I did a live radio interview about hypnotherapy on Radio Sydenham today, a great little community station operating from the depths of Sydenham Library. I did some myth-busting about hypnotherapy, and talked about the process and the benefits. You can hear the interview in full here (I’m on at the start of the show, for about 15 minutes).
How can hypnotherapy help with arguably one of the greatest challenges facing us as a society in modern times?
It’s important first of all to put in perspective – some stress can be good in terms of a motivating factor. It can help us overcome challenges, keeping us on our toes and ensuring that we meet our responsibilities. After all, it serves an evolutionary purpose – the fight/flight mechanism helped our ancestors survive when encountering predators. However, our brain has not evolved nearly as fast as our way of living has, meaning that the same response is triggered in response to a traffic jam as to a sabre-toothed tiger! So we need to learn ways of managing this.
Breathing techniques are the most immediate tools to learn, enabling us to activate the body’s parasympathetic nervous system – the body’s natural calming down mechanism. We can also practise self-hypnosis. This is important for several reasons – not only does it make us make time to relax, but the more the mind and body get to practise relaxation, the better they get at it. Our neural networks work in much the same way as our physical bodies do – they automatically take the most familiar route, so let’s make it a good one!
It’s also important to identify any fundamental human needs that may be being neglected – obvious ones like sleep, nutrition, and exercise to socialising and play (yes, play!) As stress tends to come from different directions it’s not always easy to identify a single cause, but this process can still help people take a step back and look at their life in a fresh perspective.
Hypnotherapy can also help people return to the source of their stress, as it often originates from an early age. Trying to meet the expectations of parents and other significant people in a person’s childhood is a common cause – and these stress responses have magnified in later life with an increase in responsibilities. Breaking patterns formed in childhood can, however, improve how a person responds to stress in the here and now.
Hypnotherapy is deeply relaxing in itself – some people say afterwards it is the most relaxed they have ever felt in their lives. As the festive season approaches, it may well be the perfect time to see just how much ease and calmness it can bring.
Stoptober runs each October, encouraging participants to stop smoking. The premise is based on evidence showing that after 28 days without a cigarette, smokers are up to five times more likely to give up smoking for good. With this growing campaign providing external support, now is the perfect time to take the plunge and explore how hypnotherapy can help.
A successful smoking cessation programme must tackle not only the obvious elements such as busting cravings and adopting new healthier habits, but potentially more tricky areas – such as those relating to triggers like stress, or taking a break at work. Smoking can also be perceived as part of a person’s identity, and this may require some gentle disentangling.
Smoking is not a nicotine addiction, it is a habit – hence why nicotine patches and nicotine gum are successful in less than 10% of those who use them. Once a person stops seeing themselves as a slave to addiction, they are more likely to be able to come up with positive solutions and ways they can help themselves effectively break free of this habit. This can be one of the most transformative moments in a hypnotherapy session as the former smoker starts to realise their own empowerment, breaking free of both the conscious and unconscious ties that bound them to cigarettes.
Many smokers worry that they will put on weight by replacing the smoking habit with eating, so it is important to ensure that such concerns are addressed and dealt with. Replacement behaviours can be safely tested and reinforced as part of a hypnotherapy session, reassuring the former smoker that they really have quit the habit for good.
Smokers are rarely short of reasons why they want to give up the cigs, and a qualified hypnotherapist will reinforce these incentives whilst giving them hope and practical tools to beat the habit. The cost of a smoking cessation programme is small in proportion to the outlay on cigarettes, so those looking to quit now really have nothing to lose – and everything to gain.
It’s that time of year when teenagers across the country are feeling the heat… and I’m not talking about the arrival of British summer. The pressure on young people to excel at exams as the stakes increase is reflected in an ‘A star or bust’ approach, where students feel a failure if they cannot gain top marks across the board – and indeed, this can impact upon their university placements in such a competitive academic environment. While the temptation can be to cram, it has been proven that a ‘spacing’ strategy is considerably more effective; and a bite-size approach to revision has become increasingly recognised as the best way to work with the brain’s natural capacity to learn.
This has the added benefit of ensuring that other vital needs can be incorporated into a programme of study. It can be all too easy for meal times, exercise, social interaction, and a sensible sleep pattern to go out of the window once students feel they must study 24/7 – especially as anxiety can further impact upon all of these elements. As students are used to timetabling lessons throughout their academic lives, it may be useful to maintain this continuity by designing timetables for study periods with them to ensure that these human needs are not neglected, helping them to stay mentally and physically healthy throughout this pivotal time. This also helps them retain a sense of control as the pressure rises and exam time approaches.
However as anxiety is complex, there can still be a sense of overwhelm, resulting in ‘brain fade’ – or simply blind panic. This is where hypnotherapy can be incredibly beneficial, teaching students self-calming techniques and other practical means of coping. Using hypnosis to encourage students to visualise a calm and confident persona right up to the moment that they leave the examination room can help them face and overcome their fears. Many young people respond extremely well to using their fertile imaginations to see themselves in this way; thus starting the process of helping them overcome their limiting beliefs, feel positive about their skills and knowledge – and making success a reality for them.