Neural Pathways to Happy

Neural Pathways to Happy

Would you like to know a simple 5 minute practice that could help you feel happier, enjoy better health and make more progress towards your goals?  There is a growing body of research that demonstrates the simple practice of gratitude has wide reaching positive effects on our well being.  In this post I’d like to share with you some of those benefits and the neuroscience behind practising gratitude. First, lets understand what gratitude is   Gratitude is not a Pollyanna style of being blindly optimistic about every situation.  Research shows that whilst gratitude enhances positive emotions, grateful people don’t deny or ignore the negative aspects of life.  Gratitude is about noticing and appreciating the positive in life, and it seems to be that the more you practice gratitude the more things you’ll have to be grateful for. So what are the positive benefits to our well-being by practising gratitude? Results of numerous research studies shows that people who keep a gratitude journal are more likely to: Have fewer health complaints Exercise more regularly (on average 1.5 hours more a week) Feel more optimistic Have higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy Display more pro-social behaviour – such as empathy, generosity and offering help or provide emotional support to others Feel happier and have overall more satisfaction with their lives Be more connected with others Make more progress towards their goals Get better quality sleep and awaken feeling more refreshed (this sleep study consisted of adults with neuromuscular disease – so people with clinical impaired sleep) Do you think that’s a pretty impressive list?  Well there’s more, gratitude has...
Transform your words, transform your reality

Transform your words, transform your reality

How is it that a bunch of letters arranged into a word can carry so much power? Because the words we choose to use, or more accurately what we associate to these words, can evoke emotions and physical sensations that carry great meaning when we hear them. You see, the words that you hear or use to represent an experience ultimately become your experience. And these words we use to label our experiences also actually have the ability to increase or decrease the intensity of the emotions we feel. For example, imagine when something happens that angers you – if you said quite colourfully that it “really f$#ked you off and made you furious” – these become associations which most likely serve to intensify the anger you feel. On the flipside, you could decrease the emotion by saying that it “bothered you a smidgen”, or “tinkled you” – and these such frivolous labels can even change your emotional state completely because they’re rather amusing! Simple word substitutions like these alter our perception of things. For example, imagine the positive shift in your confidence if you classified the “nervous anxiety” you feel before a big presentation as “excited anticipation”. We’ve tagged associations to words at a subconscious level, and because of this people can link tremendous levels of pain, anxiety and even fear to particular words. I know with ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) clients, just hearing the word “snake” can make their skin crawl or even trigger anxiety symptoms. Another example is a client I worked with who had experienced two traumatic childbirths. In our first session, just mentioning the...
Do your beliefs support or hinder your success?

Do your beliefs support or hinder your success?

I was honoured and excited to be asked to be on the Business Women Panel in the Venus Magazine – a magazine for New Zealand women in business.  The focus of this issue is beliefs and how they can impact your business and career. I have worked with several business women who felt they were limiting or self sabotaging their success – helping them to uncover these beliefs and replacing them with ones that supported them to achieve their goals.  Here’s my interview about beliefs for the Business Women Panel:   Have you consciously examined your own beliefs as part of your development as a business woman? As a Clinical Hypnotherapist I recognise the benefits of aligning conscious thought and unconscious behaviours with my goals.  Beliefs are held at a subconscious level so hypnosis helps me identify and transform beliefs that can limit my success, and gives me the confidence in my ability to make a real difference in my clients’ lives. Do you believe it is valuable for every businesswoman to become aware of her own beliefs and self-talk around her business? Absolutely! We unconsciously act in accordance with what we believe, so our beliefs determine our behaviours and success.  If you’re not aware of your beliefs and self-talk, how do you know if they’re supporting, limiting, or self-sabotaging your progress? In your role, what kind of beliefs have you noticed hold women back in business? A fear of public speaking or presenting to groups is a common belief which often results in missed business opportunities.  Undervalued self-worth is also common, by changing these beliefs business women become...
Smile and pass it on!

Smile and pass it on!

A lot of hypnotherapy is about accessing positive and resourceful states to help you be more healthy, happy and successful.  There are simple ways you can influence your biochemistry to feel less stress and boost your mood.  One of these is smiling. We know smiling is good, but what goes on outside of our conscious awareness when we smile? Smiling produces changes in brain activity that corresponds to a happier mood.  It activates our limbic system – the part of our brain responsible for processing emotions. The hypothalamus, which is responsible for how we physically respond to emotions, is also triggered.  In response to a smile feel good endorphins, serotonin and dopamine neurotransmitters are released.  Endorphins make us feel good and act as a natural pain reliever, serotonin acts as an anti-depressant boosting our mood, and dopamine increases our feelings of pleasure and reward.  One study found that a smile can provide the same stimulation level in the brain as eating 2000 chocolate bars! Smiling also improves our stress levels, because when we smile our stress hormones (e.g. cortisol and adrenaline) reduce and our blood pressure and heart rate lower.  A study published by Psychological Science concluded that smiling while completing a stressful task lowered stress indicators such as heart rate. Besides making us feel good and reducing stress, smiling may help us increase our life span.  A study by Wayne State University reviewing baseball cards of Major League Players found that the players with wide beaming smiles lived on average 7 years longer than their non-smiling team mates. Smiling also positively influences how others perceive us.  Research from...