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...
Preventing and Managing Gestational Diabetes with Hypnosis

Preventing and Managing Gestational Diabetes with Hypnosis

One of the benefits of hypnotic relaxation is its effect on lowering blood glucose levels – helping you to prevent or manage gestational diabetes.  Simply adding quality deep relaxation to your daily routine can make a huge difference to the health of your pregnancy and give your baby the best possible start to life. Stress and pregnancy It’s quite natural during pregnancy to experience some stress about this huge life-changing experience – ranging from anxiety about childbirth to worries about the financial implications or readiness for parenthood.  Stress is “a state of tension that occurs when there are too many demands in the environment or when we experience or anticipate experiencing a situation that is perceived as threatening, unpleasant or unfamiliar” (Nejad & Volny, 2008). When we experience stress the sympathetic nervous system (in the central nervous system) arouses and activates the stress response, more commonly known as “fight or flight” designed to protect us from danger – although in modern society the stress response is more likely to be responding to juggling our family responsibilities and work demands than it is from predatory animals! Regardless of the stressor the body kicks into action, and part of that involves increasing and sending more glucose into the bloodstream, ensuring a quick source of energy to mobilise the body to take action i.e. fight or flee. So, when you are stressed your blood glucose levels rises, increasing the risk for gestational diabetes. The good news However, just as the body has the natural ability to arouse and prepare for action through the sympathetic nervous system, it also has a ‘recovery’ mechanism...
Trouble Sleeping?  How Hypnosis Can Help

Trouble Sleeping? How Hypnosis Can Help

To release the hormones involved with dropping off to sleep your brain needs to feel relaxed. We are wired for survival, and this can sometimes prevent us from sleeping This has been great for our evolution, because it wouldn’t have been very useful to human survival if our ancestors were able to easily drop off to sleep when there was a predatory tiger prowling around the cave. Unfortunately, worrying about deadlines or what we have to do the next day is no different to the prowling tiger in terms of how our brain works. The function of our brain’s protective limbic system is to interpret everything coming through our senses, including our thoughts, as either “safe” or “threat” – and if it’s the latter it sends signals that trigger the sympathetic nervous system’s fight or flight response.  So despite our evolution from cavemen, the primitive part of our brain still prevents us from sleeping even when the danger isn’t real. In contrast to the fight or flight response we have a “relaxation response” activated through the parasympathetic nervous system which returns our bodies to balance. We can deliberately activate this restorative mechanism through deep relaxation  And when we are relaxed the sleep-inducing chemicals help our brain to become more and more sleepy, and we gradually drop off to sleep.  Worrying or even excitement (anyone with kids on Christmas Eve can probably attest to this) can hinder this process as it triggers the sympathetic nervous system. Not feeling sleepy ?…Hypnosis helps you relax and improves the quality of your sleep You can learn to elicit this relaxation response, helping your...
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...
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...