World Class Visualisation Can Carry You a Long Way:

It's been scorching hot recently hasn't it? And as the heat wave has continued (thank goodness for the air con in my office!), the other Sunday it was just too hot to even go outside anywhere. It really was that hot.

And so I took the opportunity to do some ironing (that's how I roll!), which probably made no sense because whilst trying to stay inside and keep cool I was holding a very hot thing next to me! Anyway, whilst doing some pretty poor quality ironing, I stumbled across a TV programme about the long jumper Mike Powell and his record breaking jump at the 1991 World Championships. At the time Carl Lewis was the king of athletics and it was fascinating to hear about the intense level of competition between them.

Whilst talking about his world record jump, he described a neat little visualisation process that he used to help him stay focussed and perform to the best of his ability. I'll cover that in a minute.

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New hypnosis downloads coming soon:

I'm often getting asked to record new hypnosis downloads so earlier this week I headed back into the recording studio to create a couple more new hypnosis tracks that will soon be available for you (keep an eye on my Hypnosis Download pages).

The new audios are to help boost self-esteem and to let go of anxious thoughts, and I also took the chance to update the free Rapid Relaxation audio you can get when you sign up for my newsletter (the new version will have a much higher quality of sound). 

I always love hearing from people who have used my hypnosis downloads on how much of a positive impact they have had for them so I hope that you will enjoy and benefit from these new ones too.

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Anxiety - Taking Back Control Over Worst Case Scenarios:

In a recent blog I wrote about the Rochester Dickens Festival and how Charles Dickens was a master of taking what was around him, such as the people and buildings, and crafting them in his imagination into wonderful tales that are vividly full of life.

Which is a bit like what happens when you have anxiety. You take some piece of what is going around you, such as how you are feeling and the people, places and situations you experience, and you vividly imagine things going in the worst possible way in the future. That might mean running anxious scenarios about embarrassing yourself or failing in some way, scenarios about being anxious and panicky in front of others or any other type of worst case that fills you with dread and anxiety when you think about it happening.

Which shows just how powerful our imagination is, because just by vividly imagining something that may or may not actually happen, you can find your emotions becoming overwhelming, even to the point that you try and avoid stuff completely.

But of course, however strong and 'real' these imagined scenarios are in your mind, they aren't facts at all, simply because they haven't happened yet and may never happen. Anxious worst case scenarios are actually just things we are making up in our minds, based upon our current habits, perceptions and emotions.

And as Mark Twain is credited with saying, 'I've had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.' He also described how 'worry is like paying a debt you don't owe' - I like that quote a lot.

So how can we take back control over anxiety and diffuse those worst case scenarios?

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The Rochester Dickens Festival & The Power of Your Anxious Imagination:

Last weekend I headed down to Kent with my family for the Rochester Dickens Festival. Now if you've never come across this fantastic event, it celebrates all things related to the author, Charles Dickens, as he had a strong connection with the town (many locations in Rochester appear in his books).

We first discovered the festival one year when, after completing a marathon down the road in the morning, we headed into Rochester, as the nearest town in the afternoon and found ourselves amongst dozens and dozens of people dressed up as characters from Dickens' novels and in period costume. 

We headed back this year just to be part of the festival as it is such a fun and enjoyable event. There's the procession of all the people in costume down the High Street and led by Fagin (form Oliver Twist) and the local pipe band, there are many different street performances, a fun fair by the Castle and a wonderful, welcoming and friendly atmosphere throughout. I absolutely loved it!

I even got my own line in a quick fire drama performance of Oliver Twist that took place in the street. So ok, I got to say one thing but I think I carried the whole show with my perfect delivery! Actually, after holding up a sign that said 'Ahhhhhh' and getting the whole crowd to say it, the guy on stage turned to me and said 'now you sir, on your own!' But still, I gave a great impromptu delivery of it in my own humble thespian opinion!

Something I always find interesting it to think back on how such a moment on the spot would have terrified me in my anxious days. I'd have been fearful of the possibility of any involvement in front of such a crowd, and would have mentally beaten myself up about it afterwards. Nowadays I just thought it was quite funny and teased my kids about how they could tell everyone back at school about how I'm such a star! 

Dickens himself was a fantastic story teller, which is why his novels and TV adaptations of them, remain so popular to this day. And in much the same way as Dickens drew upon the people and places around him in his stories, so we all draw upon our perceptions and what we see, hear, feel and think to create our own story about who we are and what we believe ourselves capable and worthy of in life. 

And in much the same way as Dickens used his creativity and imagination to engage his readers and listeners, so with anxiety, you can find that you imagine all sorts of worst case scenarios and possible unwelcome outcomes. And even when you deal with one scenario, you may well find that the anxiety simply flows into some other scenarios of things going badly, even if that is just worry that you may feel anxious.  

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A very brief history of hypnosis:

I think any professional hypnotherapist should continue to pursue their learning and development and so for that reason, last year I decided to undertake another hypnotherapy qualification course to go with the qualifications I already held. The field of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, like all of psychology disciplines, continues to grow and evolve and it's important to keep abreast of the latest developments, particularly from the field of research, and to take on board other points of view and schools of thinking, rather than being wedded to only one approach or programme. I want to make sure I am offering the best possible advice and service to benefit my clients.

Whilst many hypnotherapists turn their back on an evidence based approach, I think it provides useful clarity and insights that can be adapted to help you achieve your goals.

Part of my research for the course included writing a brief summary of how hypnosis and hypnotherapy have evolved over time.  The field of hypnosis has a very long history and continues to evolve and develop to this day, yet for those interested, here is a brief overview of how things have adapted and changed over the years.

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Do you 'believe in anti-depressants'?

The other day a client was telling me how she'd spoken to a previous therapist before coming to work with me. That therapist had told her that she 'didn't believe in anti-depressants'. Now I don't know about you but I find that rather an odd thing for a therapist to say to a prospective client having only met them for half an hour or so.

Now bear in mind that this client had been through some pretty upsetting and traumatic stuff, had visited their GP and, on the advice of the GP, was taking anti-depressants and having regular follow up reviews with their doctor. So for a non-medically trained therapist to turn around to the client (whose self-esteem was pretty way down there anyway) and effectively tell them they are doing stuff wrong seems pretty incredulous to me. 

I'm going to apologise right now if it seems like I've got a bee in my bonnet about this but the fact it I have. I think it's pretty insulting for a therapist to force their views and beliefs onto a client and, more than that, it shows a lack of respect to the client and to the medical profession as a whole. For some reason there are whole bands of therapists (of many types) out there who feel they are more qualified about medication than a doctor and who seem to think of doctors as nothing more than evil minions of powerful pharmaceutical companies with nothing better to do than dish out anti-depressants irrespective of the needs of their patient.

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Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone:

We hear a lot of talk about how life begins at the end of our comfort zone don't we? Like we can't possibly be happy and content for a moment because we need to push, push, push...

And whilst I sometimes wonder just how true this is as an absolute (after all, if you do what you always do and are happy and healthy then do you really need to go outside that comfort zone?), it's often considered a human need to stretch ourselves and to learn and grow. For example, the Human Givens Institute suggest that being stretched in what we do and think gives our life meaning and purpose.

Personally I like to push myself in many facets of my life (although not necessarily all at once!). For example, we've just had 'Hell Week' at bootcamp where every session is ramped up a further notch and you have to dig deep physically and mentally to get the reps done. I kind of like that, the taking it a bit further, after all, we are all too often far more capable than we think we are and sometimes we need an environment that nurtures and promotes that within us.

This month marks the third anniversary of when I moved into my current office, a change that at that time seemed like a massive leap outside of my comfort zone. Up until that point I had always operated out of complementary health clinics, being around other practitioners and have that support structure. Yet I knew that I had outgrown that set up and the demand for my services meant I needed my own space. Yet at the time of planning it and committing to it, I can remember constantly questioning myself about whether I was doing the right thing or not.

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Overcoming Emotional Eating - New Weight Loss Video Testimonial:

Earlier this month, I recorded this new video hypnotherapy testimonial with a lovely lady who sought my help to change her relationship with food.

Interestingly, the testimonial was recorded around the same time that Public Health England reported on progress towards their target to reduce our sugar intake and their challenge to manufacturers and the like to cut 20% of sugar in a range of foods by 2020. One year after being set the target, retailers and manufacturers had achieved a 2% reduction in both average sugar content and calories in products likely to be consumed in one go.

Of course, sugary foods are often those that we turn to when we emotionally eat. The sugar fix calms our stress, anxiety and worry for a bit but then we may find ourselves repeating the same pattern of using food to feel better over and over. And that can have a huge impact on our health and waist line.

The other week my kids were eating a (not to be named brand!) chocolate and hazelnut spread and challenged me to try a bit. Because I want to encourage them to try different foods to decide whether they like them (rather than deciding they don't like it in advance of ever trying it!), I had a bit. I'll be honest: it was lush. Later on that day I saw I saw the jar in the kitchen, and suddenly deciding I was hungry and needed an energy boost, I had a bit more. "It's alright," I told myself, because I need the energy for exercising. Over the next few days I found myself thinking about eating it, even looking forward to it. I started to get little cravings for it that grew and grew if they weren't satisfied. 

Now luckily I spotted what was happening and decided that nothing should have that much of a hold over me and stopped my unnecessary consumption in its tracks. But I think it shows how sugar and fat filled foods can quickly take a hold and start to escalate the unneeded calories we consume. Add in an emotional element like stress or anxiety or feeling rubbish about ourselves and that hold and that emotional eating pattern can take on a force that can be hard to resist.

Anyway, back to what Laura had to say in her video review of our sessions together...

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The power of music to ease stress and anxiety symptoms

Last week I had the privilege of being invited as a guest to watch the awesome blues artist, Danny Bryant, perform in Cambridge. If you've never checked him out you should take a look at some of his stuff right now because his singing and guitar playing are something special. 

In fact music can be pretty mesmerising can't it? There were moments at the concert where I was lost in a sort of music trance while watching the band play and listening to the songs. Some of the time I pretty much lost track of where I was and the other people around me because I was just enjoying watching and listening so much.

And I bet you've had those moments where a song comes on and all of a sudden you remember a time from the past linked to that song, perhaps even eliciting an emotional response to the music. Of course, what we often do is listen to the music that reflects our current mood so if we are feellng down we listen to sad songs and if we feel happy we listen to songs that give us a good feeling.  

As music can have such strong associations it makes sense to try and utilise this power doesn't it?

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Ely Eels Day - Embracing My Inner Morris Dancer!

This past Bank Holiday weekend was a record breaker for the high temperatures reached here in the UK - it has been scorching hot for three days straight (a slight contrast to the persistent rain we've had in recent weeks!). And this weekend marked the annual Ely Eels Day here in Ely, Cambridgeshire. In fact, Ely derives its name from the Isle of Eels when it was an island surrounded by fen marshland and eels were a much bigger part of life than they are now.

Now one thing I love about living in this part of the world is when the various Morris dancing groups hit town (as they do a few times a year). Suddenly you have these groups of dancers, all dressed up in their unique garb, performing through the day around the City. I really do enjoy watching them perform and I'm even almost tempted to want to tie bells to my shins, paint my face green and dive in for a song or two! (Anyone else want to join in?!).

Of course there were lots of other things going on with street stalls, a procession, rides for the kids and an arena where local dance groups performed their routines in the sun for the huge crowds (everything from ballet to street dance were on display). 

But back to Morris dancing because I think there are a few valuable things we can all learn from Morris dancers...

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