I'm very excited to be joining the Yurt Academy in Brighton this week, delivering a couple of sessions on the Brain, and Positive Psychology. The Yurt Academy is all about flexible, face to face, bite-size learning - on a range of topics from the practical to the personal. You can 'learn anything and learn together' and you can also learn from some smart people ... er... that'd be me, apparently :)
I'm delighted to be invited. A poet (now you know it). And you can find out more, book a seat, or express your demand for more courses here:
Here's a free relaxation audio session. You can listen to it any time of day, you just need 5 minutes and somewhere to sit or lie down where you probably won't be disturbed.
There'll be more to come - sign up to our mailing list if you haven't already and we'll be sure to let you know.
Please feel free to share this link with anyone else you think will enjoy being in touch, and let us know any comments below.
Anyone who read my blog last year about Sandy who lost 22 lbs in 11 weeks (through self-acceptance and love, not will-power) will be pleased to hear she has achieved her goal of losing 60 lbs. She has now achieved her target weight and she is for the first time back to the weight she was before surgery and events changed her life 10 years ago. Bearing in mind that her surgery involved having part of her brain removed, this is a remarkable achievement. Congratulations Sandy.
At a more detailed level, this is a triumph of neuro-plasticity. The human brain is a master of regeneration and repair. And it rebuilds itself - physically! - based on what we focus our attention on. So the choices we make are important. Sandy chose this year to accept that she was worth looking after. She focused on herself, and her value. She decided to love and accept herself.
Sandy's story is proof that self-acceptance and love can be way more powerful than will-power. Emile Coue was a brilliant French chemist and pharmacist, but is most famous for his realising that "imagination is more powerful than the will".
What is life like when you love yourself? What do you imagine is possible?
To mark World Mental Health Day this coming Tuesday (10th October), Newquay Hypnotherapy will be holding a special Tea and Talk event at the Atlantic Hotel in Newquay from 9am-5pm.
The idea is to get together for - as the title suggests - a cup of tea and a talk with the aim to do nothing more than listen and be listened to - building and strengthen relationships with your fellow tea drinkers. Such a simple act can go a long way to boosting mental health. In the process, people are invited to make a donation to the Mental Health Foundation, which is encouraging groups to hold similar events across the country.
If you would like to be listened to - all you have to do is show up. If you are volunteering to be a listener click here to register, entering your name and time/s when you'll be there.
This week only (9th-13th October 2017) to celebrate #worldmentalhealthday we are offering 50% OFF INITIAL CONSULTATIONS if booked in this week. This means a saving of £35 and also includes a free full-length audio session. Contact us this week to book in (the session itself doesn't need to be this week). #WMHDay17
The late summer has brought with it a determination amongst many people to overcome their phobias, particularly ones which limit their enjoyment of the outdoors. The good news is that many people can and do get over even quite severe, long-standing phobias, often surprisingly quickly.
Surprising numbers of children and adults have a fear of dogs for example, and these can range from inconvenient to extremely unpleasant. Various polls suggest that a quarter of people with an animal phobia are cynophobes – they are afraid of dogs - and while more people overall are afraid of spiders or snakes, cynophobes are likely to experience their phobias more often, simply because there are so many dogs around.
Working with organisations such as www.dogfriendlycornwall.co.uk we are exploring ways to ensure that Cornwall gets even friendlier not only for dogs and their owners but for non-owners and cynophobes as well. This should be a win-win-win. There's no reason why all of these groups cannot peacefully and happily co-exist, even flourish. The net gains for mental and physical wellbeing all round could be huge.
A phobia is defined as an excessive fear, often recognised as unreasonable or irrational, which leads to avoidance and anxiety and interferes significantly with someone’s life. These fears can be learned from direct experience, observation or from 3rd-hand information or attitudes. It’s theorised that they can also be inherited, perhaps as genetic modifications from previous generations. Or they can be seen as a sort of evolutionary remnant - a brain function which may have made more sense in earlier, more dangerous times but which has not yet evolved away.
When undergoing treatment for a phobia it doesn’t seem to matter much where they come from. Most successful treatment methods focus on visualisation and positive outcomes rather than examining any cause. People can and do recover from even the most severe and long-standing phobias, often quite quickly. Some treatments, including hypnotherapy, use techniques which relax the ‘fight-flight’ part of our mind, allowing it to learn more appropriate responses, while strengthening and activating the more rational, sensible parts of the subconscious mind. This is a nice way to overcome a phobia, because it doesn’t require exposure.
At the Newquay Hypnotherapy practice we see a lot of people, including children, with dog, spider and other phobias. A few lessons emerge which might be helpful for parents. 1) Trying to rationally talk someone out of a phobia doesn't work - they've definitely tried that. 2) Deliberate exposure risks making it worse. 3) More helpful strategies include: acknowledge the fear, give reassurance and try to use sensible, realistic language when talking about dogs. Maybe tell positive stories involving dogs.
Parents also report spin-off benefits from helping their children. Using positive modelling (showing good examples of response and behaviour) seems to help enormously, and not only for the people being 'modelled' to. One mother recently reported "After modelling good responses for my daughter I found my own fear completely disappearing - now I'm totally fine with spiders."
Changing our perspective can also help. It’s worth remembering that dogs can be anxious too, and a small child at the same eye-height might be quite scary to a dog. Renee Payne, co-author of Be a Dog's Best Friend points out that kids under the age of 5 or 6 tend to “do all the things dogs think are impolite. Like standing still and staring." Maybe we should think about improving our manners! Similarly, it's worth remembering that dog owners may be quite unaware of how frightening some people may find their dogs.
I believe many answers to blossoming human-dog friendships can be found in changing the way we think. Some professionals who work with dogs find that people seem to relate better to the dogs when they are dressed up – even just with a bandana. Perhaps we’ll be seeing more colourful collars, coats and costumes on the dogs of Cornwall. For the time being, we can at least imagine this, and smile - which itself might help.
I have just been awarded another qualification by the National Council of Hypnotherapy, in recognition of some extensive case studies as well as a bunch of reading, writing and supervision over the past year. I've learned for example how neuroscience can now explain why, when it comes to achieving what we want, imagination is more powerful than than the will. A bit like an amazing cocktail's better than a tequila shot - it's more enigmatic, evocative, interesting, and it's still there five minutes later.
On a more historical note, did you know that hypnotherapy originated in surgery? In the days just before anaesthetics came about, a Scottish doctor named James Esdaile noticed that people manage pain and recover much better and faster (and indeed survive more often) if they are helped to relax beforehand. That was in the 1840s! In the same era another Scottish surgeon, James Braid coined the term ‘hypnosis’ and for the first time placed it’s causes in the brain and psychology, as opposed to the more mysterious or external forces referred to by others before him. To this day we're understanding more and more about pain, how it happens in the brain as much as the body, and how we can manage it using mental techniques. Given the massive prevalence of pain - amongst the well as well as the unwell - and a wide-spread reliance on opioid painkillers, which have been shown to be often much less effective than we give them credit for, there is so much potential here.
It has been a demanding process wading through texts, discussing at length with tutors and colleagues and deepening my understanding of these great minds from the past. Achieving it is a significant step towards helping us move another step closer to being the best we can be.
Reflecting on the past and imagining the future helps get the most from the present.
A mathematician recently noted that if you take 6 standard lego blocks there are 915 million ways of putting them together. And hence I suppose the choice: follow the instructions, or go solo - either way you're bound to come up with something fun! Applying this to our lives, we can all no doubt remember times when things just seemed to fall into place ... when out of the hundreds of millions of possible answers we just seemed to arrive at the right one ... right?
One way to achieve more is to USE the lego sets in our brains. There are three things we can do to make the most of the absurd collection of multicolour blocks in our heads:
1. Understand it
2. See ourselves using it, and
3. Enjoy the journey!
It is useful to understand that the brain is a bunch of lego blocks. There are 100 billion of them and each one has thousands of connectors (known as axons and dendrites) so the possibilities are effectively endless.
This is why we need focus. When we see ourselves doing or achieving the things we want, we are setting out specific and unambiguous instructions to the subconscious brain which acts like a perfect team saying "Ok boss, leave it to us. We'll get it done" and we are sometimes surprised at how quickly the team delivers. Lego the company very nearly went bust in the 1990's, losing focus and control of everything from theme parks to the colours of its blocks. A new CEO saw the future quite differently (simple colours, social input into design, girls as customers). It's now the No.1 toy company in the world.
Finally, it's when we enjoy ourselves that we are most effective and our visions most likely to come to reality. Enjoyment is essentially evolutionary encouragement. Positive activity, interaction and thought are enjoyable precisely because they produce chemical responses in our minds which encourage more of the same - and that's good for our survival. Perhaps the little people with removable hair and hooks for hands (who now outnumber humans in the world by the way!) are onto something - thanks to them there is now even a Professor of Play at Cambridge University.
We all have lots of lego in our heads - let's USE it!
As we head towards Summer our work-loads might increase as we prepare to head off for a well-earned break. If you find yourself working longer hours or feeling you are on an endless treadmill, you could look to ways of helping you feel calmer, brighter and happier, even before you get to your holiday.
As a solution focused hypnotherapist and member of the Cornish business community one of the most common areas that people come to see me about is anxiety, and in particular stress at work. Workplace stress can manifest itself in a variety of different ways – not just in the office but also at home and socially. People who struggle with stress in the office may find themselves angrier than they'd like, struggling with sleep patterns, perhaps becoming more insular, or restricted in their thinking.
There are parts of our brains that are very adept at dealing with perceived threats. We have evolved to be quite sensitive to danger, and our reactions to stress are an evolutionary coping mechanism - they are there to help us survive. Sometimes this a very good thing - we are generally quite good risk managers. Sometimes however these responses become disproportionate and can be unhelpful in our day to day lives.
Disproportionate stress is caused by negative thinking. Every negative thought we have ends up in what I call a “stress bucket.” As the levels in the bucket increase so our primitive responses work harder. They are just trying to help but they can become less and less appropriate and actually make things worse until eventually we find ourselves struggling to keep on top of things.
Fortunately it’s not the events in our lives which end up in the stress bucket. It is our thinking in response to those events - and this is good news because this is something thing we can do something about. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy helps people focus their thought energy on things they want, more than what they don't want. This helps to empty the stress bucket and get us back in control.
A key part of Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is the safe use of a trance state, which is a natural way to reduce stress so that after a number of sessions people can start to feel better able to cope with life. And trance is natural - we do it all the time - out for a stroll, walking the dog, driving, listening to music, having a great conversation. Even complex work tasks can induce a positive state of trance.
If we can combine little bits of positive thinking with regular spells of relaxation - however brief - it makes for a powerful combination which engages the positive, subconscious parts of our brain. This helps to improve creative thinking, decision-making, productivity and confidence - without us really having to try. This helps us get the most out of our work, but also make the most of our time off.
Yesterday I uncovered a 190 million year-old fossil - a priceless ammonite which hadn’t seen the light of day since Jurassic times. Now that doesn’t happen every day. Although it turns out, it quite easily could. A section of the Dorset coastline is littered with these ancient, spirally molluscs. How can it be that things that seem so distant and rare turn out to be so close and so everyday? And you can pretty much go down to the beach and pick them up.
I had been returning from my father’s 80th birthday. Driving along, I found myself reflecting again on time. So much happens, and so much stays the same. Old is the new young, according to one of his birthday cards - and once we’re 40… 50… 60... 80 ... we seem to be surprised by the numbers. How did that happen?! "I don’t feel any different." How fortunate we are, I suppose, if that is the case.
Anyway, zooming alone the high road through southern Dorset I found myself taking a turn-off onto the Jurassic coast. Ancient mud cliffs with ‘cement layers’ spill onto the beach, and small piles of broken up stone litter the sand where countless groups of fossil hunters have sat and smashed away with innumerable little hammers. There is a ‘code’ which suggests people stick to the beach and don’t take rocks from the cliffs, and there are plenty of loose rocks to pick from. It took me a while to get my eye in - lots of picking up and examining ... no sign of any ancient life. Then a lone fella who was leaving the beach gave me his hammer and chisel - he too was transient, passing by only for an hour or so on his way to a remote contract the next morning. He had bought his tools at the local cafe for a few quid. He had in his pocket a couple of shiny ammonites, a dinosaur turd (he reckoned) and a bullet-shaped belemnite. Neither of us had a clue what we were doing.
Then, as is so often the way with these things, bounty appeared. As soon as I felt like I wasn’t really trying any more, I was picking up bits of rock left by other smashers, and on each one was the clear imprint of several spiralling shells. Ancient beings. Tapping one fist-sized fragment of rock with my hammer, it gently split open, revealing a fresh specimen. This ammonite - long dead, but something of its spirit remaining, had been quietly sitting in that rock, in that mud, there, for … 190 million years. Now it was visible, in the fresh air, being observed by live eyes - available to another consciousness, for perhaps the first time ever.
It led me to wonder - what rich experiences lie just beside the paths of our lives, containing the wisdom of the eons. And how much can we enjoy if we can create just a little time - to follow our noses and our imagination. Where else might this curiosity lead?
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