a cigarette as much as I used to, and when I did, for some reason I was questioning why I wanted it. And then when I lit it, it didn't seem to taste the same anymore. These changes didn't happen all in one go, but subtly over the first week, and then strongly into the second week, when I had actually already stopped my self-hypnosis sessions.
I had this fear about quitting smoking that my life would never ever be the same again. How could I cope without cigarettes - all my friends smoked. How could I create, socialize, laugh and deal with sadness without the assistance of cigarettes? Cigarettes had become such an integral part of my life and I was worried about a life without them. I imagined weeks of painful solitude as I entered this new chapter, already preparing myself to fail and thinking of excuses to start again… But it wasn't like that all, in fact, thanks to hypnosis, quitting smoking was incredibly easy! After my week's worth of self-imposed-hypnosis sessions which preceded another week of highly conscious thinking about this bad habit, I just… stopped! It was as simple as that in the end. There was no 'last cigarette' or 'closing ceremony' or a throwing away of a half full packet or even avoidance of smokers. One day I just didn't feel like smoking anymore. I was done. Smoking had left my life, not with a bang, but in fact with a whimper. The war I was expecting to fight in my quest to quit was actually won with diplomacy. It really was that easy.
This almost effortless experience of quitting smoking sparked an interest for me in hypnosis and the power of the human brain. I had this tremendous urge to learn more about the workings of the subconscious mind. I was already making meditation and ambient music and so combining this creativity with neuroscience seemed the way forward. I didn't know it at the time, but the week I quit smoking was also the same week My Sunny Mind was conceived. Originally my plan was just to make an MP3 for my own personal use to perhaps help me if I ever felt like reaching for a cigarette, but as it turned out, those weaker days never came, and in fact I ended up giving a recording of my "Stop Smoking" MP3 to a few friends who all came back with glowing reports about how much they liked it. "Wow" I thought to myself, "other people might like this to."
After recording that first Stop Smoking MP3 I decided to up the ante and begin studying hypnosis full-time. Soon after that, I opened a clinic in England and began dealing with real clients - many of whom I helped quit smoking. These early years, as I absorbed a wealth of client information including their fears around smoking, became fundamental in improving and developing the My Sunny Mind "Stop Smoking Now" MP3. I was able to sort through the wheat from the chaff - the smokescreens if you will - when it came to the working of the unconscious mind and the process of smoking cessation. Those 'workings' soon became my "Stop Smoking Now" MP3 as it is today, the process though I will save for another blog…