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.

(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.

(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)

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

(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