Sometimes it feels like mindfulness is presented as the solution to all of life’s ills, from lack of focus or confidence to anxiety, depression and even chronic pain. The simplicity of the exercise (focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations), as well as the many people who’ve found relief in it, puts a lot of weight behind the idea that it could help you.
But the fact is that mindfulness doesn’t work for everyone. And if you’re looking for ways to manage your stress or anxiety, the technique not working can only add to your frustration.
This is what happened for Kim Palmer. She tried different forms of meditation to help with her chronic anxiety in the workplace but none of them clicked. Through her therapist she then discovered hypnotherapy, which helped her in the ways that mindfulness had promised but couldn’t deliver.
"I first discovered hypnotherapy when I was seeking support after a bit of a breakdown at work," she tells R29. "I couldn’t speak in public and had so much anxiety that it stopped me doing normal, day-to-day things." She began listening to her therapist’s hypnotherapy recordings daily while on the loo or doing activities like brushing her teeth. In doing so, she found what she couldn’t elsewhere: confidence and self-belief. "This was when I decided this could help so many other women and Clementine was born."
Although there are quite a few apps focusing on mindfulness and meditation more broadly, Clementine is one of the first hypnotherapy apps specifically for women and catering to sleep, anxiety and confidence. Kim named it after her habit of bringing a clementine into stressful meetings and using it as an unobtrusive anxiety tool – peeling it, holding it or making little piles as a way to keep her focused in the room. Many of the hypnotherapy sessions on the Clementine app work in the same way: five-minute recordings designed to be dropped into your day while making a coffee or during a quick loo break. Building new habits on top of current ones in this way is known as habit stacking. The techniques and learnings become integrated into your daily life so that you can call on them whenever you need to in an unobtrusive way.
So what exactly is hypnotherapy? Essentially it is the practice of using hypnosis to take you into a state of relaxation where you can access the subconscious. In this state the therapist (either in person or in a recording) can effect positive change by training you to practise thoughts and feelings that you want to have so you can practise the feeling of calm, which makes you better at creating the calm when you need it.
On Clementine they use several different techniques to help shift your mindset. Key examples include rehearsing patterns of behaviour through visualisation (such as practising negotiating stress- or anxiety-inducing situations) and anchoring through associations, where you practise repeatedly associating an emotion like confidence with a certain cue like pinching your finger. By practising these habits in the sessions and throughout the day in small increments, the associations and visualisations can become strong enough for you to use in everyday life to interrupt negative patterns of something like anxiety and replace it with something like a feeling of confidence.
This focus on the subconscious is what differentiates hypnotherapy from mindfulness. Instead of training you in the skills of observing but not engaging with the mind, hypnotherapy uses a range of techniques that the subconscious mind responds to. You still need to concentrate but you are deliberately relaxed while the constant stream of talking therapy flows through you. There is a greater range of variety as the subconscious responds more readily to imagery, metaphor and emotion. This is what makes it a great alternative for people who struggle with mindfulness – instead of wrestling with a constantly busy mind, it gives you new tools that reshape your subconscious experience of that busyness.
There is no one path to a calmer mind that suits everyone. But trying out a new therapeutic technique can be incredibly useful, especially when you don’t need to try it in person. As for reservations about hypnotherapy itself, it’s time to drop the misconceptions. As Kim tells R29: "You literally have nothing to lose by trying hypnotherapy. There is this misconception that you’re going to lose some sort of control and start clucking like a chicken on a command word but in actual fact it gives you back control and disempowers the problematic trance state that gets in the way of us being who we really want to be."
Clementine is free to try for seven days and doesn’t require any payment details upfront. You can download the app here.