Mental Health Awareness Week - Mental Health and Nature

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus is all about  noticing nature and making a habit of connecting to nature every day. Of course, every day of every year should be about helping and supporting everyone to promote their good mental health and well-being (along with their good physical health too), yet an awareness week helps to remind us all of the importance of self-care and looking after ourselves better.

Spending time in nature has a lot of research to support its benefits for your mental health. It can help you to reduce your anxiety and stress levels, and can help boost your mental health and well-being.  I certainly find that running and walking in nature helps me to feel calmer, more positive and boosts my own sense of well-being (and exercise, such as walking or running, helps with mental health too).

In my opinion, few things beat finding a nice quiet place to enjoy and explore nature on a nice day. Getting away from the usual daily load at home and work, and switching off from screens, means you can just focus on the sights, smells and sounds of what is going on around you.   

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The Eye-Fixation Induction in Hypnosis

If you have been a client of mine, or used my hypnosis downloads, then you'll know that the process of hypnosis involves engaging your thoughts and mindset towards achieving your specific goals, such as overcoming anxiety. You engage your focus, imagination and concentration as part of entering hypnosis.

As I've covered before, hypnosis involves using and engaging your mindset, cognitions, imagination, motivation, belief and expectations in particular ways that help you to achieve beneficial therapeutic changes. It is not something that is done to you (as anything on TV would have you believe) but rather something you are actively engaged in. Hypnosis helps you to take control over your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, rather than feeling like you are controlled by them. You move from feeling stuck in a certain pattern, to being in control of a new, more helpful, way of doing things.  

There are many, many ways to induce hypnosis, including the eye fixation process I am talking about here. The hypnotic induction becomes your cue, or signal, to adopt a positive mindset, to engage in the process and to be mentally engaged in what you are doing towards achieving your goal. Hypnosis is a process that you actively participate in rather than being a passive process that you respond to mechanically resulting in hypnosis (which of course is great, because you are learning to take control over the things that go on inside of your mind rather than just trying to deal with them or needing a hypnotherapist to be there).

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Hypnosis Changes The Way Your Brain Processes Information

Today I'm covering some new research about what happens in your brain during hypnosis. Whilst most sections of the media tend to portray hypnosis in a nonsensical way, our understanding of its benefits and effectiveness continues to grow. More and more research shows how hypnosis can help you with issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as how it enhances the results you will get from cognitive behavioural therapy.

Sadly much of the misinformation seems to come from hypnotherapists who don't keep updated or read the research (as well as from other branches in the mental health field). There is a continually growing wealth of evidence and support that suggests that, if you are struggling with your mental health right now, then hypnosis can help you to make the changes in your thoughts, feeling and actions that will help you to feel better. 

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Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket: Update on Restarting Face-to-Face Sessions

With the pandemic having lasted over a year now, and lockdown three itself having entered its third month, it's great that things are finally looking more positive as we move through the year. My daughters are both back at school and doing well, bootcamp has restarted, we can now meet members of another household outdoors and finally (FINALLY!) the return of face to face sessions in Ely and Newmarket is on the near horizon.

It's been a busy period for online hypnotherapy sessions and I've been busy helping people with issues such as anxiety, panic attacks, self-esteem, phobias, weight loss, confidence and much more. Hypnotherapy sessions by Zoom have continued to work effectively and my clients have enjoyed some outstanding results (for more on online hypnotherapy sessions read this previous article: The Effectiveness of Online Hypnotherapy: Skype and Zoom Hypnotherapy Sessions). Zoom hypnotherapy sessions continue to be an option if you live too far to travel to my office or if you just prefer it now that we've all got used to do much more online.

In accordance with the Government's lockdown easing roadmap, face to face sessions can resume in Ely and Newmarket from 12th April 2021. I'll be contacting anyone who carried over sessions from before the lockdown to arrange a new time to resume appointments. And if you are seeking successful face to face hypnotherapy sessions in Ely or Newmarket then get in touch and ask to arrange your free initial consultation so we can have a chat about working together to help you overcome your issues and feel better. 

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Running Hypnosis: Getting Over A Perceived Running Failure

If you've been running for any length of time then the chances are that you've had those training runs or races where everything seems to just come together and you set a personal best, you perform well, you tackle a difficult course, you've felt accomplished or where you've enjoyed running successfully in some way. Who doesn't love that positive, good feeling that comes at the end of a good run? 

As I think back upon my running history, I can recall times where I've set a PB and felt good for it, times when I've made progress and felt accomplished and snapshots from other running events and races where I've performed to my best and where I've felt good as a result. As we run and train more we learn more about the best preparation, training and strategies that work for us. We can refine, amend and improve what we do and how we do it. 

But, of course, there are also those runs that we have all encountered where there are setbacks and challenges along the way. You fail to finish, you run badly, you don't meet your own goals and expectations. I think I've had my share of these, such as not finishing an ultra, struggling through a marathon, not pushing on in a 10km, feeling unwell, niggling something or where a run or race just hasn't gone to plan for some other reason.

When we encounter these setbacks and perceived failures it can be disappointing and demoralising. Often, after a time, we can shrug them off and get back on with it, hopefully with improved wisdom and learning to apply it in our running. Yet sometimes that perceived failure can rankle and stay with you. It can damage your belief in your capability and your confidence in your running. It can lead to doubt, anxiety, and worry about a repeat or about whether you can do it.  When negative thoughts and feelings creep in based upon a previous running performance, you want to be able to learn from it and move on from it in constructive and beneficial ways. 

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Running Psychology: Strategies In The Hour Before Running

I remember when I first started entering a few local, mainly 10km races. I had little idea of what to expect and used to just mill around somewhere near the start and copy some of the warm up routines and strategies from other runners who looked like they knew what they were doing. My training consisted of about three runs a week, totaling ten miles, and I was happy just to jog along in a race, get my medal at the end and enjoy that post-race glow from the satisfaction of finishing. I can still even just about remember doing the 'Run The World' 10km in Cardiff way back in the Band Aid days!

Over the years, my pre-run routine, and especially my pre-race routine, has become a bit more refined. To my mind, getting ready to perform to your best involves not only being physically ready but also mentally in the zone. My days of listening to the Rocky theme tune on repeat before a run are long gone, mainly because it used to get me so pumped in the car on a way to a race that by the time I got there I was already tired!

Because I run in the morning these days, my pre-run strategy for a training run  involves getting up, moving about and generally getting awake and moving a bit (along with coffee) before warming up and moving out of the door. For a race, I aim to get ready, travel there and then it's about getting the right level of intensity and focus to race, along with staying relaxed enough to perform as best as I can on the day. It's all about getting mentally and physically ready so that at the start line, I'm in the zone cognitively and emotionally (I've left out the trips to the loo, checking my watch for the time and making sure it has a GPS signal, trying to get my race number on comfortably and tying and retying my laces a few times!).

Of course, all runners have their own routines and strategies in the lead up hour to a run. At any race you can see runners getting ready, some pacing about and others still and composed, some seek company and others prefer solitude, some look lost in thought and others are busy doing warm up exercises. So what sort of strategies do runners employ before training and competition? 

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Reappraising Negative Emotional Memories: How To Reduce Distress From Past Events

Life can throw all sorts of challenges and problems our way. Sometimes it can feel like we are hurtling from one problem to another, and at other times, just as it seems everything is settled, something else crops up to occupy us. Perhaps the only certainty (apart from death and taxes!) is that we will face problems and challenges as we navigate our way through life.

To help us face life's challenges, we can develop our confidence and self-esteem, our resilience, positivity, optimism and ability to be in control over our thoughts and feelings. We can get better at problem solving, at letting go of things we can't control and at how quickly and effectively we recover and move on from stressful events we encounter.

Often we move on from these challenges over time, and the emotions attached to them wither and deplete. Time can lessen the initial emotional impact; we make sense of what happened, we find solutions and plenty of other things come along to occupy our attention. And there are plenty of therapeutic strategies and techniques that can help to lessen emotions on past events and to help you feel better when you think back, and as you progress forwards.

We have all encountered negative emotional events in our lives, whether it's the death of a loved one, illness, an argument, a perceived failure of some kind, or something else. Our memories are our perceptions of past events and how we think about things can change over time and based on how we feel right now. If you feel bad or low then that will colour how you think back upon events in your life and those feelings can lead to more negative thoughts, feelings and memories that match that feeling coming to mind. And when you feel better in yourself, those past things may not carry the same weight and you may find it easier to think back upon earlier negative things (and easier to recall more positive things too).

When I used to struggle with anxiety and low self-esteem, I could easily recall many, many past events that I consider negative, most of which involved (in my view) me making an idiot of myself in some way. It used to be that anytime I thought back on one of these things I felt a pang of regret and embarrassment. Now, if I think back on them much at all, I shrug, remind myself that was back then and move on with my day.

Here today I'm covering recent research that provides you with a way to reflect on your own capabilities, to boost your self-efficacy and resilience, and to reduce distress on negative emotional memories. 

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Teenager Anxiety and Mental Health During the Pandemic

With the ongoing nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has impacted upon us all, I've been helping loads of people who have been struggling with anxiety and other aspects of their mental health. 

With the stop start nature of school and college, the lack of social interaction, the rise of screen time and the other limitations, one group who really need help are young people (and their parents who see them struggling and want to help). As well as pandemic-related anxiety, depression and stress, many adolescents may have found that issues such as low self-esteem, low confidence and overthinking have been exacerbated.

Now everyone is of course different, some young people will worry more than others, some will be more comfortable expressing how they feel, some will be more prone to overthinking and anxious tendencies, many may use distraction to get some respite from mental health issues and sometimes it can be hard to open up about how you feel and that you are struggling. And for parents seeing their kids struggle and wanting to help them, it can often be a challenge to know how much to intervene or gently push, what to suggest that will work, and how to be there for them in a meaningful way. 

I've worked with adolescents from pretty much every school and college in this area for issues such as anxiety, lowness, self-esteem, confidence and stress (pandemic-related or otherwise). In this article I've covered a few things that can often help to alleviate symptoms and to help start feeling better. 

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How To Live A Fulfilling Life Free of Regret

As Frank Sinatra sang, 'Regrets, I've had a few, but then again too few to mention..." Just like Frank, we can all have some regrets in life. We can think back on different decisions and choices we could have made and wonder how things could have been different. 

Although, of course, we have to remember that we can all be a little guilty of romanticising things turning out better and of colouring our imagined past with more positivity than might be realistic. Yes, we can all have some regrets, things we put up with for too long, the path we didn't take, the courage we lacked, or the other choices along the path of our lives. There can also be many, many positives throughout our lives and things we are glad about or pleased in how we've lived and what we've stood for up to now.

If I find myself regretting some past thing ("if only I...."), I deliberately remind myself that I did the best I could at that time, and that I made the choices and decisions that seemed best or right based on who I was then (or I wouldn't have made them). I remind myself that I'm thinking back in a distorted way and that there is no benefit in second guessing myself or living in the past, and that I know more now with hindsight than I did back then. And then I remind myself of all the good things that may not have happened or that I might have missed had I travelled a different path up to now.

Even if we forgive ourselves and accept what has happened, that doesn't mean we can't benefit from pausing and taking stock of our lives for the future. All too often we get stuck on the busy treadmill of life, moving from one task to another, forgetting the bigger picture and longer term within the mass of responsibilities, tasks and distractions. Rather than waiting until many years from now, when it may be too late to do anything but regret, you want to know that you've lived a life that's full, that you've travelled each and every highway to live a fulfilling life and much more than that, that you did it your way (yes, I've ripped a bit off Frank in that last sentence). 

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Growth From Adversity: Post Traumatic Growth During The Covid-19 Pandemic

"What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger..." as Kelly Clarkson sang, and which has now made it impossible for me to say the phrase without singing the song! Although apparently the phrase originates from something Nietzsche wrote.

Be that as it may, it's all about going through difficult and challenging experiences and coming out the other side of it with more strength and resilience because of what you've been through. Going through difficult times can lead to personal growth as we learn what we can withstand and get through and develop more robust coping skills for whatever comes our way next.

Certainly all of the evidence shows us that for many people, the Covid-19 pandemic has been traumatic. Yet whilst there has undoubtedly been an impact in mental health, such as anxiety, stress and depression, there have also been more positive aspects that have been gained. Bad stuff can be painful and it hurts, but we can also gain insight, learning, knowledge of ourselves and psychological resilience for future events (although if you've been affected by a traumatic event, you may benefit form therapeutic help).

Growing from adversity (post traumatic growth) describes the positive changes experienced by people as a result of their efforts to deal with challenging circumstances. There can be elements of personal growth, such as positive, healthy changes to your lifestyle or developing coping skills. Coming through adversity can lead to improved relationships with others and a renewed appreciation of the people in your life. And you may experience a greater appreciation for life, new perspectives and more gratitude for things.

It isn't necessarily from the challenging events that we can gain positives, because many of these things can be painful and stressful, yet we can grow because of and as a result of these things. Through the traumatic events I've had to face in my life, from anxiety and bullying, to illness and bereavement, the result has been greater understanding of myself, the development of resources, a clearer perspective and focus on what's important to me, and more appreciation and gratitude for the things I value in life. The events themselves were painful, hurtful and at times even unbearable, yet there have still more positive aspects that have benefited me and my life.  

So has the pandemic led to any positive outcomes and how can you benefit from growing from any adversity you may face? 

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