Procrastination: How solution-focused hypnotherapy can help

Procrastination is something we all struggle with from time to time. Despite our best intentions, we often find ourselves putting off or avoiding tasks, leading to feelings of frustration, guilt, and overwhelm.


To find out why we procrastinate, we need to look at what is happening in our brains.

The neuroscience of procrastination

At its core, procrastination is a mix of cognitive and emotional processes. Scientists have identified a few key brain areas that play a big role in this behaviour:

  • The prefrontal cortex (intellectual brain): This part of the brain plans, makes decisions, and controls impulses. When the prefrontal cortex isn't functioning properly, initiating and completing tasks can become challenging. This region is crucial for self-control and goal-oriented behaviour, and any dysfunction here can lead to difficulties in managing time and prioritising tasks.
  • Amygdala (part of the limbic system or primitive brain): The amygdala is the brain’s fear centre and is part of the limbic system, often called the primitive brain. This area is key to our emotional responses. When faced with a task that feels overwhelming or makes us anxious, the amygdala can trigger a fear response, making us avoid the task. This is often a protective mechanism that aims to avoid potential threats, even if those threats are just perceived as the fear of failure or criticism.
  • Dopamine system: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, linked to reward and motivation. When we expect a reward, our dopamine levels rise, pushing us to act. However, if the task doesn’t offer instant gratification, our dopamine levels might not be high enough to motivate us, leading to procrastination. This is particularly relevant in the context of modern distractions like social media, which provide immediate rewards and can divert our attention from less immediately rewarding tasks.
  • Temporal discounting: This is a cognitive process where the brain devalues rewards that are further away in time. Essentially, we are wired to prefer smaller, immediate rewards over larger, delayed ones. This can explain why we might watch a TV show now rather than work on a project due in a month.

Why we procrastinate

Understanding the brain’s role in procrastination helps explain why we delay tasks. Here are a few reasons:

  • Fear of failure: The fear of not doing well can set off the amygdala, part of the primitive brain, causing us to avoid tasks that challenge our self-esteem. This fear can be paralysing, making even the thought of starting a task overwhelming.
  • Perfectionism: Setting the bar too high can lead to overthinking. The prefrontal cortex (or intellectual brain), gets bogged down with planning and decision-making, delaying the start of tasks. Perfectionists often struggle with the idea that if something can't be done perfectly, it's not worth starting.
  • Immediate gratification: Our brains are wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Tasks offering instant rewards (like scrolling through social media) are more appealing than those with delayed gratification (like finishing a project). This is tied to our dopamine system, where immediate rewards increase dopamine levels more effectively.
  • Overwhelm: When a task seems too big or complicated, it can overwhelm the prefrontal cortex, making it hard to break it down into manageable steps, leading to avoidance. This often leads to a cycle of avoidance and increased anxiety as the task continues to loom over us.

Guilt-based procrastination

This occurs when we delay tasks not only because they seem difficult but also due to the guilt of not having started or completed them already. This guilt can create a negative feedback loop where the more we procrastinate, the guiltier we feel, and the guiltier we feel, the more we procrastinate. This can be tied to the amygdala's response, as guilt is a powerful emotion that can reinforce avoidance behaviours.

Solution-focused hypnotherapy and procrastination

Solution-focused hypnotherapy (SFH) is an effective approach that combines principles of psychotherapy with hypnosis to help people achieve their goals. SFH can be particularly useful in dealing with procrastination by tapping into the brain’s natural ability to change and adapt.

Here’s how SFH can help:

  • Reducing overwhelm: Hypnotherapy can help break large, overwhelming tasks into smaller, manageable steps. Helping the prefrontal cortex, work more efficiently, reducing feelings of overwhelm. By addressing the root of the overwhelm, hypnotherapy can help individuals approach tasks with a clearer, more focused mindset.
  • Enhancing motivation: SFH uses positive visualisation techniques to boost motivation. Imagine the success of completing a task, the brain’s dopamine system is activated, increasing the drive to take action. This helps create a positive feedback loop where success breeds further motivation.
  • Addressing fear and anxiety: Hypnotherapy can help reprogram the brain’s response to fear and anxiety. By accessing the subconscious mind, SFH can reduce the amygdala’s, or primitive brain’s, fear response, making it easier to tackle tasks without being held back by fear of failure. This can be especially beneficial for those with deeply ingrained fears or anxieties linked to their tasks.
  • Building self-efficacy: SFH focuses on identifying and amplifying strengths and past successes. This builds self-efficacy, the belief in one’s ability to succeed, which is crucial for overcoming procrastination. By reinforcing a positive self-image, hypnotherapy helps individuals feel more capable and willing to take on new challenges.

Procrastination is a common challenge rooted in the brain’s complex interplay of cognitive and emotional processes. Understanding the neuroscience behind procrastination can shed light on why we delay tasks and how we can address this behaviour.

Solution-focused hypnotherapy offers a powerful tool to combat procrastination by enhancing motivation, reducing overwhelm, and addressing underlying fears. By leveraging the brain’s natural ability to adapt and change, SFH can help individuals overcome procrastination and achieve goals with confidence.

Imagine a life free from the constant procrastination and the stress it brings!

What would your days look like if you didn't have to worry about last-minute rushes or missed deadlines? How would this change your life?

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX25
Written by Andrew Selway-Woolley, BSc (Hons), HPD, NCH, AfSFH, CNHC - Bicester Hypnotherapist
Bicester, Oxfordshire, OX25

Andy Selway-Woolley is an Oxfordshire based (& online), Clinical Solution Focused Hypnotherapist.

I assist people regain control of their life and improve their mental health, by retraining their brain to overcome limiting negative thought patterns, master their emotions for a more positive, happier and fulfilling life. Book a FREE Consultation.

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