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Forest bathing

I love being in nature. Whether it’s sitting in my garden or walking in a forest I find it very therapeutic and refreshing and it is an important part of my life. And I am not alone. The Japanese have the idea of Shinrin-yoku or Forest bathing. It’s basically, spending time in a forest or natural atmosphere and focusing on sensory engagement to connect with nature.

The sensory aspect is very important and it can involve using all five senses. Some examples of exercising this can include:

  • Listening to the sounds of the forest (birds and insects).
  • Touching and feeling the ground, the trees and the leaves.
  • Smelling the plants and trees.
  • Watching the forest, the breeze moving through it and the animals within it.
  • Tasting the crispiness of the air while breathing

While it started in Japan where 80% of people live in cities, it has spread to other parts of the world and it popular in America and Western Europe.

There are many reported benefits including:

·         Immune system booster. Experiments have shown that shinrin-yoku was associated with increasing levels of natural cells which are important in combating infection.

·         Mental health and mood improvement. Shinrin-yoku is linked to a recharging of positive energy, higher energy levels, and a purification of negative thoughts.

·         Decrease in blood pressure and stress. Studies have shown that it can decrease in pulse rate, blood pressure and concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

In his series, Bill Bailey’s Australian Adventure, Bill (English musician, comedian and actor) shared his theory on nature, “Humans have an instinctive desire to connect with nature. And most of the time, we spend our lives indoors, in cars, buildings, and yet, we yearn to be out in all of this. What this is, is this thing, bio philia, our innate desire to be amongst nature. It’s part of our evolution. Our ancestors spent all their time out in nature. In our DNA we want this, we wanna be amongst this. This is where we feel more at home, in a way. And that is why I think that so many people here have this positive attitude in Western Australia, because of the proximity to the natural world. And bio philia, this innate sense of desire to be amongst nature, to connect with it, is really what it means to be human”.

Forestry England have produced a handy forest bathing guide. So, why not try spending a little time in nature and see how it can benefit you.

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Luke Humphries

Are you a darts fan? Well, I am not, but even I noticed the incredible story of the two players who recently contested the World Darts Final. Perhaps the most newsworthy player was Luke Littler, a 16 year old rookie. But for me the most remarkable player was his opponent, Luke Humphries, who eventually won.  Humphries has in the last few years transformed his life by overcome crippling anxiety and losing weight to make the most of his talents.

Humphries, whose nickname is ‘Cool Hand Luke’ in reference to the 1967 film, was until 2018 working as a Roofer. But after winning several Development Tour Dart tournaments in 2017 he decided to pursue a career in dart full time.

After some initial success, he suffered an attack of anxiety in 2019 while playing in the German Open. Suddenly immobilised by anxiety he was 5-2 up against James Wade, but went on to lose 6-5. The effects of this led him to consider his future in the sport.

Speaking about this time he said, “I am very open and honest about that and it is something I am very proud of because about two years ago, it was a time in my life where I wasn’t enjoying darts and I contemplated giving it up because it was just affecting me so badly”. He went on to say, “It has proven that you don’t have to give up on things just because of anxiety, it is beatable. I still get it, but I manage it much better now and it doesn’t affect me much in darts anymore which is the key thing for me. It allows me to play at my full potential”.

As if this was not impressive enough, he also chose to use his time during the Cov-id lockdowns to lose weight and to improve his stamina and performance. In a tweet in February 2021 he said, “Really working hard towards the new darting season in a few weeks! Lost over 2 stone since Christmas. On reflection big changes were needed to myself to get to that next level in my career! I’m practising harder than I ever have. Hoping the rewards will pay off this year!”

He later went on to say, “I feel really good, I feel full of energy. The hard work that I’ve put in through lockdown is helping me in that aspect and hopefully it carries me through to being a better player in the future”.

I think Luke is an inspiration and what he has achieved is a shining example of how we can make changes in our lives. My mission is to help people overcome their personal obstacles by inspiring and facilitating change in their lives, in order to create a life full of purpose, meaning and joy.

I am a dedicated therapist and I believe that all humans have an innate ability to become the best versions of themselves. My passion is to awaken the inner warrior in people and reunite them with who they truly are. This can be done with traditional hypnotherapy to treat unwanted habits, conditions and feelings. Or it may be through exploring past experiences or lives to see if they are the root cause. To find out more, contact me.

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Third Man Syndrome

While doing some research recently I came across the idea of The Third Man Factor or Third Man Syndrome. It’s where people report situations where a presence, such as a spirit, provides comfort or support during a traumatic experience.

In John Geiger’s (American-born Canadian author) 2009 book “The Third Man Factor” he recounts stories of people who had this experience. The term is used where people in dire moments feel a presence helping them, comforting them or giving them courage. Some people liken it to a visit from a guardian angel, dead relative while some report an unknown presences. It has been reported by a wide variety of people from firefighters to extreme sportsmen to arctic explorers. This entity actually appears to people visually as well as auditory so that the effect is that an actual person is there.

In the foreword to The Third Man Factor book, Vincent Lam (Canadian writer and medical doctor) tells of his own Third Man experience during a highly stressful period while crammed to get into medical school. He wrote, “My visit from a Third Man, whom I believe to be my guardian angel, occurred within a personal moment of crisis, rather than in the gruelling physical circumstances described by many of this book’s subjects. This sits well with John’s [Geiger] argument that the Third Man likely occurs more commonly than we recognize, and is not limited to extreme travel and exploration”.

Sir Ernest Shackleton (Anglo-Irish Antarctic explorer), in his 1919 book South, described his belief that an incorporeal companion joined him and his men during the final leg of his 1914–1917 Antarctic expedition. He wrote, “During that long and racking march of thirty-six hours over the unnamed mountains and glaciers of South Georgia, it seemed to me often that we were four, not three”. This admission resulted in other survivors of extreme hardship coming forward and sharing similar experiences.

T. S. Eliot’s (Anglo American Poet and Playwright) 1922 modernist poem The Waste Land were inspired by Shackleton’s experience. One passage says, “Who is the third who walks always beside you? When I count, there are only you and I together. But when I look ahead up the white road, there is always another one walking beside you. Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded. I do not know whether a man or a woman — But who is that on the other side of you?”

Emotional intelligence has highlighted the importance of “the capacity to soothe oneself”. This has led to the scientific explanations that consider the phenomenon an unconscious coping mechanism. But regardless of what you think these phenomena are, guardian angel, ancestor or a self-soothing coping mechanism I find it fascinating.

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Stress Awareness Day

2 November 2022 is Stress Awareness Day. Organised by the UK charity Rethink Mental Illness, it aims to highlight the ways stress affects people and what can be done to manage stress before it becomes a real problem. Their vision is for equality, rights, fair treatment and to maximise the quality of life for all those affected by mental illness, their carers, family and friends.

Stress is the body’s method of reacting to a situation such as a threat, challenge or physical and psychological barrier. Be it, physiological, biological, or psychological stress is your response to a stressor be it an environmental condition or external stimulus.

Some stress can be useful. It can motivate you to take action or complete important tasks. It can also make you feel alive and excited, such as when you ride a rollercoaster. But too much stress can cause negative effects such as a change in your mood, your body and relationships.

When we are stressed, our body releases stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals help you to deal with pressure or threats. And our stress hormone levels quickly return to normal once the situation has passed. But what happens if the stress (pressure or threat) doesn’t pass? Long term or continual exposure to stress will start to affect your mental and physical health.

So what can you do? Well, do you know what stresses you? Perhaps keep a diary of how you feel and when you feel stressed. This may highlight a task, interaction or situation that causes you stress and that is the first step to resolving it.

Some common causes of stress are concerns around housing, money and employment. We can’t all be experts at everything, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from experts. Useful sources of advice in the UK include organisations such as StepChange, Citizens Advice and National Debtline. Another common source of stress is a lack of time or having too much to do. Learning to say no to more responsibility, prioritising tasks and planning you time effective can help. Tips such as writing lists of what you need to do, prioritise the most important tasks and sharing tasks with others can all help. As William James (American Philosopher) said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another”.

Other sources of stress can be lifestyle and diet related. So limiting the amount of caffeine you consume, taking regular exercise, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet are all important.

Other methods to reduce stress include practising mindfulness, using meditation, aromatherapy or yoga and, of course, Hypnotherapy. I have made a short video about how hypnotherapy can help with stress. If you think it could help you with stress or anything else then contact me.

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Self-soothing

I wrote recently about the importance of self-love and self-care. By chance I had a conversation with someone who had read my blog, but who I think had slightly misunderstood it. So, I would like to say a few words about self-soothing as opposed to self-love.

So what is the difference? Well for me, self-care is a deliberate, proactive, behaviour to look after yourself – eating healthily, taking some exercise, getting enough sleep or finding time to relax and perhaps meditation. It’s all about looking after yourself and doing things for you. Self-love is about being kind and tolerant with yourself and not be concerned with what others think.

Self-soothing on the other hand is doing something in the short term that might make you forget a problem, but does not really help to solve it. For example, have a bar of chocolate or a glass / bottle of wine after a bad day at work. You might feel you deserve it, but it won’t really help. Self-soothing can become self-sabotaging and unhealthy both physically and mentally. In extreme cases it can lead to comfort eating, drug use and alcohol abuse.

Not all self-soothing is bad though. The trick is to make the self-soothing activity also health for you. If you have had a stressful day at work rather than a bottle of wine, perhaps go for a run. What is your go-to food when you are stressed or unhappy? Ice cream? Burger and chips? Anything with lots of carbs and fat or sugar? Perhaps try chicken soup instead.

Nobuyuki ‘Nobu’ Matsuhisa (Japanese celebrity chef and restaurateur) once said, “I eat soup noodles for comfort. In fact, noodles of any kind. It’s a food that is very easy to eat; it’s very soothing and comfortable, too”.

Remember, self-love and self-care are all important parts of being healthy both physically and mentally. Self-soothing can be dangerous and can lead to other problems. If you need help or advice then contact me.

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Self care

I wrote recently about the importance of self-love and I now want to say a few words about self-care. For me, self-care is part of self-love, but is specifically practical things you should do to ensure you are fit, healthy and happy. Self-love is more of a state of mind. Self-care consists of deliberate actions and behaviours you do because you know they are good for you. These things tend to take a little effort and are always good for us holistically.  Self-care is not selfish or bad, it’s an essential part of everyday life. Aldous Huxley (English writer and philosopher) put it very well when he said, “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self”.

So, here are a few things you can do to care for yourself. Make time for yourself. Time to do things for yourself, be it read a book, watch your favourite TV show or just nothing at all. We all have demanding lives, but some ‘me’ time is essential. Similarly, find time to relax and perhaps meditate. Making time to calm your mind and take a break is always a good idea. It’s a time to reflect and think.

Make sure you get enough sleep. Sleep is the biggest factor that underpins a healthy lifestyle. We can all get busy or perhaps have a late night, but prolonged lack of sleep will affect your mental health and immune system, making you more likely to be unwell. 

Make time for regular exercise. Not every type of exercise is right for everyone. Find something you like that you can fit into your life. Be it walking, running, Zumba, Squash, the gym, swimming or even a few moments on an exercise bike in your bedroom.

Also, eat as well as you can. Avoid food that is bad for you and remember, everything in moderation. So be aware of how much fat, sugar and salt there is in the food you eat.

Stress management and prevention is also important. As with exercise it’s a very personal choice, so spend some time to find the one that is right for you. Spending time in nature, mindfulness or meditation are all things that can be very effective.

We all have to do things we dislike or find unpleasant from time to time. But plan when you do these things to reduce the impact on you.

Finally, spending time with friends and family are also very important. We all need to have some companionship and to have a laugh from time to time. Social connect is good for us and can be a useful way to share problems, gain a new perceptive or blow off some steam. As Leo Buscaglia (American author and motivational speaker) says, “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around”.

If you need help or advice on self-care, then contact me.

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Catastrophizing

I wrote recently about the perils of doom scrolling and I wanted to also touch on the concept of Catastrophizing. Basically, this is when you fixates on the worst possible outcome and assume it’s likely, even when it isn’t. It’s also called “magnifying” because a person perceives a situation to be seem much worse than it really is.

The causes of it are unclear, but I think it is likely borne of a poor mind set and likely depression or anxiety. We all feel nervous or anxious sometimes. But, anxiety disorders cause intense anxiety that restrict with normal life. Sufferers experience heightened fear and obsession with danger or threats. For example, you are diagnosed with depression and because a family member committed suicide you convince yourself that you will also killer yourself.

The key to overcoming catastrophic thinking is to recognise what you are doing and use strategies to manage and correct the irrational thoughts. Some ideas you can try include:

  • Life is often full of challenges and so you may have good and bad days. But, one bad day does not mean all days will be bad.
  • Catastrophizing often follows a pattern. A person will start with a thought about a problem or issue. They will then brood on it and expand the scope and scale of the problem to become far more than it is. Recognise the irrational thoughts and avoiding the spiral.
  • Know when to stop. When you see the pattern – stop. Perhaps to cease those repetitive, catastrophic thoughts, you may have to say “Stop!” out loud. This will break the flow of thoughts.
  • Instead of thinking about a negative outcome, try to focus on a positive one. Or at least a less negative one.
  • Try positive affirmations. You have to believe that there can be a positive outcome to defeat the tendency to fear the worst. So try repeating a positive affirmation on a daily basis. Such as “Wherever I am, I create a safe and secure space for myself”.
  • Look after yourself. Catastrophic thoughts are more likely to occur when you are tired and stressed. Getting enough sleep and perhaps try exercise, meditation, or mindfulness.

Mindfulness can be particularly useful with this as it involves being aware, present and grounded in the now rather than focusing on the past or the future. It has also been shown to help with a wide range of other conditions.

Catastrophizing can affect anyone during times of stress. It does not signal a mental health condition. But as with many habits and traits, if it interferes with daily life and functioning, it may be a sign of an underlying cause such as depression or anxiety. But as Lynda Resnick (American businesswoman) said, “When you wake up each morning, you can choose to be happy or choose to be sad. Unless some terrible catastrophe has occurred the night before, it is pretty much up to you. Tomorrow morning, when the sun shines through your window, choose to make it a happy day”.

If you think hypnotherapy can help with stress, anxiety or negative thoughts then contact me.

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Happy 2023

I hope you all had an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas period regardless of how you celebrated the time of year.

The New Year looks uncertain and does not seem that it will be any better year than 2020, 2021 or 2022. The pandemic has, thankfully, become less deadly but the war in Ukraine has caused financial and energy insecurity virtually worldwide.

While you can’t always change your environment, you can change yourself. So, New Year – new you? This can be a good time to make changes to your life style and mind set. As Benjamin Franklin (Founding Fathers of the United States) said, “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbours, and let every New Year find you a better man”.

What would you change about yourself if you could? Perhaps stop smoking, lose weight, be less stressed and anxious, be more confident, overcome a fear or phobia, tackle your insomnia, start / grow your business or delve into past lives?

Hypnotherapy can help with all these things. As Monty Don (British Horticulturist, Broadcaster and Writer) put it, “I use the period between Christmas and New Year to potter about, think and completely change my mind set. In that easy no-man’s-land between Boxing Day and New Year, loins are girded and mettle readied. It is time, as we voyagers bid farewell to the old year, to fare forward”.

So happy New Year everyone. And if you think Hypnotherapy can help you make changes to your life then contact me to discuss it further.

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Bright Side Day

Look on the Bright Side Day is a yearly event celebrated on December 21. This day is all about being positive and optimistic. And it comes at a very suitable time of the year in the northern hemisphere as the date is also the winter solstice when the days are shortest. Basically this is the darkest and often most depressing point of winter. From here the days get longer each day and spring will soon be on the horizon.

The day is about trying to help you to not be negative and encourages us to look for the positive side to any situation or circumstance. And there are benefits from being more optimistic in life. Not only does it benefit you mentally, but it can also improve your physical health as well. Research has shown that in the long run, being more optimistic can lead to greater personal success, greater longevity and decreased stress.

As Margaret Trudeau (Canadian Activist) said, “We can choose to wake up and grumble all day and be bitter and angry and judge others and find satisfaction in others doing bad instead of good. Or we can we wake up with optimism and love and say, ‘Just what is this beautiful day going to bring me?’”.

This year has been a difficult and challenging one for many of us. But now is a time to think about the New Year with optimism and make plans to improve your life and those of the people around you.

But it’s not always so easy to remain positive. What do you do when you feel sorry for yourself or that life is not being fair to you? Well, you might not always think so, but things could be worse. Psychologists have confirmed that remembering what we’re grateful for promotes cheerful emotions. Another idea is to write a gratitude journal so that you think about the positive things that happen in your life and can more easily remember them.

Now this is all good advice, but we won’t be happy and positive all the time. If you are struggling, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Firstly, realise it’s OK to not be OK. Remember you are not alone. Tell someone you trust, perhaps a friend or family member, how you feel. Make sure you get the basics right – make time for yourself, eat as healthily as possible, get plenty of sleep, exercise and connect with loved ones. These should help you to feel better. And if necessary, seek professional help. If you are in need of immediate help, then click here for a list of crisis lines from around the world.

If you or someone you know is struggling with low mood, depression, anxiety or stress then Hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more information.

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Decision Fatigue

Decision fatigue is a phrase made popular by John Tierney (American Journalist). It refers to the declining quality of choices made by an individual over a long session of decision making. It is one of the causes of irrational trade-offs in decision making.  Decision fatigue may also lead to consumers making poor purchase choices.

Decision fatigue is thought to be a result of unconscious, psychobiological processes and is a reaction to prolonged cognitive, emotional or decisional load.  Decision fatigue is an emergent idea, but his does have potential application in fields of industry, psychology and healthcare.

There is an interesting paradox to do with choice. Namely, that if we lack choice we want more choice and may even fight for it. But, people that have too much choice can become stressed and mentally exhausted. In the book The Paradox of Choice – Why More Is Less, by American psychologist Barry Schwartz he argues that eliminating consumer choices can significantly reduce anxiety in shoppers. The book analyses the behaviour of different types of people facing broad choice and concludes that paradoxically choice becomes a problem instead of a solution. This feelings right to me as you can worry that you may not have made the right choice, make decisions more slowly and can quickly become exhausted and “just pick one”.

One solution to this problem, adopted by such people as Barack Obama (Former President of the united States, Steve Jobs (co-founder and former Chairman, and CEO of Apple) and Mark Zuckerberg (co-founding the social media company Facebook), is to reduce their everyday as much as possible. This included having just one or two clothing choices in order to limit the number of decisions they make in a day.

A friend of mine has adopted this approach to low level, unimportant, decisions. He eats the same breakfast and lunch each working day and wears similar suits, shirts and ties. And he reports that eliminating these trivial decisions has meant he is less fatigued and fresher at the end of the day. It’s only at weekends or on his days off that he really lives a vibrant and varied life.

And there is some scientific merit to this idea. It has been suggested that decision fatigue is a symptom, or perhaps a result of ego depletion. This is the idea that your self-control or willpower draws upon a limited amount of mental resources that can become used up. When the energy for mental activity is low, self-control is typically impaired and this would be considered a state of ego depletion.

Interestingly, Salt Bae (Turkish Chef) put is quite well when he said, “Being tired isn’t anything. What’s important is the mind. The body being tired isn’t important. You can get over the body being tired by resting for a half-hour or an hour. What’s important is whether the mind is tired”.

So, in the spirit of Henry David Thoreau (American icon, Author, Environmentalist, and Abolitionist), keep things simple and uncomplicated. Thoreau was an advocate of living simply and wrote a number of books on the subject. He followed the philosophies of simplifying life in both mental and material ways. It’s certainly something to think about.