Why Does Hypnosis Work? Explained by Neuroscience

Updated: Mar 15

Hypnosis is one of the best resources out there for reprogramming the mind because it works with our brain's neurology. In this article, you will learn that hypnosis works because:

1. It works with the subconscious mind.

2. Neural circuits are malleable and can be rewired.

3. Certain brain wave states allow us to access internal resources.

Hypnosis works with the Subconscious Mind

There are two levels of the mind: the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. The conscious mind judges, analyzes, and evaluates external stimuli. It rationalizes and makes up our sense of logic. And the subconscious mind takes care of our basic automatic functioning. Things such as breathing, organ functions, and the fight or flight response.

Although our conscious processes are vital, our judgements can be faulty. This is because we rationalize based on fundamental belief systems, not universal facts.

Our beliefs are the reason why we do what we do. And not all beliefs are created equal. Most of our beliefs form during childhood between the ages 3-7. This is when the brain undergoes intense cognitive development and the mind is highly impressionable. Most of our childhood beliefs benefit us in positive ways for a lifetime. Some don't always end up reflecting the understanding we reach as adults. Certain beliefs form during childhood as a result of self-protection or fear. Others form due to conventional yet stifling cultural/societal conditioning. And of course, there are also beliefs learnt from the traumas and pain of our caregivers.

These beliefs make up the logic in the conscious mind. This is why you feel mental resistance whenever you try to consciously change habits. Because the new desirable habit is incongruent with what you have been led to believe is right as a child.

If you desire to change a certain habit, working solely with the conscious mind is not enough. The problem is always deeper; it is embedded at the very root of your subconscious mind. So in hypnotherapy, we dive straight to the root of the problem to tackle the beliefs that are holding your old habits in place and the new habits at bay.

Hypnosis Rewires Neural Circuits

"Neurons that fire together wire together"

Every time a thought is thought or an action is taken, certain neural circuits are fired up. These neural circuits are composed of many neurons that communicate through junctions to other regions of the nervous system. When you learn something new, new neural circuits are created. The more the same information is processed, the more the corresponding circuit is strengthened. This is how an action becomes a habit. It eventually becomes automatic which is to say the neural circuit gets fired up without much effort.

Consider your thoughts, emotions, and habits, they all correspond to a certain channel of neural activity that has been strengthened over the years. To reprogram the mind, we must build new neural circuits to replace and weaken the old ones.

Hypnosis helps you do that by compelling you to think new thoughts, and visualize new possibilities. Because when we visualize, we are stimulating the same parts of the brain as we do when we perform the actual action. In fact Olympic athletes have been using visualization since the 1960s. In one study, they discovered that a group of athletes actually performed better when their training regiment consisted of 75% mental training (visualization). As opposed to the other groups that ranged from none at all to 50% mental training.

Hypnosis works with the Theta Brainwave State

Brainwaves fluctuate depending on what is being experienced by the mind. They can be divided into 5 main states to recognize certain distinct characteristics:

Delta Waves (.5 - 3 HZ) - generated in dreamless sleep. External awareness is suspended while healing and regeneration are stimulated.

Theta Waves (3-8 HZ) - generated in deep meditation. It is also the twilight state as we wake or drift off to sleep. Your sense receptors turn inwards. And you are able to experience heightened creativity, and imagination. This is the state of flow that many athletes and artists rely on. This is state of healing that is used in hypnosis and deep meditation.

Alpha Waves (8-12 HZ) - generated during flowing thoughts and in some meditative states. This is the state where you feel most present. It is the resting conscious state and aids in mental coordination, calm alertness and learning.

Beta Waves (12-38 HZ) - generated when the mind is stimulated. It aids in problem-solving and decision making.

Gamma Waves (38-42 HZ) - generated when information from different regions of the brain are simultaneously being processed. This state used to be overlooked as 'spare brain noise' until it was discovered to be highly active during states of altruism and universal love. There are many speculations that this is the state where one can connect to the divine and channel higher sources of information.

In hypnotherapy, we work with the Theta brainwave state because heightened creativity and imagination create the perfect conditions for visualization. This means the mind is more receptive to verbal suggestions in this state. And at the quantum level, this means neural circuits are more malleable and can be rewired.


In hypnotherapy, we value an evidence-based approach. We pride ourselves in keeping up to date with the latest research in neuroscience. This is how we know hypnosis works.

If you are interested in finding out what hypnotherapy can do for you, learn about my offerings here.