Sing Like Nobody’s Listening…..

I surprised myself today…..and joined a choir.

I admit, not what I thought I’d be doing when deciding on my New Year’s Resolutions just a few weeks ago.  I did however start the year with the intention of just “going with it” when a new opportunity presented itself.  So when I saw the posters for a new choir starting up in Skipton I thought “Well why on earth not….?”.

That’s not to say I didn’t have to have some firm words with my primitive mind just before setting off for the first meeting.  And yes, even as a qualified clinical hypnotherapist with a good understanding of how the human mind works and the tricks it can play, I am still not immune to the influence of this powerful survival mechanism.

Let me explain.

The primitive mind is the part of the mind which, since the days of the caveman, has been responsible for survival. So while my conscious intellectual mind knows that joining a choir is unlikely to represent a significant threat to my continued existence on this earth, unfortunately the primitive subconscious part of my brain really does not like change and therefore resists whatever new venture my intellectual mind has planned.

It works on the principle that if what I did yesterday (i.e. not joining a choir) kept me safe it would be best if I did the same again today.  And paradoxically that includes avoiding new situations and activities which may contribute to my enjoyment of life, and even wellbeing – because in its view “new” and “different” may constitute a threat to my survival.

So, the primitive mind is now battling for the upper hand, and one of the other tricks it has up its metaphorical sleeve is to encourage negative thinking and seeing things from the worst possible perspective.  This too is a survival mechanism, discouraging any optimism in the face of a perceived threat and ensuring that the threat is taken seriously and dealt with.

Now this may seem like an overreaction to the case in hand….seriously, just how dangerous can singing be?  But it’s important to recognise that the mind can’t tell the difference between imagination and reality.  By the time we’ve thought about all the things that can possibly go wrong (I have to walk into a room of people I don’t know, what if there’s no-one there I get on with, what if I’m no good at it, what if I look stupid….?) anxiety is at an all-time high – and the primitive mind is looking for any excuse to back out of going…..

Fortunately in this instance my intellectual mind managed to reassert itself for long enough to get me in through the door…and then to stay to give it a try.

The reluctance of the primitive mind to try new things is particularly ironic in this case, given the abundance of research and evidence now available showing the link between singing and improvement in both mental and physical health.

The very act of singing has been shown to increase our sense of happiness and wellbeing – probably because it is associated with the release of important neurochemicals, such as endorphins, dopamine and serotonin.  Endorphins are the chemicals we usually think of in relation to exercise – something that many of us find difficult to find motivation for, especially on a cold winter evening.  Singing perhaps offers a more palatable way of achieving some of the benefits…..minus the lycra and aching muscles……

Performing together, even without an audience, also promotes a sense of social closeness.  As many studies have found evidence which suggests that social connections and positive human interaction act as a trigger for the brain’s reward system (more of those good neurochemicals!), it makes it even more certain that we should try to override the primitive mind’s natural caution and just give singing a try.

The “All Together Now” choir has just launched in Skipton, meeting at the Church Hall, Skipton Baptist Church on Rectory Lane (right opposite the exit from the Town Hall car park) each Thursday morning at 10am.  More details here All-Together-Now-Skipton

Come and join in.  Someone will be listening, but nobody will be judging.

New Year – New Habits?

Happy New Year’s Resolutions

How are those Resolutions going? Have you given up smoking/nail-biting/cake, been to the gym/swimming/running?  If you have then well done, but on a dark cold winter’s evening, it’s easy to slip and find yourself back where you started – on the couch with a large glass of wine and a takeaway.

So why is it so difficult to change our habits?

Well it’s because the brain is in a bit of battle with itself.  Our conscious mind knows that these changes are good for us. Unfortunately the subconscious part of our brain responsible for our survival doesn’t like change and will encourage us to simply repeat past patterns as we’ve survived thus far by doing just this.  And paradoxically that includes continuing bad habits which may be damaging our long term health and wellbeing.

So how do we get our conscious mind to take control and help those resolutions to stick?

  • Take small positive actions which move you towards your ultimate goal, and take the time to really notice your achievements.  This in itself triggers a chemical response in the brain which promotes a feeling of confidence and control.  
  • Enlist the support of people around you.  Positive interaction with others also creates that chemical response which helps us to feel good and keeps our conscious mind in control.
  • Don’t try to change too much at once.  The subconscious is more likely to dig it’s metaphorical heels in – one of the symptoms of which can be a feeling of anxiety which persuades you to you return to the old “safe” patterns. Recognising this and rationalising it can help you to overcome the urge to regress.

And this is where hypnotherapy can help.  In hypnotherapy we use trance – a state in which we can bring the conscious and subconscious mind together to focus on the positive change you would like to achieve. In this state we can work to resolve the battle and take back control for the conscious mind, helping you to make that New Year’s Resolution a reality.

New Year’s Resolution Reboot – a free event to help you achieve your 2019 Goals.

The Quaker Meeting House, Settle – Thursday 24th January 2019 at 7.30pm.

Happy New Year! It’s that time of year when we make our resolutions about the positive changes we’re going to make during the year.

So how’s it going for you?

Well done if you’ve managed to stick to your resolutions so far.

But the reality is that on a dark cold winter’s evening, it’s easy to slip and find yourself back where you started – on the couch with a large glass of wine and a takeaway.

This free event takes a fun but informative look into how and why our brains trick us into failing at even the most sensible and well-intentioned resolution. And perhaps more importantly what you can do to fight back!

Join us at the Quaker Meeting House, next to Ashfields carpark in Settle, at 7.30pm on Thursday the 24th January 2019, to find out how to make your resolutions reality.

Make a positive life change and achieve your 2019 goals.

IBS Relief – The Role of Hypnotherapy.

With 1 in 5 people affected by it during their lifetime, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can have a serious  impact on the lives of many and the common symptoms of pain, nausea, diarrhoea or constipation are well documented.

Less well known is the part that Hypnotherapy can play in alleviating the condition – even recognised by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) as an effective complementary treatment.

IBS is considered a biopsychosocial disorder – put simply this means having elements associated not only with the physical functioning of the body, but also psychological factors such as stress and anxiety, as well as potential social influences.  This can make the condition difficult to treat, as instead of one single cause rooted either in the body or the mind, it is often the interaction between the mind and the body which produces and magnifies the symptoms.

It is recognised that IBS is exacerbated by stress and anxiety, perhaps initially caused by external factors but then also by the additional worry about the symptoms.   In this way a vicious circle is created where anxiety causes a worsening of symptoms, leading to further anxiety, which in turn further amplifies the physical aspects of the condition.

Hypnotherapy works by helping to break this cycle through:-

  • processing existing fears and anxieties which contribute to symptoms
  • focus on reducing the negative thinking which perpetuates anxiety
  • visualisation of specific goals which may be attained when the IBS is under control.

If you believe you are suffering from IBS it is important that you visit your doctor to obtain a diagnosis and rule out any other causes for your symptoms.   Then don’t suffer in silence – why not give Hypnotherapy a try?

Anxiety And How To Beat It

It’s a fact, all of us will have suffered the odd anxious moment in our lives at some time or another.  But for some anxiety builds to a level where the impact on quality of life is significant and sometimes devastating.  So what is anxiety and how can we stop it becoming destructive?

Anxiety is part of our primitive defence mechanism, put in place to protect us when life was full of dangers such as sabre tooth tigers – a fight or flight response which takes place in our subconscious (part of our brain that we have no direct control over).  Let’s call it our primitive brain.

And there are a few things you should know about that primitive brain…..

It’s negative – it always sees thing from the worst possible perspective.  To be honest we should be grateful for this as it’s how the primitive brain has ensured our survival for as long as it has.  Optimism is not helpful when facing a sabre toothed tiger – it only leads to being eaten!  While this negativity is great when facing a genuine threat to life and limb, such as a tiger, it’s not so good for dealing with our modern day anxieties, such as finances, relationships and deadlines.

It’s obsessive – and keeps checking on the thing that caused the initial anxiety. Again helpful if there’s a tiger in the room, but seriously, what’s that bank statement actually going to do to you?

It’s habitual – which means it’s not so great at planning a new response.  Once you’ve got into the habit of worrying about your finances (or whatever it is that causes your anxiety) your primitive brain likes you to keep on worrying about it – because you’ve survived so far by doing just that so why change?

Nowadays much of our anxiety is caused by the negative thought patterns that we fall into around every day events in life.  A build up of anxiety can be a gradual process, but eventually the balance will tip, the fight or flight response is triggered and our primitive brain simply doesn’t know where to turn with the modern day threats it faces.

Once that balance is tipped a vicious circle is established – the more anxious we feel the more time we spend in our primitive brain, and the more we are encouraged to be negative….thereby creating more anxiety.

So how can we break this vicious circle?

Firstly we need to retrain the brain, learning a new pattern to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative.  It’s a fact that whatever we focus on we amplify, and simply making ourselves notice the good things protects us from building up new levels of anxiety.

Secondly we need to process the anxieties already present – and the best way to do this is through REM sleep.  Once the influx of new anxieties is under control we have enough processing power during our sleep to deal with what’s already there.

Sound simple?  It is, but it does take determination and commitment to make the shift.  Hypnotherapy offers a gentle and natural way to create new brain patterns, often having a rapid effect in reducing anxiety  to manageable levels.