Effects of a brief mindful hypnosis intervention on stress reactivity.
Interventions that increase mindfulness have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. However, most mindfulness-based interventions such as mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) require considerable time investment (i.e. 8, 1 ½ hour sessions plus a weekend retreat). A brief mindfulness intervention could be of value as it could reduce patient burden and provide stress-reduction. It has been theorized that hypnosis can enhance mindfulness interventions and a pilot study conducted by Olendzki and Elkins (2020) provided preliminary evidence that 8 sessions of mindful hypnosis (MH) can reduce perceived stress. However, the impact of a brief mindful hypnosis intervention on stress reactivity in a standardized stress test relative to an active-control group is unknown. The purpose of the present study is to assess the effects of a brief (2 session) audio-recorded mindful hypnosis intervention on stress reactivity in comparison to an analytic cognitive training (ACT) control group. Fifty-five adults with a score of 18 or greater on the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) were randomized to the MH or ACT active-control group. Participants were given either a mindful hypnotic induction or instructions for the active-control and an audio recording for daily practice of MH or ACT at home. Approximately one week later, participants received their second MH or ACT session and then completed the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST). Participants’ stress reactivity was assessed pre and post the TSST. Primary outcomes were changes in stress reactivity and weekly stress. Secondary outcomes were relaxation ratings, cognitive self-statements, mindfulness skills acquisition, satisfaction and adherence to the interventions. Results indicated that brief MH is an effective intervention for reducing stress reactivity compared to ACT. MH produced significant and medium effects in reducing stress reactivity and weekly stress, increasing mindfulness skills, and increasing immediate relaxation relative to ACT. Results indicated no significant differences in self-statements, adherence, or overall satisfaction between interventions. This study provides empirical support that MH is superior to an active control for stress reactivity reduction and mindfulness skills acquisition. Future research utilizing physiological outcomes is strongly encouraged.