Blue Monday: How are you today?

Since 2004 the third Monday of January has been known as ‘Blue Monday’. Psychologist Cliff Arnall selected the date after constructing a complex mathematical equation which takes into account the weather, debt levels, the time since we’ve failed our New Year’s resolutions and other variables that he deemed likely to be depressing. This is thought to be the day that winter looms more forbiddingly than ever, the joy and festivity of Christmas and the New Year has worn off and the drudgery of being back at work really takes its toll.  This year, that day will fall on the 20th January.

While it’s now been proven to not be true, there’s no specific day that makes you more or less likely to struggle with mental health issues, the concept of Blue Monday remains.  For many of us January in generally often feels just a bit glum. Marketers of all kinds of products have leveraged the bedrock of truth that underpins this day and have offerings such as massages, package holidays, aromatherapy and take away ‘comfort food’, because they’ll tell you, spending money is the easiest way to get through this slump.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH), the largest not-for-profit professional association for hypnotherapists in the UK, says around one in seven people are suffering from stress or anxiety at any one time in the UK. In January this figure may be higher than an average month; January is a particularly busy time for mental health services. If you’re one of the people affected, waiting for the return of the sun or feeling depressed about your finances and the lack of bank holidays in your immediate future there are things that you can do to help yourself feel better.

The NHS advises that keeping to a structured routine which includes gentle exercise, regular sleep ad nutritious food can be helpful when you’re feeling anxious or depressed. Take some time out to do something that you enjoy that you find absorbing.  Listen to your favourite music, download a meditation app or spend some time digging in the garden.  Whenever you notice yourself feeling anxious or depressed focus on taking 10 deep cleansing breaths, making sure that you’re fully expanding your rib cage and pushing your diaphragm down to get as much oxygen in as possible. Connect with friends and family, rather than isolating yourself or trying to ‘go it alone’.

If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression and feeling as though things are unmanageable a few sessions with a hypnotherapist may help you achieve a different perspective. When you attend sessions with a hypnotherapist you’ll receive targeted and compassionate help with the issues that you’re struggling with as well as be taught skills that will help you in the future.

You may find that the change is subtle, but pervasive. By working with your subconscious mind you’ll notice positive sifts in the way you think and feel about situations that you previously found stressful or avoided. You can expect to feel calmer, more confident and less stressed.

You can find a fully-trained, accredited and insured hypnotherapist near you by using the NCH directory, with nearly 2,000 trained and accredited therapists around the UK there’s sure to be someone near you.

Do you have Eco Anxiety?

Eco Anxiety is becoming more common

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Over the last few months many of us have been glued to the news of a string of natural disasters that have gripped the globe.  Some parts of the world are on fire, Australia, South Korea, part of America and Africa continue to burn with a startling ferocity. In other areas floods have decimated the countryside including Indonesia and more locally in Yorkshire last year.  The UK Government declared a climate emergency in May 2019.

The trauma and stress experienced post-disaster is understandable to most people, but even those whose lives and livelihoods don’t depend directly upon the climate are feeling the strain. For some people, the world is starting to feel like a deeply unsafe place.  This anxiety is being termed ‘eco anxiety’  or solastalgia and is defined as “the distress that is produced by environmental change impacting on people while they are directly connected to their home environment.”

The anxiety can manifest in many ways, from hesitating over decisions to start families or to move country because of a work opportunity to feeling paralysed by the smaller decisions that form daily life.  When these anxieties become a problem they affect the day-to-day functioning of your life.  School, work and interpersonal relationships can become strained as the person suffering feels overwhelmed by the scope of what is happening and unable to cope.

So what are the practical steps we can all take to better manage our anxiety about the state of the world?

Firstly, we can remind ourselves that everyone experiences anxiety and that it’s a natural response to stress. We can switch our focus from international catastrophes to areas where we can make an impact.  If you’re feeling hopeless about what others are (or aren’t) doing to address climate change, doing something yourself can feel empowering.

An effective technique to reduce anxiety is to focus on the things that you can control.  There are many changes that you can make at an individual level that will not only be beneficial for the environment, but may also instigate change in others:

  • Use your reusable coffee cup, bags and containers while shopping
  • Buy local produce when it’s in season and be mindful about food miles
  • Learn more about recycling
  • Lobby your local government to invest more in sustainable initiatives

If it all feels overwhelming, then know that it is okay to switch off.  Give yourself the time and space that you need, by taking a deliberate break from the news stories.  Many people find that reducing or eliminating television coverage of these disasters is helpful for them in maintaining a sense of perspective about what is happening in the world and helping them to keep their focus on the things that they can do to affect positive change.

Talking therapies have been proven to help treat anxieties, stress and depression. Working with a therapist you’ll learn how to change your focus and put your worries into a wider perspective you you’re able to carry on with daily life.

Clinical hypnotherapy particularly can be of benefit when working with mental health conditions and helping to assess the issues and identifying their root – whether it is a situation, a physical issue, a past experience or a relationship.

“After sessions with a hypnotherapist you may feel more confident; more relaxed in situations that have previously challenged you. Many people say that they are calmer and that they have more clarity of thought – able to make decisions more easily,” states the National Council for Hypnotherapy. In these challenging times it’s calmness and clarity of thought that we need as we face our future.

Click here to access the NCH directory, with over 1,800 therapists all around the UK there’s sure to be someone to help close to you.

Exploring hypnotherapy on World Hypnotism Day

Today is World Hypnotism Day. The day was founded to clear up some of the misconceptions and myths that surround therapeutic hypnosis and promote the benefits of hypnotherapy to the world.  If you’re a regular reader of these articles written by the National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) you’ll know that hypnosis is an effective way to manage conditions such as stress, anxiety, migraines, and low self-esteem.  We’ve also written recently about the emerging medical applications.

While many people are aware of the fantastic benefits of hypnotherapy, including that it is a ‘quick therapy’, it has no side effects and that you don’t need to spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, it’s still a type of therapy that many people are a bit cautious of. Perhaps this is because when people think of hypnosis they have visions of stage hypnotists entertaining crowds by having people come up on stage and act in a silly manner. While these displays speak to the power of hypnosis, they are very far removed from the purpose and application of hypnosis in a therapeutic setting.

Hypnosis is a totally natural state for humans, and one that we go into and out of many times a day without being aware of says the NCH.  When our mind wanders, like when we daydream or become completely absorbed in reading a book we are actually in a light trance. In a therapeutic context, this trance or dream-like state is elicited in order to treat a wide array of emotional, mental and physical disorders.

Brain scans of people who are in a hypnotic state show that brain wave activity changes to one similar to that found when a person meditates.  Brain scans conducted while people were in a state of hypnosis found that the parts of the brain that are responsible for a person’s self-awareness become less active.  This means that the person becomes calmer and more relaxed, there’s less ability to worry. While that part becomes less active, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and insula become more communicative with each other, helping the person to become more aware of what is happening within their body. Finally, the ‘default mode network’ becomes less active, meaning that the person spends more time in the present moment.  When these changes happen together, scientists theorise that the person is more able to be fully present and to make changes within their thoughts and feelings which lead to positive changes in their daily life.

It’s important that you choose a fully trained and qualified hypnotherapist to work with.  As you experience hypnosis the therapist will guide you with suggestions, ideas and stories to ways of thinking and feeling that are more helpful to you.  However, like in meditation or when you’re absorbed watching a book, if the suggestions don’t fit with your world view you are easily able to dismiss them.

When selecting a therapist to work with it’s important to find someone who you think is the right fit for you.  Each therapist will have their own approach and by having a conversation with them you’ll be able to assess if you feel comfortable and confident working with them.

To find an accredited NCH hypnotherapist near you, visit our hypnotherapist finder.

Medical applications for hypnotherapy

There’s been several articles in the news recently, all excitedly talking about the ‘breakthrough’ that is harnessing the power of hypnosis for surgical procedures and other medical applications for hypnotherapy. Hypnosis has a long history of use in both pain management and anaesthesia.  In the 1800’s hypnosis was used extensively during surgery, but fell out of favour when modern anaesthetics were developed as these were quicker. In America, the use of hypnosis for rapid treatment of injuries and trauma in WWI, WWII, and the Korean conflict led to a renewed interest in hypnosis in the fields of dentistry and psychiatry. In 1955, the British Medical Association approved the use of hypnosis in the areas of psychoneuroses and hypnoanesthesia in pain management in childbirth and surgery recommending that all physicians and medical students to receive fundamental training in hypnosis.

Since the 70’s hypnosis has been the subject of many scientific studies. Peer reviewed studies have shown that it is capable of reducing inflammation, altering blood flow and changing the perception of pain. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) agrees, stating that hypnotherapy is often extremely effective for pain management.  Studies have shown that there are documented changes that occur while a person is in a state of hypnosis including a greater connectivity between the brain’s executive-control network and the insula, a grape-sized region deeper in the brain that helps us control what’s going on in the body, including processing pain.

There are many different medical conditions that hypnotherapy can be helpful for.  In recent months we have written about how effective it can be as an adjunctive support to people living with breast cancer, lupus and other autoimmune conditions.

During sessions of hypnotherapy you will discuss with your therapist what you want to achieve.  You’ll work together, using a range of different techniques to help you find a way to either manage your symptoms or to transform how you feel about the challenges that you are facing.

When seeing a therapist for medical support, it is essential that you are is accessed by a GP first and receive a formal diagnosis.  After you’ve had this diagnosis, contact a hypnotherapist near you by using the NCH directory.

Bullying doesn’t stop in the playground.

Bullying doesn’t stop once we leave school.  Up to 1 in 3 people reported being bullied at work in the UK a couple of years ago.  Women are more likely to be affected than men and the age that bullying peaks is amongst 40 – 59 year-olds.  We can see echoes of this in the way that people treat each other online.

When we think of online bullying we think immediately about tragedies involving teenagers but it affects adults just as much as it does children. In some ways the bullying faced by adults online can be more malicious and sinister as people often find themselves targeted because of a political ideology or their race. A poll conducted by YouGov in April found that nearly 25% of Brits have been targeted online.

The advice given to people experiencing bullying is often unhelpful.  Being told to ignore it, avoid the bully or to “stand up for yourself” can make someone who is being targeted by bullies feel as though the situation is somehow something they are responsible for.  When you recognise that you or someone else is being bullied it is important to take action quickly.  Left unchecked, the effects of bullying can last a lifetime.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) says that building self-confidence can help ameliorate some of the effects of bullying. Mind UK, the mental health charity writes that bullying can cause low self-esteem which leads to a person having negative and overly critical beliefs about themselves and their worth as a person.

Unfortunately, removing ourselves from places where we might be bullied is not a realistic option.  We can’t just stop going to school, work or accessing the internet. By building a healthy self-esteem we can empower people to stand up for themselves and to be able to accurately assess the truth in the hurtful comments.

All members of the National Council for Hypnotherapy  – of which there are almost 2,000 across the UK – can help someone who has experienced bullying understand that the bullying is not their fault and help them identify thought patterns and beliefs which may have been created as a result of the bullying, helping them to think in more helpful ways.

If you’ve been impacted by bullying, use the NCH directory, to find a qualified and insured therapist near you.

Setting New Year’s Resolutions that you’ll actually keep

Let’s talk about New Year’s Resolutions.  Have you started thinking about yours yet?  Perhaps you’re someone who doesn’t usually make them because you have the opinion that you’ll just break them anyway?  Statistically, you’re probably right, 66% of people don’t make it past February before giving up on their goals.

If you’ve already started thinking about your resolutions, you’re more likely to be one of that 34% who keep them.  If you’re already thinking about your goals, it’s likely that you’re choosing an issue that actually means something to you.  That will make it easier for you to keep yourself going when motivation wanes.

So what is it that you want to achieve in 2020?

For many of us it will be that we want to lose weight, save more, quit smoking or change jobs.  It really doesn’t matter what your goal is, for success it’s important to get the mindset right.

This is where hypnotherapy can be extremely useful. Many of us have all sorts of unhelpful beliefs about what we can do or who we are as people.  When we challenge ourselves those beliefs can make us feel uncomfortable and we resort back to doing things as we have always done them.

So while you’re thinking about what your goals for 2020 are it might be helpful to spend a little time considering if you are prone to self-sabotaging or if you hold unhelpful beliefs about yourself that you might benefit for working on.

Hypnotherapy is not only effective for a wide range of lifestyle and habit changes such as quitting smoking and weight loss, it’s also extremely useful in helping to change the patterns of thoughts and self-doubt that keep us stuck and not progressing towards our goals.

The reason why hypnotherapy works so rapidly with bad habits and behaviours is because it works directly with your subconscious, bypassing the critical mind and getting to the root of the issue so that changes can be made that support your goals quickly and efficiently.

Have a look at the National Council for Hypnotherapy’s directory to find a fully qualified and insured hypnotherapist near you.  Make 2020 the year that you move beyond limiting self-beliefs and bad habits and achieve the New Year’s Resolutions that you set yourself.

How’s your holiday spirit?

Pile of gifts in front of a door.There is a lot of pressure to get into the holiday spirit, but the festive season isn’t a happy time for everyone.  There are many members in the community who spend the holidays feeling alone and isolated or worrying about money as they feel the pressure to buy gifts for their extended family. The international movement of Buy Nothing Day encourages us to switch the focus from commercialism towards community.

Buy Nothing Day was started in 1992 as a backlash against the annual Black Friday sales that happen in America the day after Thanksgiving (this year it’s the 29th of November) when retailers slash the prices of goods and shoppers embark upon a frenzy of spending.  This ‘tradition’ has migrated to the UK after Amazon introduced it to their online sales in 2010.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) notes that 1 in 7 people will be struggling with heightened levels of stress and anxiety at any time, and the UK mental health charity Mind reports that it is even more common to struggle during the festive season for a wide range of reasons.

The challenge laid down by the Buy Nothing movement to ‘stop shopping, start living’ can be exactly what you need if you’re feeling stressed, isolated or disconnected by the start of Christmas festivities. It doesn’t really matter why you’re in a funk over the festive season, by taking the advice of ‘start living’ you can make changes that will help you change the way you’re feeling.  What you choose to do will of course vary depending on your personal circumstances or interests but a good place to start could be investigating local volunteering opportunities. Articles discussing the day note that “[d]oing good for others is going to make you feel a whole lot better in the long run than buying stuff just because it’s on sale.”

Did you know that volunteering can boost both your mental and physical health?

Last year the Trussel Trust, Britain’s largest food bank, released figures showing that demand for their services was increasing year by year with December being the busiest month for requests for food supplies. With this increased demand for services they also have a greater need for volunteers to help sort and deliver donations.  Many other community organisations also need more volunteers over the Christmas period as they step up their community services.

Some people will benefit from additional support throughout the holiday season to help them manage their anxiety, stress and feelings of isolation.  Talking therapies have been proven to help relieve anxieties, stress and depression and the NCH has around 1,800 qualified therapists across the UK who can provide the right treatment.




Lack of sleep leads to heightened anxiety

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Sleep.  Most of us struggle to get enough of it.  For years, scientists have been studying the purpose of sleep and its lack has been linked to poorer physical health outcomes such as heart disease, strokes, obesity and inflammation.  The functions of sleep are still not fully understood but it’s becoming clear that good sleep is absolutely vital to our well-being.

Did you know that a sleepless night can also increase anxiety by up to 30%?  A study published earlier this year by UC Berkeley researchers has found that non-REM sleep helps decrease anxiety by reorganising neural connections in the brain. Even subtle changes in sleep were linked to changes in anxiety levels exhibited by participants in the study.

This study is of interest as anxiety levels globally continue to rise.  The researchers suggest that there is a causal relationship between the erosion of sleep and the ‘marked escalation in anxiety disorders’.

According to the Sleep Council the average Brit only gets 6.5 hours sleep a night. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) recognises that insomnia has long been thought of as a symptom of anxiety and recommends a holistic approach be taken when treating anxiety disorders.

Working with a hypnotherapist you can receive a personalised treatment that helps you become aware of your sleeping patterns and teaches you self-management techniques which can improve both the length and the quality of your sleep. By uncovering and addressing the areas of stress and tension in your life you remove the causes of the insomnia or trouble sleeping.  When you work with a hypnotherapist they may teach you self-hypnosis or meditation techniques to use before going to bed, or while in bed.

An often cited fact by Dr Michael Moseley is that an increase in income of around £50,000 would have less of an impact on a person’s overall well-being and happiness than them gaining an extra hour of sleep every night.

Want to improve your overall well-being and get more sleep? Find a hypnotherapist near you by using the NCH’s directory.

How do you manage your stress?

This week is International Stress Awareness Week (ISAW, November 4th – 8th).  The week was created to raise awareness about stress prevention.  Did you know that stress not only makes us feel awful emotionally, it can also cause chronic health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, depression and asthma?

We all know what stress feels like.  All of us have had days where the pressure mounts and we find ourselves constantly feeling the time crunch, or knowing that we have an ever mounting list of things that need to be done.  Perhaps you notice that your heart is beating just a bit faster, your breath feels just that bit more difficult. The daily stresses we face every day are ongoing and chronic, very different from the stresses that we faced in the past.

These ongoing stresses use up our resources and affect our coping skills, so the theme of the ISAW of ‘RESILIENCE – the power to succeed’ is especially pertinent. As many as 74% of people said that they had felt so stressed that they felt overwhelmed or unable to cope in the last year in a YouGov poll conducted in January.

We need to cultivate skills to help us effectively deal with stressors. The National Council for Hypnotherapy (NCH) recognises that it is important to learn techniques to manage stresses, before you feel like life is getting on top of you.  Attending some sessions with a hypnotherapist can help you achieve a different perspective, changing the way you think about different events in your life which can help you to manage stressors more effectively.

Because stress comes from many different areas of life you will work with your chosen therapist to find techniques to help you mitigate those stresses.  For some people this will involve relaxation techniques including self-hypnosis; other people will benefit from learning short and long term goal planning.

After a session the person being treated usually feels more relaxed, calm and confident. Often change is subtle, as the hypnotherapist will be working with the subconscious mind, and a very positive shift in feeling and reaction to certain previously stressful situations can be noticed.  After working with a hypnotherapist you can expect to feel calmer and more confident, more resilient and better able to cope with whatever stress life throws at you.

You can find a hypnotherapist near you by using the NCH directory.

Hypnotherapy supports survivors of breast cancer.

Breast cancer is now the UK’s most common form of cancer, according to figures released by Cancer Research UK. The charity estimates that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. That’s around 55,000 women and 370 men diagnosed with breast cancer every year in the UK, or one woman every 10 minutes. Breast Cancer Awareness month is an international campaign that involves thousands of organisations all seeking to raise awareness, educate and fundraise to support research.

Many UK breast cancer charities now recognise hypnotherapy as a useful adjunct to traditional medical therapy.  Breast Cancer Care, the only national UK charity that supports people affected by breast cancer, recommends hypnotherapy to help support people dealing with a range of emotional and physical problems such as anxiety, hot flushes, nausea and pain.

In 2007 the NHS examined a study which found that women who had a session of hypnotherapy before breast cancer surgery spent less time in surgery and recovered faster than those who had not received hypnotherapy.  While they found some limitations for the study, they wrote the “…positive outcomes from this study are encouraging for patients and doctors who are keen to reduce the side effects of surgery. It is recommended that people interested in investigating this possibility follow the advice given…”

What are the signs of breast cancer?

The first symptom of breast cancer that most women notice is a lump or an area of thickened tissue in their breast. Other signs may be a change in the appearance of one or both breasts, discharge from the nipples or swelling in the armpit area. Most lumps (90%) are not cancerous, but it is always best to have them checked by your doctor.  The earlier you notice and act, the better your chances are of catching the cancer before it spreads into other parts of the body.

Hypnotherapy can be a supportive treatment

Hypnotherapy programmes have been recognised and promoted within over 100 NHS breast cancer clinics as a resource for their outpatients. Survivors of breast cancer not only go through physical changes related to both the cancer and the treatment but there are many post-traumatic emotional issues that can arise including anxiety, heightened feelings of vulnerability and isolation and fear of reoccurrence.

Working with a hypnotherapist can help you address the emotional issues, supporting you through the period of diagnosis, treatment and beyond.  The NHS recognises that it often helps to talk about your feelings and other difficulties with a trained counsellor or therapist.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy is the UK’s largest professional association for hypnotherapists with close to 2,000 fully trained and insured hypnotherapists registered as members. To find a therapist near you, use their therapist finder.