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At the moment there is snow in most parts of the UK. This is not unusual in winter, but it is becoming rarer. Times like this reminds me how much I do love snow. Having grown up in southern Africa (mostly South Africa, but also Zimbabwe) I didn’t see snow as a child. Even when, as an adult, I travelled I found myself in Florida. It was not until I came to the United Kingdom that I saw snow for the first time. It was such a magical and exciting experience. As J. B. Priestley (British Novelist and Playwright) said, “The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of a world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment then where is it to be found?”

Snow brightens the world and can be very calming. It also creates a Christmas like scene which many people associate with family, friends and happy times. It can also bring people together as they clear their cars or driveways at the same time or help a neighbour to do so.

Snow is truly wondrous, but it can be bad news for some. If you have to travel in it for any reason or can’t afford to heat your home it can be a disaster. But even if you are fortunate enough to not have these problems, winter can have other effects on your mental and physical health.

Many of us know about the winter blues or Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The causes of SAD are not fully understood, but it’s thought to be caused by reduced exposure to sunlight. The lack of sunlight stops the brain from producing the right amount of several important substances. These are:

  • Melatonin. A hormone that makes you feel sleepy. SAD sufferers produce more than normal levels.
  • Serotonin. A hormone that affects your mood, appetite and sleep. Reduced levels are linked to feelings of depression.
  • Vitamin D. This vital vitamin boosts the immune system and ensure healthy bones, teeth and muscles.

So, try to get some sun, albeit winter sun. Perhaps take Vitamin D tablets and if you need help then ask for it. So if you struggle at this time of year, then Hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more information.


Creativity – the Power of Sleep

I have been doing some work recently with a client to help them boost their creativity and I thought I would share some of my thoughts and experience. I have also written recently about the different types of brainwaves and how they reflect what the brain is doing and the great Thomas Edison who used sleep and other techniques to sustain his amazing pace of invention.

We all have had situations where you are trying to solve a problem or remember something and we just can’t do. So, we stop thinking about it and do something else and the answer comes to us. Be it driving on the motorway, showering or brushing our teeth anytime you are doing something you don’t have to think too deeply about your theta brainwaves rise and your subconscious is engages. And then, Eureka! That’s your subconscious working on the problem and serving up the answer.

And letting your subconscious work on a problem is a very powerful way to come up with new ideas and solve problems.  Albert Einstein (German born Theoretical Physicist) clearly knew about this as he said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.

Another time when we can unleash this creative power is when we are half asleep, either when waking or falling asleep. I recently wrote about Thomas Edison and how he used sleep. So, mentally run through the day’s challenges first thing in the morning while you are still in this state or last thing at night as you start to fall asleep. This sets the agenda for your subconscious and can bring incredible results.

If you have a specific problem then just as you become conscious in the morning, but while your eyes are closed and your brain’s still dreamy, think of the issue. Don’t try to force your thoughts but do remain focused and relaxed. You might get a few useful ideas or perhaps a flash of inspiration. These ideas can come in a rush and are usually free of internal censorship. You might need your conscious mind to polish them up a little.

A word of advice, these ideas and inspirations, because they are born of theta waves can be short lived and fleeting. So, have a notepad by your bed or quickly grab your phone and take notes or make a voice recording.

It is possible to have periods of theta wave activity and creativity during the waking hours. This can be when your mind is not activate, perhaps while watching TV or exercising. These periods typically last up to 15 minutes before the conscious mind checks in for a bit. This can be an extremely productive time and can be a period of meaningful and creative mental activity.

So, in summary, eat, sleep, solve problems and repeat.  If you are struggling with a lack of creativity or sleep then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.


Creativity – Thomas Edison

Thomas Edison (1847 to 1931) was an American inventor and businessman. With 1,093 US patents, as well as numerous patents in other countries, Edison is regarded as the most prolific inventor in American, if not world, history. If you work in any job that requires some element of creativity then you may have wondered how he did it. He certainly valued the mind over the body and this is best illustrated by the quote, “The chief function of the body is to carry the brain around”.

Well he used a form of self-hypnosis to problem solve, come up with ideas and inventions.  When you are awake your conscious mind is fully in control and you are producing beta brain waves. By lowering the brainwave frequency into alpha and even theta wave lengths you are more relaxed. This allows you conscious mind to loosen its control and allow your subconscious to be more dominant. As he said, “The best thinking has been done in solitude. The worst has been done in turmoil”.

He also reportedly slept only three to four hours at night and was said to have regarded sleep as a waste of time and a heritage from our cave days. I am not sure that wasn’t just bravado or a trick to try to hamper his rivals such as Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse. He did in fact value sleep and seems to have understood its importance.  We now know that sleep is essential for good mental health and is useful for overcoming creative blocks.

So while he used his apparent lack of sleep as a badge of honour he frequently power napped. He had numerous cots located throughout his home and workplace. And there are many photos of him taking a nap in these cots in various locations. And he may well have been onto something. Increasingly today we realise that sleeping for one long period is a relatively new thing. There are many references to ‘first sleep’, ‘second sleep’ and ‘morning sleep’ in older legal documents, literature and other archival information from pre-Industrial times. Meaning that sleeping for a shorter time, but more frequently was common.

As anyone who has meditated, used self-hypnosis or tried deep relaxation techniques knows, there is a risk that you fall asleep. In this day and age we set an alarm on our phone to make sure we don’t over sleep. But Edison would hold marbles in his hands so that if he fell asleep they would fall to the ground and wake him.

Now, there is an irony that Edison seemed to really understand how to use sleep to his advantage, while at the same time invented the electric light bulb. As it was the light bulb, and the industrial revolution, that disrupted our internal clocks, our sleeping habits and sparked numerous cases on insomnia.

If you are struggling with a lack of creativity or sleep then hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more details.

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To me memory is a fascinating aspect of the human experience. It’s the facility of the mind that allows information to be encoded, stored and retrieved when needed in the future. This ability underpins our ability to learn skills, language and communication as well as reasoning and logic.

Memory is the brain process that stores what we learnt, be it information, experiences or feelings, for future use.  Memory has three main processes – encoding, storing and retrieving. Encoding is getting the information into our memory. Storage is retention of the information and retrieval is getting information out of storage into our conscious mind through recall, recognition and relearning. As David Suzuki (Canadian Academic, Broadcaster, and Environmental Activist) put it, “The future doesn’t exist. The only thing that exists is now and our memory of what happened in the past. But because we invented the idea of a future, we’re the only animal that realized we can affect the future by what we do today”.

Our memory evolved to allow us to store information that would be useful to us in the future. And knowing this explains a few features of how our memories work. Firstly, the physical or emotional context is likely to trigger memories from the same context. So, if you return to a place your mind will recall other times you were there as this might be useful. Also, leaving a place (room or location) is likely to clear the short term memory as that information is no longer needed. The flip side of this is if you misplace something (keys, etc.) then retracing your steps will help you remember where you put them.

This context awareness also applies to emotional states. So if you are depressed you are likely to recall other depressing things. What’s more criticism or unhappy memories and experiences contain lessons to be learnt and so are more likely to be remembered than praise or rewards.

But memory is no perfect or infallible. We experience the world subjectively and so we remember subjective representations of our experience through the prism of bias, emotional state and other influences. Also, memories can degrade with the passing of time. This occurs in the storage stage of memory – after the information has been stored and before it’s retrieved.

Other factors than can effect memory are stress and a lack of sleep. Stress can have a significant effect on memory formation and thus learning. In response to stressful situations, the brain releases hormones and neurotransmitters which affect the memory encoding process. During sleep the neural connections in the brain are strengthened. Several studies have shown that sleep improves the retention of memory, as memories are enhanced by active consolidation while we sleep.

While short term memory and retention appears limited. It is thought that long term memory has a practically limitless capacity. So, you can recall anything you have experienced from any point in your life. It may take a technique such as Hypnotherapy’s Regression to retrieve it though.

If you need help to with insomnia, stress, improving your memory or think a regression session could help you then contact me.


Festival of Sleep Day

Have you had a restful and relaxing festive period? Many of us will not have done so despite it being a holiday period. But fear not, 3 January is the Festival of Sleep Day. With New Year falling on a weekend for many of us this is the last day of the holiday period before plunging back into the chaos of normal work and family life. So take some time to catch up on sleep.

The fundamentals of sleep are timeless and largely stay the same regardless of social convention, fashion or technology. Sleeping is the body’s time to rest and restore itself. Insufficient sleep will affects your mental and physical well-being. It’s also an incredibly effective way to help you deal with stress, recover from illness and, even, to creatively solve problems. As Thomas Dekker (English Elizabethan era Writer) said, “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together”.

Sleep comprises of several stages – Awake, Light sleep, Deep sleep and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. It is during REM sleep when we have our most vivid dreams and is very important for memory and mood. We are lightly asleep for most of our night sleep and it promotes restoration. Deeper sleep supports learning and memory. If you wake feeling especially refreshed, it’s likely you got lots of deep sleep.

In these modern, busy, times it’s not always easy to get a good night’s sleep. So, here are some tips that might help. Try to stick to a regular sleep schedule – go to bed at roughly the same time each night. The more active you are during the day, the better night’s sleep you will have. Avoid alcohol, stimulants (such as caffeine), sugar and too much fluid before sleep. Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, comfortable, not too warm and well ventilated.

Finally, a word about light. Accurate time keeping using clocks, watches and mobile devices is a very recent invention in turns of human development. The Circadian Rhythms of our bodies pick up cues from the environment to determine what time of day it is and what activities to carry out. Getting the wrong cues can fool the body into thinking its time to wake up when you want to sleep.

So, try to make sure you are exposed to sunlight during the day and especially early in the morning. Expose yourself to nature light as much as possible during the day. Make sure your sleep area is as dark as possible. Try not to put the light on if you wake in the night for any reason. Avoid artificial light and blue light (such as from mobile phones and computers) especially before bed time. This light trick the body into thinking its dawn and suppresses the release of melatonin (an important sleep hormone).

Hypnotherapy can help with sleeplessness and other sleep disorders. If you or someone you know needs help with this contact me.


Is there a yawning gap in your life?

This year marks the 14th annual World Sleep Day. It’s on March 19, 2021 and has the slogan, “Regular Sleep, Healthy Future.”

The importance of good quality sleep cannot be underestimated.  Especially when you think we spend up to a third of our lives asleep. You might think that time spent sleeping is not productive or useful, but that is far from the case. We restore ourselves while sleeping and remove metabolic waste that build up while activity. Also, studies suggest that a lack of proper sleep impairs the body’s ability to repair and heal wounds.

It is widely accepted that sleep plays an important role in memory, learning and other physiologic processes. It is thought it enables the formation of long-term memories and increases the ability to learn new information and recall it. It is also involved in the control of inflammation, hormone regulation, cardiovascular regulation and many other critical functions.  Put simply, sleep underpins our health, as well as our physical and mental wellbeing. Good quality sleep is crucial to ensure good health and quality of life.

Problems with sleep are very common. The Philips Index for Health and Well-being found that 35% of people do not feel they get enough sleep and that it impacts either our physical or mental health. Let’s not forget that sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture and a lack of sleep can cause many psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety and, in extreme cases, psychosis. Longer term effects are being studied, but poor quality sleep or sleep deprivation are associated with significant health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, a weakened immune system and even some forms of cancers.

To help you here are some useful tips for better sleep.

  1. Try to go to bed and awake up in the morning at about the same time. A good sleep routine helps to signal to your body when to sleep and wake up.
  2. Try not to sleep in the day and if you do make it for less than an hour.
  3. Avoid alcohol consumption for four hours and caffeine for six hours before bedtime. Remember, caffeine does not just mean coffee. There is a lot of caffeine in tea, cola drinks and some other soft drinks, such as Red Bull.
  4. Smoking is bad for you anyway, but not smoking will help with sleep problems.
  5. Avoid a large meal or spicy food for four hours before bedtime. If you must eat, a small meal or snack before bed is fine.
  6. Avoid sugary foods for four hours before bedtime. Unfortunately, chocolate is doubly bad as it contains caffeine and sugar.
  7. Try to exercise regularly, but not immediately before bedtime.
  8. Make sure your bed and bedding is comfortable.
  9. Think about what is a comfortable temperature for the bedroom and try to keep it well ventilated.
  10. Block out or eliminate as much noise and light as possible.
  11. Where possible the bed and bedroom should be for sleep only. Try not to use it as an office, workshop or recreation room.
  12. Avoid using electronic devices such as mobile phones and tablets immediately before bedtime. The blue light of these device is thought to fool the body into thinking its dawn.

Using sleep aids, such as Nytol, can be a useful way to overcome short term periods of poor or disrupted sleep. These aids are only for short term use though and if you are suffering from long term problems you should seek help. Hypnotherapy can help you explore the reason for your sleeplessness and support you to address them.

To find out more about how I can help you with sleeplessness then click here