Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Reducing Christmas Stress with Hypnotherapy

As the winter holiday season approaches, I thought it might be a good time to highlight how hypnotherapy can help those who might be anticipating a less than happy Christmas or holiday season.

Depression and anxiety are on the increase in the UK, with more than 12 million people going to see their GP with some form of mental health issue each year- and many more struggling on without any form of help. For some people, the festive season exacerbates their existing symptoms, and for others, depression and anxiety are quite specific to this time of year, approaching it with dread rather than excitement. When everyone else seems to be getting ready for a merry time with their loved ones, for some people this time of year only worsens their feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness, and for others, the struggle to cope with the pressures associated with having a great time, managing finances, family and all of the associated stressors creates a tremendous feeling of anxiety.

What sorts of things cause this “Holiday Stress”? Well, it depends - these feelings are all individual, and of course what makes one person sad, anxious or depressed may not affect another person at all.

Typical sources of holiday stress can include trying to balance all the demands of family with shopping and the social engagements, unrealistic expectations, financial worries and sometimes bereavement - this can be a very difficult time of year. Sometimes the pressure of being with people (often family) that you would not choose to be with can lead to relationship tension. There’s been a lot of talk in recent times of environmental factors too and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

So it’s not a great time for those who feel depressed or anxious. Symptoms can range from increased headaches, excessive drinking, comfort eating, insomnia, trouble concentrating, to mood swings, fatigue, tearfulness – while everyone around seems so happy. So what can be done to help?

Hypnotherapy can help by overcoming negative thinking styles. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH) uses practical, modern and well-researched strategies to help make significant, positive changes in your life in a relatively short period of time. We focus on what you want to achieve rather than on the problem(s) that prompted you to seek change. The approach focuses on the present and future and not on the past. This enables you to identify possible solutions for yourself and work towards them. Hypnosis itself reduces anxiety and this is done very simply through relaxation and visualisation, allowing you to focus on the positive aspects of your life that encourages a shift in perspective.

I am enthusiastic about how hypnotherapy helps clients at this time of year. I have been able to help many people to deal with holiday sadness, depression and anxiety. It is such a powerful and truly positive technique as I am able to work with what the client wants to happen rather than focus on negatives. It’s great to know that I can work with people to proactively help them have a happier festive period.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Stop Smoking with Hypnotherapy in Stoptober

The government have launched a campaign called Stoptober, which runs throughout October 2012, urging smokers across England to stop smoking for 28 days.

Research has shown that people who manage to stop smoking for that length of time are five times more likely not to start again.

Research has also shown that when you give up smoking at the same time as a loved one: a friend, a spouse, a sibling; then there is a greater chance that you will give up with ease and stay smoke free.

So why not take part in Stoptober this year and give up smoking for good!

Hypnosis is the most effective way of giving up smoking, according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit.(1) The research, carried out at the University of Iowa, was a meta-analysis which combined the results of more than 600 studies, with a total of nearly 72,000 people. The results included 48 studies of hypnosis covering 6000 smokers, and was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study clearly showed that people were six times more likely to quit smoking with a single session of hypnotherapy and remain non-smokers over 12 months after the session, compared to those who used nicotine replacement therapy.

A typical hypnotherapy session for smoking cessation lasts between 90 minutes and 2 hours. During this time a consultation is carried out detailing your smoking and general lifestyle habits. How we create anxiety and stress will also be covered as well as a recap on the dangers of smoking and the health improvements which you will benefit from once you've stopped smoking. The consultation is followed by hypnosis which will firstly get you in a nice relaxed state using guided visualisation, metaphors and stories followed by clear language about stopping smoking which will help you kick the habit for good. It is possible for you to stop smoking in just one hypnotherapy session.

Clinical Hypnotherapist Sarah Mortimer, is offering a reduction of the cost of Smoking Cessation Hypnotherapy sessions during the Stoptober campaign.

Save £20 - Only £100 for an individual stop smoking hypnotherapy session during October 2012.

You can save even more by booking at the same time as a loved one - Save £50 - Only £190 during Stoptober. Bookings must be made at the same time and paid for together. Sessions are on an individual basis.

For more details on how hypnotherapy can help you give up smoking

More information on Stoptober

Reference:
(1) Schmidt, F.L. & Viswesvaran, C. (1992). A Meta-Analytic Comparison of the Effectiveness of Smoking-Cessation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77 (4), 554-561

Monday, 25 June 2012

Guided Visualisation Helps Reduce Nightmares

As children, we all probably experienced what we would call nightmares at some point, perhaps about the boogie man or some other monster that lived under our bed or in the closet.

When I was a child, I often had bad dreams and I found myself in bed at night repeating to myself in my head the mantra “I’m going to have a dream”. Now as a qualified hypnotherapist, I can see that what I was doing was very solution focused and I was in fact performing self-hypnosis! By focusing on what I wanted, rather than what I didn’t want, meant that I didn’t get anxious about going to bed and having bad dreams and so found it easier to get off to sleep, but it also seemed to reduce the frequency of them.

Now these nightmares that we experience as children are different to those experienced by someone who has been through a trauma such as war veterans or rape victims, but either way the same techniques can be used to help change how these bad dreams affect us in our waking life and also reduce the severity and frequency of them.

We make use of the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage of sleep, where we commonly have dreams and/or nightmares, to process our day and other unresolved issues. "We take our problems to sleep and we work through them during the night," says Rosalind Cartwright, Professor of Neuroscience at Rush University Medical Center. Our worries and concerns are processed and moved from the primitive part of the brain, where they are an emotional memory, to the intellectual part of the brain where they become a narrative memory. What this means is that the emotion has been stripped from the memory and you have a better control over it – you can think about it when you want to rather than it randomly popping up in your head when you don’t want it to. You can still recall that it wasn’t a pleasant experience but it no longer triggers the same emotional response as it once did and you are able to rationalise what happened. But nightmares interrupt this process. Often, nightmares will wake us up before the emotion or issue is resolved, so it remains in the primitive part of the brain and causes the nightmare to repeat again in the future, which may explain why we have recurring dreams.

When we have a high level of stress hormones in the brain, the hippocampus, which is responsible for memories among other things, cannot perform its job as well as it should and cannot process the memories and unresolved issues effectively, causing nightmares and also flashbacks in those who have suffered a trauma. Because these memories and other issues have not been processed properly, they do not go away and continue to be a source of anxiety and stress. Guided visualisation not only helps to reframe these nightmares and flashbacks but helps to reduce your anxiety and stress levels and gets the brain producing serotonin more effectively boosting your mood. Once your anxiety and stress levels have been reduced, the brain can start to process the memories and the flashbacks and nightmares will disappear.

Dr Shelby Freedman Harris, director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program at Montefiore Medical Center uses guided visualisation with her patients to assist with their debilitating nightmares. Patients use guided visualisation to transform their nightmare into a more positive context and have it become a different dream. By training the mind during the day using guided visualisation, the nightmare becomes less debilitating for them. One of Dr. Harris’ patients had recurring nightmares of being surrounded by sharks and she reframed the nightmare by imagining they were dolphins instead. Another patient who had nightmares of being chased reframed the pursuer into chocolate and ate him. The latter example just shows that what you visualise doesn’t have to be in the realms of reality – be creative; making it as entertaining and funny as you like.

We can often feel out of control when suffering from regular nightmares, but using this technique helps give you control over your nightmares rather than them having control over you.

A similar guided visualisation was used in a study of 168 women who had been the victims of rape and were experiencing recurring nightmares.(1) The study showed that the women who had used guided visualisation, or Imagery-Rehearsal Therapy (IMR), to reframe their nightmares, had fewer nightmares and of less intensity compared to the control group. The study concluded that “Imagery Rehearsal Therapy is a brief, well-tolerated treatment that appears to decrease chronic nightmares, improve sleep quality, and decrease PTSD symptom severity.”

Guided Visualisation has also been successfully used with children with night terrors and war veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, to help reduce nightmares.

I use guided visualisation with my hypnotherapy clients to reduce their stress and anxiety levels, help them to focus on how they want things to be, and help put them back in control of their thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

REM sleep, the stage of sleep in which we commonly dream, has been found to help ease painful memories and you can read more about this in a previous blog post – REM Sleep Helps Process Negative Thoughts and Memories

Find out more about how hypnotherapy can help Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

References:
(1) Krakow B, Hollifield M, Johnston L, et al. Imagery rehearsal therapy for chronic nightmares in sexual assault survivors with posttraumatic stress disorder a randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2001;286(5):537-545.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Overcome Your Fear of Needles on World Blood Donor Day

World Blood Donor Day is being marked today, 14th June 2012. The theme of this year’s campaign, “Every blood donor is a hero” focuses on the idea that every one of us can become a hero by giving blood.

Unfortunately, fear can stop us being the hero that we want to be. Phobia of needles, blood and all things medical is more common than you think and these phobias can have a big impact on our lives.

Now I know giving blood is voluntary so for those with a fear of needles, they simply avoid the process. However at some point in our lives we will need necessary medical intervention such as blood tests and vaccinations which we can’t “opt out” of. Again, some people may avoid these essential procedures because of their fears, putting themselves at risk of ill health, while others go ahead with it although feeling very scared and anxious. But there is another option - Ditch the fear!

Our brain has the ability to learn when new things are dangerous. Unfortunately, our brain can sometimes learn that some things are dangerous to us when they are not. The good news is that in addition to being able to learn that something is dangerous, we can also unlearn it, which is where hypnotherapy comes in.

Hypnotherapy first off works to reduce general anxiety levels in a person. When we feel more stressed and anxious, our fears are heightened so this reduction of general anxiety is necessary to help get rid of the phobia for good. Hypnotherapy then addresses the current templates that are stored on how to react to needles, blood or whatever the phobia is. Our brain will always refer to previous patterns of behaviour in any given situation. So for example, if you reacted to a blood test in an anxious way last time you had one, then your brain will encourage you to do the same again. With hypnosis, we create a new template for your brain to refer back to which is much more helpful to you, allowing you to deal with the situation calmly. You’re never going to “love” needles or blood – that isn’t the point; but you will be able to be in control of the situation and feel calm and relaxed.

Find out more information on how hypnotherapy can help you overcome phobias and fears.

Read about how I overcome my phobia of needles, allowing me to give blood.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Stop Smoking with Hypnotherapy on World No Tobacco Day

On 31st May every year, the world observes World No Tobacco Day which is promoted by the World Health Organization. The objective of observing World No Tobacco Day is to reduce tobacco consumption which can lead to deadly diseases like cancer and early death.

If you are thinking about quitting smoking, then the World No Tobacco day 2012 is a great time to break the chain and get healthy.

There are many ways of stopping smoking; you only have to watch the adverts on the TV to see all the different patches, gum, and inhalers available which help to curb the cravings when giving up smoking. However, this only addresses the physical nature of the addiction. Researchers have shown that 90% of the addiction to smoking is psychological and so it is important to address this aspect to ensure you give up for good. This is why Hypnotherapy can be so effective at helping you quit smoking.

The habit of smoking is a subconscious response and many people find it a difficult habit to kick. You may consciously want to give up smoking but unless your subconscious mind is onboard then this is unlikely to happen. This is where Hypnotherapy comes in!

During hypnosis, your subconscious listens to and takes onboard the suggestions being made about giving up the smoking habit, the dangers of smoking, and how much better your life and health will be once you give up. Once your subconscious is aware of what you want at a conscious level it goes "all in" helping you to achieve your goal of quitting smoking. Hypnosis also helps to break the associations that you may have with smoking, such as having a cigarette with a cup of coffee, after a meal, with a pint etc, as well as helping to reduce your stress and anxiety levels which can often be a trigger for lighting up a cigarette!

Hypnosis is the most effective way of giving up smoking, according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit.(1) The research, carried out at the University of Iowa, was a meta-analysis which combined the results of more than 600 studies, with a total of nearly 72,000 people. The results included 48 studies of hypnosis covering 6000 smokers, and was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The study clearly showed that people were six times more likely to quit smoking with a single session of hypnotherapy and remain non-smokers over 12 months after the session, compared to those who used nicotine replacement therapy.

"Your desire to change must be greater than your desire to stay the same!"

It is worth bearing in mind though that your subsconscious cannot be told to do something it doesn't want to do, so it's important that you do REALLY want to give up when you seek hypnotherapy for stopping smoking.

A typical hypnotherapy session for smoking cessation lasts between 90 minutes and 2 hours. During this time a consultation is carried out detailing your smoking and general lifestyle habits. How we create anxiety and stress will also be covered as well as a recap on the dangers of smoking and the health improvements which you will benefit from once you've stopped smoking. The consultation is followed by hypnosis which will firstly get you in a nice relaxed state using guided visualisation, metaphors and stories followed by clear language about stopping smoking which will help you kick the habit for good. It is possible for you to stop smoking in just one hypnotherapy session.

Reference:
(1) Schmidt, F.L. & Viswesvaran, C. (1992). A Meta-Analytic Comparison of the Effectiveness of Smoking-Cessation. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77 (4), 554-561.

Find out more about Hypnotherapy for Stopping Smoking

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Creating a Pathway for Positive Thinking

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference." - Robert Frost

Throughout our lifetimes, there are bound to be times when we have negative thoughts. It's quite normal and in fact our brain is setup to think this way for our self preservation. Back in cave man times, if we had encountered a sabre tooth tiger we wouldn't have thought "It's probably eaten, I'll just carry on collecting these berries"; we would have quite rightly thought "It's going to eat me; Run!". So when we are faced with a dangerous situation, or a situation which our brain perceives to be a danger to us, it will always see things from the worst possible perspective in order to keep us alive.

Unfortunately, when we suffer with stress and anxiety, our brain can think we are constantly in danger and as a result encourages us to think in that same negative way. The more we think in a negative way, the more our brain encourages us to continue that line of thought and we then become trapped in a cycle of negative thinking.

In order to break this cycle, we need to train our minds to think in a more positive way! You may well ask "how do you train your mind to think in a positive manner?"

Well, I like to think of our mind as if it were a field in the countryside. When I was a child, there were fields and woods near my house. My family would often go over their in the summertime for walks. Generally, we would follow the paths which had been worn down and made by others who had walked there. These paths were easy to follow because the ground was even and there was more space to walk, but they weren't always the quickest or most interesting routes to take. The overgrown path, or even where there was no path at all, was very difficult to navigate and although they might be more interesting and quicker to take, we very rarely did; we just stuck to the paths that we had taken many times before - the paths that we were used to!

On occassions, I would tackle my way through one of these overgrown paths through the fields and woods only to come out the otherside covered in scrapes, bruises, and nettle stings for my efforts. This often deterred me from doing it again! Now if I had carried on walking that overgrown, more difficult path, it would soon have become easier to walk along: the path would have become worn down, flatter and wider and I would have got less and less minor injuries each time. Until one day, it would have become a solid path; THE path to take, and the other, less efficient path would no longer be needed and would start to become overgrown, until eventually nobody would have even known there had been one there.

Our minds are very much like that field. Over time, the paths through the field that we walk down the most often become the ones that we are most prone to take. We are creatures of habit and our mind soon learns to take the paths which are most often used. In effect, we are choosing a well worn path in our brains. Our brains learn that this is the right path, whether or not it is the best path to take. This is how habits are formed, whether they are negative ones such as negative thinking, smoking, biting our nails, or comfort eating; or positive ones such as positive thinking, exercise, healthy eating, or relaxation.

We need to show our brains that the right path to take is that of positie thinking and the way we do this is by consciously starting to think positively. To start with this can be difficult and those negative thoughts, niggles and worries will often crop up still. But the more we consciously think positively, being aware of our thought processes and changing our line of thought when those negative thoughts do crop up, our brain realises that this is the right path to take until thinking positively becomes easy, more natural, and becomes a part of who we are. Positive thinking can become a habit for you!

We only form a new path by walking down it frequently - So best get walking!

Friday, 18 May 2012

Three Good Things About Your Day

This is a great little exercise which I give to my hypnotherapy clients to do between sessions.

Every night, perhaps at the end of your working day or before you go to bed, reflect over your day. But DON’T dwell on the negatives! We’re only interested in the positives in this exercise!

This simple exercise can be broken down in to three steps as follows:

1. Think of three things that went well for you during the day. On some days, it may be more difficult to find three positive things that have happened but on these days it is especially important to do the exercise – you just might have to think outside the box a little more to come up with your three things – they can be big or small and THERE IS NO WRONG ANSWER!

2. Write them down. This is important as it helps you to focus on the events and also gives you something to refer back to, to see how good your week has been on the whole.

3. For each good thing, reflect on what part you played at making this good thing happen. This is another important part of the exercise as it contributes to your sense of perceived control and helps to boost your self-esteem and self-belief. Your role in some of these events may not always seem obvious to you, for example if your good thing was that the sunset was amazing today, you might think "what did you have to do with it?" Well, you noticed that it was a nice sunset so write that down!

This exercise is a positive psychology technique which has been tested by researchers, showing substantial results (1). This study showed increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms for up to six months in their participants. This does not mean that after six months the effects had worn off but simply that the participants were not followed beyond this point.

This increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms comes about because this technique trains your brain to think in a more positive way and gives you more perspective, helping to change those thought processes for good – so that you become a more naturally positive person.

References:
(1) Positive Psychology Progress: Empirical Validation of Interventions, Seligman ME, Steen TA, Park N, Peterson C. American Psychologist. 2005 Jul-Aug ;60(5):410-21.

Friday, 11 May 2012

2011 in Books

I know this is a little late in the year to be writing about the previous year, but then I thought; It's never too late!

I regularly read magazines, journals, books and websites relating to hypnotherapy, mental health and neuroscience. This helps to enhance my skills and knowledge in hypnotherapy, broadens my knowledge of mental health as a whole, and keeps me in touch with current practices.

Below is a list of books that I read and found helpful in 2011.

Hypnotherapy Books:
Solution Focused Books:
Books About the Brain:
Weight Management Books:
Books on Other Specific Issues:
Other Books:
I also read the quarterly journals from the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) and the AfSFH's Journal Hypnotherapy Today.

I found all of these very helpful and have incorporated many techniques and ideas I learnt from the books in to my hypnotherapy sessions and consultation process.

I like to read books on common conditions such as the self harm book listed above so that I can fully understand these issues which clients may come to see me for.

I don’t think I have a favourite book from 2011; they were all enjoyable and helpful in different ways. Lets hope the books I read this year are as good as these were.

I did buy several other books last year that I didn't get round to reading so they've been added to my 2012 "to read" list and you'll be able to find out which ones they were when I write my "2012 in Books" blog post next year!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Combat Stress; Think Happy Thoughts!

As Mental Health Awareness Week is approaching at the end of the month (21 - 28 May 2012), I thought I would write a post to highlight how hypnotherapy can help you cope with stress by generating positive images of the future.

A recent survey shows that 3 million people in the UK suffer with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that recent research into the relationship between what we think and how we feel could help you think yourself happier.

It seems that worrying thoughts and imagining unpleasant situations can produce physical stress in the body. A study in 2007 found that performing guided imagery of moderately unpleasant situations results in physical responses such as accelerated heart rate, faster breathing and sweating.(1) It seems that imagining unpleasant events can activate the brain’s fear network and result in an activation of the sympathetic nervous system.(2)

I often tell my clients about the fact that our subconscious mind is unable to tell the difference between imagination and reality and this research confirms it; if we ever needed proof that worrying is not good for us, well here it is! Just by imagining these unpleasant situations, it triggers the "fight or flight" response as if it were actually happening to you at that precise moment, resulting in all those unpleasant physical sensations which are associated with anxiety.

The good news is that the converse also seems to be true; imagining positive events can make us feel better. A large part of my role as a hypnotherapist is helping clients imagine their preferred future, how they want things to be rather than how they don't want them to be, which as well as helping them feel happier, also enables them to make the changes necessary to make that future become a reality.

The validity of this approach would seem to be supported by research which demonstrates that the benefit of generating images about positive future outcomes may not be limited to mood but extend to subsequent behaviour.(3)

I use Solution Focused techniques in combination with hypnotherapy to help my clients replace unhelpful, negative thinking patterns with more beneficial thought processes. By thinking more positively, their anxiety levels reduce enabling them to cope better with life’s challenges.

So there you have it! To combat stress; think happy thoughts!

For more information on Hypnotherapy in Bristol

References:
(1) Sebastiani L, D’Alessandro L, Menicucci D, Ghelarducci B & Santarcangelo E L (2007), Role of relaxation and specific suggestions in hypnotic emotional numbing, International journal of psychophysiology, Vol.63 pp.125-132
(2) Kosslyn S M, Ganis G & Thompson W L (2001), Neural foundations of imagery, Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, Vol.2 pp.635-642
(3) Pictet A, Coughtrey A E, Matthews A, Holmes E A (2011), Fishing for happiness: The effects of generating positive imagery on mood and behaviour, Behaviour research and therapy, Vol.49 issue 12 pp.885-891

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

NEW Relaxation CD Available

It's been a long time in the making but my new Relaxation CD is finally ready!

Relaxation CDs play an important part in the work I do with my hypnotherapy clients.
At the initial consultation, I always give my clients a free CD to take away with them to listen to, every day in between sessions, to reinforce the work we do during the appointments.

My clients have mentioned how useful the CD is, especially as they have it to listen to even after they've stopped coming to see me for hypnotherapy.

Over the last year, many of my clients have asked if I have another CD they can purchase for a bit of variety and so after having to say "No" on many occasions, I thought I would bite the bullet and get a new one produced!

At the end of February, I recorded my second relaxation / self-hypnosis CD with Darkhouse Multimedia in Bristol, who also produced the artwork for the CD and cover. I decided that I wanted to focus on a CD specifically to help with relaxation and positive thinking, which I feel this new CD does wonderfully.

This 30 minute relaxation CD uses guided imagery, stories, metaphors and suggestions to help promote positive thinking. It is designed to put you in control of your thoughts and feelings, helps you focus on what you want from life, and promotes confidence and a positive attitude.

You can purchase my NEW Relaxation CD for just £7.99 including P&P on my website.