Is Sedentary Behaviour Affecting your physical and mental health?

I've written many times before about the value of exercise and getting moving to boost your physical and mental health. In my own life my exercise is now a central part of how I prioritise my physical and mental health and I can really notice the difference if I miss my training for a while.

Yet it isn't just because I enjoy it that I promote getting moving; it's because research upon research demonstrates that getting active brings benefits physically and mentally. Getting moving and exercise improve our mental health, boost our mood, can reduce symptoms of depression and help reduce anxiety. 

As if that wasn't enough a recently published report looked at the impact of sedentary behaviour in the UK and, in looking at the cost burden on the NHS of sedentary lifestyles, once again highlighted the negative impacts on health.

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Hypnotherapy, The Unconscious Mind & The Fear of Losing Control:

People often ask me how it is that, despite the thousands of research papers and positive results achieved through hypnotherapy, hypnosis is still not available through the NHS in the UK.

And I believe that the answer comes down to the money to develop and provide it and train staff and so on, and misunderstanding about what hypnosis actually is and what it involves.

A few months back I was talking to a prominent mental health advocate who told me that, although he felt he needed therapeutic help with an issue that hypnotherapy is well suited for, he was worried about being 'out of control' during the hypnosis. Now this is a mental health advocate who speaks at schools and other organisations yet who was unaware that the science and practice of hypnotherapy is, in fact, the opposite of his perception. You learn how to take back control over your thoughts and feelings and 'mind' rather than seemingly having to just live with anxiety, stress and worry. 

And if those within the mental health profession don't get it then no wonder hypnotherapy is where it is (despite all the positive scientific evidence in its favour and despite the research that shows that hypnosis tends to increase the results of cognitive behavioural therapy). Although interestingly I've worked with many doctors, some of whom have even sent their patients and their kids to work with me, so perhaps there is a growing understanding of the role that hypnotherapy can play in improving our mental health.

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Challenging Anxious Thinking to Reign in Anxiety:

Anxiety can take pretty much most things in life and ramp up those anxious thoughts and feelings until they dominate your mind. And it really could be anything that ignites the anxiety, from a remark someone says, the way someone looks at you or a particular event or situation. Before you know it you just can't switch off from it and it starts to have an impact on you.

Recently, I had a health 'thing' that had all the potential to explode into a great ball of anxiety, and which, I'm pretty certain, would have done so in the past when anxiety was a big part of who I was. It was the sort of health thing that clients have told me about and which can affect them whether they have general anxiety or health anxiety problems.

Now, one thing that clients often remark upon is how calm I always seem. No matter what is going on, they tell me, I seem to have this aura of calmness about me. In fact, only a week or so ago, one client asked me whether anything ever bothers me or makes me anxious! 

As much as I admire Sherlock Holmes and his critical reasoning abilities, I'm not a robot and we are all meant to experience emotion that is appropriate to what we are facing. Yet, I also know that by developing the ability to challenge anxious thinking it is possible to learn how to stop habitual anxiety provoking thought patterns from leading us to a place of massive, unwanted anxiety.

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The Rise and Rise of Anxiety and Depression:

Anxiety and depression levels continue to rise and rise, despite the numerous national and local initiatives put in place to try and counter them.

The Psychiatric Morbidity Survey provides data on both treated and untreated mental health issues among adults in England. Their most recent survey results (from 2014, published in 2016), indicate that one in six adults in England has a common mental health disorder (which includes anxiety and depression). This translates to about one woman in five and one man in eight having a mental health disorder, and the rate has increased in women and remained largely stable in men.  

Perhaps even more alarming is that rates of self-harming have increased in men and women and across age groups since 2007.

Despite all the programmes and talking, mental health issues such as anxiety and depression continue to increase and impact on more and more people. The human cost of all this anxiety and depression, and the impacts that go with it, can't even be estimated.

Now, new data from America has suggested that there has been a generational shift in mood disorders towards certain age groups.

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Anxiety and Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

In my last article I wrote about the evidence for hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and how research has demonstrated how hypnosis can really help alleviate the symptoms of IBS (you can read that article here: Hypnotherapy for IBS).

IBS is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that is estimated to affect up to 15% of people. It causes persistent pain or discomfort that is associated with relief with defecation, looser or more frequent stools, or harder or less frequent stools. The symptoms need to have been present at least three days per month over the past three months for a diagnosis of IBS.

One feature I mentioned in that last article was how IBS and anxiety often go together.

There may be anxiety around needing the toilet urgently when out, or about getting caught out if there is no toilet available and there is an urgent need to go. There may be anxiety around experiencing symptoms when with other people or about being in discomfort or needing the loo urgently when with others. And there is often an elevated level of anxiety around any situation that may involve feeling 'trapped' or out of control such as being a passenger in a car or on a train where there may be little control over going to the toilet if needed.

And, of course, as well as IBS symptoms, anxiety itself can impact on our stomachs and digestive system which can exacerbate IBS type symptoms and lead to even more anxiety. It can become a very cyclical cycle of IBS creating anxiety and the anxiety then worsening the IBS symptoms...leading to more anxiety.

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Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome: The Evidence for the Effectiveness Of IBS Hypnosis:

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a common yet complicated condition that affects your digestive system. Typical symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea, abdominal pain and constipation, any of which may last from a day or so to much longer periods of time. 

Perhaps the most frustrating element of IBS if you suffer with it, is that it is usually a lifelong problem with no known 'cure' and there is still no universally agreed understanding of what causes it.   

I've worked with a lot of IBS sufferers and often stress and anxiety can exacerbate the symptoms yet IBS can also create its own anxiety. With IBS you may feel anxious about going places in case it strikes and may find yourself checking whether there are toilets available, avoiding going certain places if it would not be easy to get to a toilet or if there isn't one easily available and sometimes even avoiding eating to hopefully be free from symptoms when out and about. It can start to place huge limits on your life and whilst conventional medical interventions such as medication, education and dietary changes may help to some degree, it may not provide relief for your IBS bowel symptoms (or ease the anxiety that goes with the symptoms). 

When those traditional treatment approaches do not alleviate IBS symptoms, many people turn to treatments such as hypnotherapy for their irritable bowel syndrome. So, how effective is hypnotherapy for IBS?

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Cognitive Hypnotherapy For Depression - How Effective Is It?

In my last blog I wrote all about the evidence for the anti-depressant effect of exercise on those with clinical depression (you can read that here: Depression: Does aerobic exercise have anti-depressant effects?). The overall conclusions suggest that, with depression, it makes sense to include some active exercise components in your treatment plan.

In this post I'm going to be looking at the effectiveness of cognitive hypnotherapy to help reduce symptoms of depression. Hypnotherapy can help in many ways with the psychological aspects of depression, including motivation and tackling rumination, anxiety and worry.

We are going to be looking at a study that compared the effects of cognitive behavioural therapy (a well established treatment for depression) with clinical hypnotherapy to empirically investigate the additive effect of hypnosis in the management of chronic depression. 

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Depression: Does aerobic exercise have anti-depressant effects?

It's no secret, if you have read through some of these blogs, that exercise forms one of the main pillars of how I organise my life. In the past this was solely running focused and these days it incorporates several bootcamps a week with some short running. Exercise is important to me and boosts my sense of physical fitness and mental health.

Funnily enough when I was younger I hated exercise (I blame cross country in the rain at school). I had no interest in it and I was overweight, which put me off it even more because of the increased perceived effort required. Later life showed that once you find something that you enjoy and that makes you feel better in yourself then you can turn it around and find that you benefit from habitually exercising. Or as someone put it to me recently (a non-exerciser), I'm one of those weirdos who really enjoys exercising.

My own personal experience has been that exercise boosts my mental health. When there is a lot going on or an element of stress or worry in life then a good bootcamp or run helps me to process it and cope with it and emerge feeling mentally stronger.  

And it isn't just me who has found that exercise benefits mental health. There is a growing body of research that supports this and in this article I'll be looking at a couple of research reviews that tell us a lot about how exercise can benefit people with depression.

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Gratitude and Well-Being: How To Improve Your Well-Being and Self-Esteem:

In my last article I wrote all about the impact of gratitude on anxiety, depression and self-esteem (have a read here: The Impact of Gratitude on Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem and Well-being). The research I talked about there shows that gratitude is strongly related to several aspects of well-being and mental health. 

People who have a disposition to notice and appreciate positive aspects in their life and their world tend to be happier, more optimistic, have positive self-esteem and are more positive and they also experience less depression and anxiety symptoms. In fact, gratitude can be considered to offer some protection against depression and anxiety because you are able to encourage and be compassionate and reassuring towards yourself when things go wrong in life and when faced with challenges.

As the researchers concluded, "gratitude is also associated with an improved "relationship with the self," in the form of a more positive and compassionate way of treating ourselves when things go wrong in life, which partially explains why grateful people are also less depressed and anxious" (Petrocchi & Couyoumdjian (2015)).

As I mentioned in that last article, with so many mental health benefits of gratitude, it really does make sense to purposefully apply it in your life. You are more likely to feel happy, have positive self-esteem, a better sense of well-being and experience less anxiety and depression symptoms. 

And if you do want to benefit from these good things then I'll be covering some ways you can do so in this article.

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The Impact of Gratitude on Anxiety, Depression, Self-Esteem and Well-being:

As I write this article, the sun is shining and it's a beautiful day here in Ely (although by the time you are reading this it may well have turned back cold and wet!). And on a sunny day like today it's often easier to take a few moments here and there to be grateful for the sunshine and to enjoy the surroundings for a moment.

People do seem to be a lot chirpier when Spring arrives and to be much more appreciative of being able to get out and enjoy the good weather and to go and do things with the warmth of the sun pouring down upon them.

Certainly last weekend when I headed out with my girls I deliberately took a few moments to just make sure I was in the moment when I was with them so I could pay them full attention and to take some time to enjoy being out in the open around all the trees and nature and so on. And today I took some time to record a little vlog on the benefits of gratitude and how it can help boost well-being, happiness, self-esteem and more. Given all we know about the benefits of gratitude and appreciation it really does make sense from a mental health perspective to cultivate it purposefully...more on that later.

It may just be me, but one thing I like to do on my daily walk to the office is to keep count of how many people take a brief moment to show gratitude and appreciation for small acts by other people. On my route to the office I often encounter many parents who are in the process of dropping off their kids or who have just done so, along with others who are heading to work or even out walking the dog or running. I find it almost automatic to do things like move to one side to let them pass on their way, or to move onto the road so they can continue along the pavement.

And it is actually quite surprising how many people do not acknowledge even small acts of benevolence from another person (about 50% if you're interested). Not that it's worth getting wound up about (because worrying or getting annoyed about what someone else does or doesn't do is futile) but I do wonder whether they take the same attitude into the rest of their day and into work and friendships and so on. Often these people seem (from the outside) to be pretty unhappy and I wonder if they get annoyed and frustrated at their kids, colleagues and friends when they receive the same lack of thanks and appreciation from them. 

Yet regardless of what other people say and do (and regardless of my daily contemplations!), there is much to be gained from deliberately fostering an attitude of gratitude and putting it into practice for ourselves to boost our own well-being and happiness and to help with anxiety and depression. 

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