Category: life lessons

The power of small changes


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Are you like a lot of my clients who feel change needs to be dramatic to get the results you want?

Do you find yourself trying to change too much and then getting discouraged when you don’t see results straight away?

Are you ready to try a different approach and recognise the power of small changes in your life.

During hypnotherapy I regularly use stories and metaphors to help clients find a new perspective and then their own solution.

This example illustrates the differences a small change can make over time.

Back over time, about a hundred years ago, ships would sail regularly from Liverpool, across the Atlantic to New York, taking expectant and excited families to new lives and opportunities.
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Once there was a captain who was distracted and happened to change the setting on his ship’s instruments by just a few degrees.

As you know there are 360 degrees in a circle so one or two degrees is such a small change – isn’t it?

However after sailing such a long distance for over three weeks this seemingly very slight change had become dramatically magnified and taken the ship and all those aboard to a completely different destination. Imagine the families’ surprise to find themselves not in grey and drab New York

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buenos aires
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…………………………………………..but in sunny Buenos Aries instead !!

I wonder if you were committed to making a small change from today onwards whether you can see how your actions could similarly be magnified. Imagine where you would be in a months time, or six months or even a year.

What about taking a moment to listen to your own intuition as to what small change could be beneficial for you.

Perhaps starting to take a walk everyday. ( a study came out only this week showing that a daily walk was far more effective than any other exercise program in being successful in keeping fit and losing weight – it is also so helpful in lifting your mood and more effective at treating mild depression than antidepressants )

Maybe making time to just sit and be mindful for five minutes before you start your day is what you need to deal with the stress that seems to characterise your life at the moment.

I wonder what is coming to mind for you just now. Whatever it is why not make a commitment to try it out.

Why not make that small change for the next month, let go of the need for drama and instantaneous results but instead enjoy the anticipation of your very own metaphorical Buenos Aires carnival that will come in time !

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What language do you speak ?

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What Language do you speak ?

Would your initial response be English – perhaps with a spattering of GCSE French or Spanish.

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Well actually I am not asking about that type of language but rather about what Love Language you speak!

Gary Chapman has written an interesting book called ‘ The 5 Love Languages ‘ and has identified five main ways we communicate and appreciate love. Most people have one main category that predominantly gives them their greatest feeling of giving and receiving love.

I wonder if you’ve ever noticed a time when trying to do something nice for a loved one or a friend that it hasn’t been appreciated in quite the way you expected or would have appreciated it yourself.

Do you ever feel that people don’t do enough loving things for you and don’t appreciate you in the way you would like.

Perhaps, like with so many issues in life, the difficulty is a lack of communication. The problem is that you are probably speaking different love languages and to improve your communication it would be good to get a working knowledge of each others language.

I wonder which resonates the most with you ?

1. Words of affirmation – you feel and show love with words, saying I love you and other words of appreciation

i love you

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2. Acts of service – you feel and show love by actions rather than words, it is the things you do and that are done for you that express the love.
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3. Receiving gifts – you feel and show love by giving and receiving, this can be small gifts and gestures and doesn’t have to be grand presents

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4. Quality time -you feel and show love by having and giving undivided attention.

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5. Physical touch – you feel and show love by touch, holding hands , a caress, a gentle hand on the shoulder.

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Which category do you think you are in and what about your family and friends ?

Remember put aside any judgement about your own language being the best, there is no one language that is better than any other , just like English is no better than Japanese than Greek than Hindi. You wouldn’t want to become one of those arrogant people who just expect everyone to speak their own language and make no attempt to even learn a few words of someone else’s- would you!

Becoming mindful of clues to which love language people use can be the first step to improving your communication. This will allow you to treat others in the way they want to be treated and appreciate what they are trying to do for you. You can begin to see their loving motives even if their behaviour doesn’t quite hit the mark for you. Once you both realise which love language you are speaking you can then begin to ‘speak’ in the appropriate way to each other.

Always remember Listening is the most powerful tool we have in communication !

We make so may assumptions in everyday life, about others and what makes them tick . The first rule of hypnotherapy is to never make assumptions about anyone and instead really try and get into an individual’s way of thinking to get the clearest picture that you can of their experience of their world.
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So what about taking that on in your everyday life.

Keep in mind that classic mistake of just shouting louder ( or doing more of the same thing ) when someone doesn’t understand your language and instead what about starting to learn some of theirs and teaching them some of yours !

Breaking that habit !

habitsWhat exactly are habits ?

Perhaps the simplest way to describe them is that they are short cuts in our brains.

Unconscious patterns of behaviour that are set into motion without us really having to think about any part of the process, so their function is in freeing up our minds to think about more important things.

They can be very useful, for example having a habit of regularly drinking water, waking up and going out for a run, brushing your teeth or a great proportion of your driving behaviour.

However they can also be “bad habits ” such as smoking, mindless eating, biting your nails and lots of not so good driving behaviour such that our old driving examiners would certainly not pass us in a test if we took it now !
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Neuroscience has shown that these habits are laid down as a series of connections between the brain cells in the limbic part of our brain far away from the pre frontal cortex where we make our conscious decisions about behaviour.This why it can be so hard to break a habit and willpower is seldom enough ! How often have you found yourself, without really realising it, doing the very thing you don’t want to ! It’s as if your pre frontal cortex is shouting from far far away ‘ No – Stop ! ‘ but the limbic system is already stuck into its process before it hears that far off message .

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So how can you break a ‘bad habit ‘ ?

First you need to disrupt the automatic loop and then this gives an opening for you to change the behaviour.

Breaking into the automatic loop can be helped by doing things differently. Do you have a particular trigger or association. If you come in and always open the fridge and find your self mindlessly eating can you change your pattern and go upstairs instead. If you find yourself finishing off that bottle of wine because it’s on the table – putting it back in the fridge can break into the loop as it will require a conscious decision to get it out again.

Hypnotherapy can also help by accessing the unconscious mind, breaking into that old patterns and then setting down new triggers, associations and patterns in the unconscious mind.

However I’m sure you have experienced that it can take time to really establish a new automatic loop of good habit and it seems all too easy to fall back into the old pattern of behaviour.

Perhaps to carry on the driving theme you could almost consider the old bad habit loop as a motorway in your mind, easy, speedy, smooth – you zip down it and there you are before you know it.

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The new behaviour might in comparison feel like a windy track. Perhaps a bit bumpy, you have to really focus on the whole process, it feels clunky and you have to really concentrate to get where you want to go.

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However the more you drive down the new path the easier and more smooth the ride becomes , you forge a new motorway and you find the other is eventually closed down through lack of use.

Neuroscientists have found that it takes between 21 and 42 days of repeating a new habit for the connections in the brain to become truly established and take on motorway proportions.

I use this information in my hypnotherapy practice by asking clients to listen to a personalised recording I make for them for at least 21 days after a session with me.

You could also use this time frame if you are wanting to set up a new supportive habit in any aspect of your life.

Make a conscious decision about what you would like your new pattern of behaviour to be and start today. Visualise the narrow road to begin with but each day feel it getting wider and the behaviour more automatic.

You could also try something a lot of my clients find a useful tool, especially after that initial enthusiasm has worn off and the goal of 21 – 42 days seems still far off !

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Each day you perform the new habit move a marble from one jar to the other. The mind can then focus on the short term rather than the long term goal and a small positive daily recognition is a reward that can help you keep going till the new pattern is set.

Good Luck – You can do it !

Back to School !

Is the tail end of August bringing up those ‘back to school’ feelings for you ?

Perhaps , as a hangover from childhood, the new school year feels more important and significant to you than the actual new year in January. Maybe you get the sense that this is a time for change , new beginnings, letting go of old patterns of behaviour and maybe feelings of excitement and anticipation as to what lies in the year ahead. In all the business that this time of year brings, I would encourage you to take some moments to listen to the messages these feelings might have for you.

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As well as being frantically busy, for many parents this time of year can bring a mixture of feelings. Often a new transition, whether it be going to nursery or school for the first time or moving up into the next school year,

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going to secondary school
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a gap year or university

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or ultimately finishing education and going out into the big wide world

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can bring into focus that your child is becoming more and more independent and there is a need to appropriately let go a little more – not always easy !

As parents we need to provide love and care for our children, whatever stage they are at, but it is all to easy to confuse care with worry and instead come from a restricting place of fear.

We worry – what if they have no friends, don’t fit in, don’t get the grades they need, don’t get a job, even if we don’t say this to them they always feel our fear.

It is a classic thing to say – I just want my child to be happy – but parents often don’t realise they hold a specific image of what that happiness might be and on some level this can feel restrictive and be a pressure for their child.

Nowadays we are encouraged as parents to make our children feel better, so as to promote good self esteem. Have you ever thought that perhaps instead we should be concentrating on helping them get better at feeling !
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Feelings
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Feelings are one of our greatest links to our unconscious mind and intuition. A big part of hypnotherapy is encouraging people to listen to their feelings instead of ignoring them or pushing them down with food, numbing them with alcohol, drugs, shopping or even perfectionism and business. Listening and validating their feelings is the most nurturing thing we can do for our children ( and spouses and friends!)

So whatever stage your children may be, what about making this September a time for welcoming and validating all feelings, both theirs and yours, and start choosing thoughts of love and care rather than those of worry, control and fear

I always find this poem by the Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran a great reminder of this
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On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

The Mathematics of Happiness

Does the title of this blogpost seem a bit like an oxymoron to you ?

Are you one of those people who believe maths and happiness don’t ever belong in the same sentence !

So many people have a fixed mindset about maths, that they are no good at it and never will be. Maybe you feel that your brain is not wired up in that way and that maths will only ever be something that brings you stress and frustration.
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Psychologists are now realising that this sort of mindset develops very early in life both from parental input and current teaching attitude and methods . A fixed mindset is where you have made up your mind about your abilities or characteristics and then document and look for evidence to support that decision. In comparison a growth mindset is one that is open to change and development.

Teaching to foster a growth mindset is being trialled in various British Schools at the moment. The work of Carol Dweck the Stanford Psychologist was recently highlighted in a very interesting segment on Woman’s Hour on R4.

The limiting effects of an early fixed mindset are not just seen in maths but also in other areas of people’s experience.

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You might like maths but are you one of those people who have decided you are just not creative. Did you decide that you were not any good at drawing pictures at school and this has held you back from trying creative pursuits later on in life.

It isn’t just a fixed mindset around maths and art that can have a constricting impact in our lives. At a very young age the decisions we make about the sort of person we are have far reaching effects into our future. Our child minds can make fixed decisions that continue to hold us back later on in life and stop us doing and experiencing that which could give us deep satisfaction and fulfilment.

I find the power of mindset really interesting and will probably come back to that in another post but today I want to get back to my original thoughts on the mathematics of happiness.
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When you think about your own experience of happiness does it seem like a problem of addition. Do you think that you will only be happy when you add things to your life.

How often do your thoughts tell you that you will only be happy when you get those clothes, that gadget, that holiday, move house, loose weight, fall in love.

Initially these things will make us feel better but often that good feeling soon passes and we are left looking for the next addition solution !

Maybe you feel this doesn’t reflect you and that your motivation is more spiritual. Perhaps what you are looking for is more time, peace and relaxation, more connection. We say to ourselves surely that is more worthy than wanting more stuff ! The problem is that this can still be the ego looking for an addition solution just fooling us dressed up in a spiritual guise.

True happiness most often proves to be more of an exercise in subtraction instead.

Unease , unhappiness and discontent are like a stain on a wall. You might be tempted to keep adding layers of paint to get rid of it, in an attempt make everything shiny and clean. At first it looks great but then disappointingly the stain soon starts to come through.
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Do you want to spend your life continuously painting over the top or would it be better to strip off the layers and actually clean the stain away once and for all.

In the same way lasting happiness and contentment usually comes from subtraction, letting go of the blocks in our minds to our natural happiness. Blocks such as stressful thoughts, the need to control, obsessions and judgements and then coming to a place of forgiveness.

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Simple – yes – but I am not pretending easy !

However recognising this and shifting your perspective on happiness is a massive first step.

What could you subtract rather than add today ?
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The Secret of Turtle Steps

How are you getting on with your ‘beating procrastination challenge ‘ ?

Are you celebrating success or feeling stuck and beating yourself up that you have failed to complete or even start tackling your goal ?

Can I share with you the secret of turtle steps and how they can play a vital role in getting you where you want to be – finishing a project, losing weight, learning a new skill or whatever else your goal might be.

As you know my challenge was my desk. I was really enthusiastic about taking on ‘eating my elephant in small bites’ and chunking the task. As the desk has eight drawers I decided I would tackle a drawer a day and be done in eight days. Ha ha ! The first few were easy but then I had a busy day and didn’t manage one and I could feel my crazy inner perfectionist’s internal resistance to doing more, as I had now failed to keep to my original plan.

Luckily I remembered the powerful concept of taking turtle steps that I was introduced to a few years ago by the american life coach Martha Beck during a workshop she held at St Ethelburga’s Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.

This centre is well worth a visit if you are in London. Originally a medieval church which, against all the odds, managed to survive the Great Fire of London, the Blitz and then in 1993 the IRA Bishopsgate bomb that exploded right outside. It is now facilitating great work in conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation and also provides a wonderful peaceful and inspiring venue for various workshops.

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So what is this about Turtle Steps ?!!

Well you know that turtles swim along beautifully under water but on land they have to take teeny weeny steps to get anywhere. Watching a turtle walk can be almost painful if you are intent on it getting to its destination but if you look away for a while and then come back you can really appreciate the progress it has made. The same with the turtle steps towards whatever goal you want to achieve !

Martha Beck emphasises the crucial thing about a turtle step is that it has to feel do-able, really ridiculously easy. The more ridiculously easy the better as it will cut through your self limiting thought processes and the more successful you will be. Remember any step can feel ridiculously easy as long as you make it small enough.

Baby Turtle

If you have a very strong inner perfectionist like I do you might be feeling some inner resistance to accepting the idea of turtle steps. Why oh why do our minds hold onto the idea that taking giant steps forward that exist only in our imagination is somehow better than the smaller steps that we can actually achieve in real life ?!

So how can you decide on your turtle steps, so that you are soon swimming along ?

Remember any step can feel ridiculously easy as long as you make it small enough. Why not start looking at your goal and chunking it down into the steps you would have to take to get there. Be aware that your inner perfectionist could be making these decisions so bypass this immediately by cutting each step in half. Then keep cutting them in half till they are so easy you almost feel you could do them in your sleep ! Just start with the first easy step, then the next and you now have the pathway to successfully reaching your goal.

If your inner perfectionist is very strong it may really resist the idea of turtle steps. Could you at some level be holding onto the idea that if you take on more than is necessary and excel at it, you will finally be worthy, and therefore, loved. The irony is that you don’t get more accomplished when you take on more — you actually accomplish less that way.

Often our minds won’t allow us to embrace ridiculously easy. If it feels easy we don’t trust it. Hypnotherapy can help you change a self limiting belief from ‘it has to be hard’ to ‘I can allow it to be easier’ which can then have profound effects in your everyday life.

Putting the timer on my phone and tackling just 5 minutes tidying became my turtle step and the only requirement was I did just one turtle step a day ( although without the pressure I found sometimes I would do more ) Ridiculously easy ! Now I am really enjoying the benefits of a clear and organised desk.

What turtle steps could you choose ?

Meaning in the mundane

This week while I was shopping in Sainsbury’s I came across a lovely little scene. There was a little girl of about 2 or 3, sitting in the trolley happily singing to herself.

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Immediately this set off a series of thoughts in my mind. Initially a pang of poignancy, remembering how lovely it was when I had a sweet cuddly toddler, but then I looked at her mum and my memories were tempered with a dose of realism. The continuous loop of the same song looked like it was getting rather wearing and I am also sure part of her was wondering whether they were going to get out of the shop without a tantrum this time. The song came to an end and the little girl took a breath and then started again…this was the song

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My next thought was a memory of something I read a long time ago, unfortunately I can’t remember the book or who wrote it but it introduced me to the idea that ” Row, row, row your boat” was a profound metaphor for life. Does that sound crazy to you !!? Well here is that analysis as I remember it –

Row, row, row

it is important that you live your life, take action, row, don’t just drift in your boat or let someone else take the oars, either type of passivity could take you where you don’t want to be.

your boat

it is your boat, your life, only you that you can change. Don’t try to row anybody else boat or try and control or change anyone else.

gently

gentleness is a great quality to live your life by, that way you won’t fall out of your boat or risk capsising and will probably get to your destination even quicker. Be gentle with others but especially be gentle with yourself, no more berating yourself or calling yourself names, be your own best friend !

down the stream

you won’t get very far and will wear yourself out by trying to row upstream, against your own resistance. Don’t waste your energy on things that cannot be changed, acceptance is about coming to terms with what is and from there moving forward down your stream.

merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

we only have one life, find enjoyment where you can. Try not to get so overwhelmed by the to do list, the stresses the mundanity of life. Where can you find enjoyment in the small things, merrily rowing your boat ?

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life is but a dream.

This last line could be open to so many interpretations, what is yours ?

It could be life is as fleeting as a dream, appreciate it while you can.
You might hold a belief that this life is not all there is and is only a dream compared to the bigger picture you hold true.
You might feel that it is a message to you, not to be too rigid and attached as life is like a dream and all could change in an instant, so cultivate the art of going with the flow.
Maybe it is a completely different interpretation for you !

So just a simple nursery rhyme or a profound analysis of life – what do you think ?

Either way I hope you won’t curse me today when you find you are singing to yourself and can’t get this little song out of your mind !!

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