We all talk to ourselves.
Often the talk is silent and internal. Often our self talk is made from the same thoughts that we had yesterday and that we will have tomorrow. Often we don’t even notice our self talk but we ignore it at our peril because the thoughts in our self-talk create feelings and those feelings create physical actions and reactions; self-talk influences both anxiety and confidence or simply put, a negative thought creates a negative feeling which creates a negative action or reaction and as we have about 60,000 thoughts a day it’s important to minimise the negative ones.
We tend to look for external causes of our negative actions and yet the cause goes back to our thoughts, our self-talk. We are all more critical of ourselves than we are to those we love; we undermine our own confidence, we doubt our abilities and focus on our ‘failures’ – things we would never do to those we love.
Learning to flip self-talk over to positive, like all new learning, requires a relaxed and focused mind, awareness and practice. A good starting point, when you recognise your negative self-talk is to calm your mind and ask yourself some new questions because new questions will provide you with new answers. Creating a positive affirmation to repeat to yourself is a great way of changing the focus of your mindset from negative to positive and is a technique often used in sport psychology.
Affirmations are powerful and positive statements which through repetition, strengthen an intention deeply and are able to bypass your rational conscious mind in order to be assimilated into your emotional unconscious mind. The wonderful thing about the unconscious mind is that it doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination so it will accept whatever thought it is repeatedly exposed to.
So if there’s a action or reaction that you want to change in yourself, learn to relax your mind, listen in to your self-talk and ask yourself if you would talk in the same way to someone you loved. Ask yourself some new questions to challenge your negative self-talk and create a powerful and motivating affirmation to begin repeating because . . .
your thoughts create your feelings which create your actions and reactions
The days are beginning to shorten and soon we’ll be turning the clocks back. In primitive times we would retreat to our caves to escape the harsh winter storms and shortened days which meant we had less time to hunt. In many respects we do the same even in the modern world with the cosy warmth and light of our homes offering shelter and comfort from the cold, dark world outside.
SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder/Depression is often experienced in the winter months by those who, during the rest of the year, feel no depression or low mood. Light boxes can be of benefit during the winter months in addition to exercise, relaxing the mind and positive interaction with others.
It is tempting when we leave work, often in the dark, to rush home and feel no motivation to go out again. Staying home in the warmth may feel comfortable but at the expense of us engaging in activities which have a positive impact on our mental health.
Our mental health is as important to look after as our physical health and yet sadly there is still a stigma attached to the words ‘mental health’. We all need to take active steps to manage how we feel and we need to take these steps consistently.
Exercise boosts the neurotransmitters which regulate our mood and of course exercise is good for both the mind and the body; primitive man felt good after hunting! Exercise also provides an opportunity for positive interaction with other people; we are social animals and when we lived in tribes we would go out hunting together, sit around the camp fire listening to elders tell us stories or talk to our fellow tribesmen/women about how our day had been.
Relaxing the mind is vital as we struggle to feel good when our internal stress buckets are full. Just 25 minutes of daily guided meditation begins the process of emptying the bucket, which in turn leads to better sleep and better mood.
Spending some of our free-time outside is also vital as during the working week we often go to work and return from work in the dark – vitamin D is made from sunlight via our skin and whilst the winter months offer less bright sunlight it is still beneficial to spend time outside. In winter some doctors may recommend a Vitamin D supplement as low levels have been linked to low mood and depression.
The clocks aren’t turned back until the end of October so why not set up a routine of positive interaction, exercise and relaxation for the mind today! Don’t let the winter get you down!
The need for growth allows us to learn new skills and to fulfill our potential. Without fulfilling this need some of us can feel as if our lives have stagnated or have reached a place where we feel bored with everything. We don’t need to make huge changes in life to feel as if we are growing; we can learn a new skill or take up a new interest, we can take courses that will allow for career development. For others this need can be satisfied by taking a working holiday or by travelling to new places of historic or cultural significance – in short, stepping out of our comfort zone which also boosts confidence.
The need to make a contribution allows us to feel we are helping others, passing on our skills, leaving a legacy and it can also satisfy the need to connect with others, often those in less privileged positions. Working for charities or on a professional voluntary basis where we pass on our knowledge and experience and coach or mentor those both older or younger than us. Helping others can also be an excellent way of increasing our own face-to-face interaction in the community and a great ante-dote to loneliness, anxiety and depression as well as boosting confidence.
What’s interesting about these two needs is that not everybody will be aware of them and yet they can provide a sense of fulfillment that cannot be measured in financial terms.
- When did you last feel as if you were growing and developing as an individual?
- When did you last feel as if you were making a difference to other people?
It’s easy to overlook all of our needs and yet when we take time to reflect on them we can then seek to meet them with actions that are both positive and beneficial to ourselves as well as others.
Our need to connect and to feel loved is extremely powerful. In primitive times being accepted as part of your tribe meant safety in a world that was unpredictable and potentially hostile. Today humans continue to need to feel accepted by their tribe however, unlike primitive times, today we belong to more than one tribe.
Our family is just one tribe we belong to, so are work colleagues, school friends, friends we socialise with etc and yet despite being a member of several different tribes, the fear of being ostracised and abandoned is still very real for some people. Positive human relationships are vital for us to feel connected. When we feel rejected by our ‘main’ tribe we will seek out a replacement tribe which may or may not be beneficial.
The world of social media often fulfills this need but the relationships can be one dimensional and often built on dishonesty leaving participants or tribe members extremely vulnerable. Disillusioned young people are often drawn to become gang members out of a need to feel they belong and yet often become embroiled in gun violence as one tribe seeks to dominate another or seeks to protect it’s ‘territory’ or business ‘activity’ with gang members often paying the highest price.
Never before has the need for connection been so unfulfilled by human relationships and yet never before has the need for human relationships been so important. What can we do? We can reach out to family members, to colleagues, to old friends as a means of maintaining and strengthening a sense of connection but also by being prepared to pursue activities which offer the possibility for new positive connections with those from other tribes because the most important tribe we all belong to is the human tribe and our basic human needs are the same.
To feel significant or important is a need which everybody has. Just as with our other needs, we can satisfy the need to feel important through either positive or negative actions and behaviours.
Positive significance can be achieved through our accomplishments in our education, career and relationships; these require consistent hard work and perseverance and often the rewards only come at the end of the hard work which can take years.
Negative significance is often achieved through actions which either threaten or undermine others. The use of weapons in gang culture and workplace bullying are examples of this. Often those who consciously or unconsciously realise the need to feel important through negative actions or behaviours doubt their ability to feel important through any other means or are blinded by their need to feel important now, without having to invest any sustained effort on their part. It has been suggested that this short-termism has been generated by the advent of reality tv and social media and there may well be some truth in this; what is true is that any form of short-term gain goes against the long held belief that real and meaningful reward comes only after effort.
To feel significant one has to recognise one’s own abilities and to self-validate, rather than relying on other people or external factors for validation. This is an example of living in balance – relying on oneself rather than solely relying on others for validation. We are all important because we exist, not because of the car we drive or our bank balance and when we accept this we can then focus our attention and effort on what we do want from life; success on the outside begins with success on the inside through self-acceptance.
Have you ever wondered why it’s sometimes hard to stay focused on a goal? A goal that you chose and that will benefit you? Despite what you may think it’s not due to a lack of focus or staying power but due to one of our 6 basic human needs. If a need isn’t being met through positive or beneficial ways it will be met through negative or detrimental ways, at times even through illegal ways. The second of our basic human needs is the need for variety.
With recent advances in technology we are presented with a multitude of choices; choices in how we spend our free time, choices in how and when we access information and even how and when we communicate with each other, choices in how we shop, how we holiday and travel etc. We also live in an increasing throw-away world where consumer goods are regularly replaced by updated, faster, more sophisticated versions. We expect to have access to what we want, when we want it; a constant source of external stimulus with which to fill our time. As a result our boredom threshold has never been lower and is equalled by our impatience and our intolerance of routine and consistency.
But as Tony Robbins has pointed out, our need for variety is at odds with our need for certainty. We need both. A balanced life where we consciously avoid the trap of staying in our comfort zones allows for positive variety; learning something new, visiting new places, meeting new people are all positive ways of introducing variety. Unless we deliberately create positive variety for ourselves we can begin to blame the lack of it on our jobs, studies and even relationships which we often end up sabotaging.
Life isn’t always fast-changing, it isn’t always exciting or entertaining and it does sometimes feel like an uphill grudge! But it’s positive variety that balances out the dull and the mundane – pay attention to your needs so all the plates stay on the canes!
Have you ever wondered how hard it sometimes feels to change a negative habit or behaviour? Despite what you may think it is not due to a lack of will power or even motivation but due to one of our 6 basic human needs. If a need isn’t being met through positive or beneficial action it will be met through negative or detrimental action, sometimes even illegal. The first of our basic human needs is the need for certainty.
Never before has the world we live in been more uncertain. The pace of change has brought much progress and yet has also highlighted our need for certainty.
Most of us communicate via email and text and because of the immediacy of this communication we find ourselves expecting a response within a time-frame that feels comfortable to us. When no response is forthcoming within our desired time-frames we are left in a state of confusion and uncertainty. Has the email been read? Has it maybe gone into the recipient’s junk mail? Has something happened to the recipient? But the worst question many a sender has found themselves thinking is, am I being ignored? The pain of vulnerability that is created by our real discomfort with uncertainty is hard to bear; even worse is not knowing how to alleviate this pain because if we email again too soon we look desperate and needy and as if we have no control over our emotions.
To live without any uncertainty is unrealistic; we can’t predict the weather, world events, economies or even football results but perhaps the most painful uncertainty is not knowing if we are still part of our ‘tribe’. We belong to many tribes, our family, our friends, our colleagues, team members etc and the fear of having been ostracised dates back to primitive times when belonging to a tribe represented safety with people who we could identify with and understand.
When a change in habit (despite how beneficial that change would be) means no longer being part of one of our tribes (of smokers, or drug addicts for example), we can feel scared at the prospect of having to make our way through a world which can feel alien, lonely and full of uncertainty.
We are though all more accustomed to uncertainty than we might be aware of. Everything thing we have learnt has initially felt unfamiliar and uncertain; we practise new skills without any guarantee of success but we know that it is through consistent practice that we can transition from unskilled to skilled; not only are we practising and learning the new skill but also practising and learning how to become more comfortable with uncertainty and in the uncertain world we live in, that’s one of the most useful skills to learn.
Solution focused hypnotherapy was developed by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in the 1970s. It is future-focused, goal-directed, client-centred with a focus on solutions, rather than on the problems that prompt clients to seek therapy.
Clients are often surprised that we don’t need to hear about the problem nor do we engage in any analysis of the root cause of the problem. Instead we focus on the exceptions to the problem, those times and situations in which the client managed to cope but has often overlooked.
By encouraging the client to focus on the exceptions and his or her own resourcefulness which made the exceptions possible we are not only validating them but also enabling them to talk about themselves and perceive themselves in a more positive and empowering way; often people see themselves only in terms of their problem rather than as a person who has experienced a problem at certain times.
Asking the client to identify which of his or her existing, or previous resources he or she could use to take a next small step forward, encourages him or her to own their own solutions as they are the expert in themselves. It further serves to develop a future-oriented focus away from a past and problem-oriented focus. Even a small step towards a goal releases positive chemicals whereas focusing on the past and on a problem leads to negative thinking which shrinks our ability to perceive possibilities and solutions.
The hypnotherapy part of the session begins with a progressive muscle relaxation because the brain follows the body; it continues with guided visualisation using solution focused language and indirect suggestions. EEGs (Electroencephalography) illustrates that in the relaxed ‘trance’ state there less activity of problem-focused beta waves and increased activity of solution-focused alpha waves.
In between sessions clients are asked to listen to a relaxation/hypnotherapy mp3 to reduce anxiety and stress and thereby facilitate a mindset that is increasingly solution focused. Each week even the smallest step forward is recorded and validated. Solution focused therapy is now being used in hospitals with cancer patients to help with anxiety as well as patients with chronic pain, it can help with phobias, breaking negative habits, relationship difficulties, depression and stress as well a psychosomatic illnesses; it has applications to the world of sports performance both on a professional and amateur level as well as to the business world in terms of problem solving and confidence building.
The management of chronic pain can require such a multi-disciplinary approach that many hospitals now have Pain Management Clinics. Often there is no cure for chronic pain so the goal is to lower the pain so that it becomes bearable and has less of a negative impact on the individual’s life. Chronic pain is debilitating and can cause poor sleep, reduced mobility, reduced work opportunities, financial stress, emotional and relationship difficulties – chronic pain therefore affects the whole person, body and mind and potentially every area of a person’s life.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is becoming more widely used in hospitals as well as by therapists in their own consulting rooms and our clients are often referred to us by osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists and GPs.
It can help you learn how to manage the anxiety and stress that often accompanies and worsens chronic pain. You learn to relax your mind and focus your thoughts away from the pain through the use of progressive muscle relaxation and guided visualisation; self-hypnosis techniques are also taught so that you can be confident of being able to manage your pain better outside of the therapy room in your everyday life. Hypnotherapy isn’t a quick fix and like any new skill it requires practice and some people will need more sessions than others.
The connection between the mind and body has long been recognised as being extremely powerful and our perception of pain and pain threshold are both greatly influenced by our thoughts, our emotions, our mindset and self-confidence; a more relaxed and positive mental attitude has only benefits for everyone and is instrumental in post-operative, post-injury and post-illness recovery.
For appointments call 07899 625 156
Yvonne Morgan MEd,BA (Hons) DHP MRAH HPD Dip-CBT