What if you were your own best friend?

Do you have a best friend or a group of friends that you enjoy spending time with? If so, what do you like about them? Why does it feel good to be with them? Sometimes we like people because they share our interests, or our sense of humour sometimes we enjoy their company because we like the fundamental qualities they have like honesty, trust, loyalty or support. When we think of our friends we do so with admiration and warmth noticing all the good things that make them special to us.

Now I want you to imagine having a ‘friend’ that constantly judges you, and that thinks nothing of calling you stupid or fat or useless. A friend who has difficulty in forgiving you for even the smallest of mistakes and who does this on a daily basis. How do you think your relationship would last with such a hard critique of your perceived faults?

For many people they have a friend like this. The one that exists in their head judging them harshly for every misdemeanour and imperfection. It’s no wonder that we sometimes struggle with self esteem or the ability to challenge ourselves to achieve more than we think is possible. How we speak to and about ourselves is just as important as how we speak to each other. Most of us would not dream of talking to our friends in the same way that we talk to ourselves and let’s face it, if we did we would not have any friends left.

When we continually criticise ourselves we are doing ourselves a terrible disservice and creating a negative relationship in which we feel unsupported, unloved and unworthy. So for all of you out there that recognise that you have been giving space to this unhelpful friend take a moment to stop. Imagine that you can transform that voice into the best friend that you could ever wish to have.

How different would it feel to be talked to in a wholly positive way? It doesn’t mean that you can get away with being badly behaved, as a good friend will be honest and always keep you on track. It means that criticism becomes constructive and you would be supported and encouraged to be the best possible version of you that you can be. Wouldn’t it be amazing to have a friend like that you could talk to everyday?

I want to challenge you to try it. Actively engage in the process of transforming that voice in your head to create a new best friend. Try it for a week and I doubt that you would want to invite that old voice back. So please give it a go and let me know how you get on.


Creating your world and feeling vulnerable

One of the aspects of my job that I particularly enjoy is personal development. Coaching clients to progress, to achieve, to become the best possible versions of themselves is a real privilege. Often all that is holding them back is a thought or a worry about ‘what if’.

The ‘what if’ is usually about vulnerability, ‘what if it doesn’t work?’, ‘what if I don’t succeed?’, ‘What if they don’t like it?’

We use our ‘what if’ as a shield protecting us from disappointment, criticism and from the threat of being disliked. But ‘what if’ we used it in a different way?

Many years ago I was considering embarking on an Open University degree that, part-time would take six years to complete and was discussing my indecision with a friend. My reason for not doing it? I would be 40 by the time it was completed. My friend took a breath and said ‘you’ll be 40 anyway’.

It was a challenging six years in which I experienced exceptional highs and horrible lows. Any time my work came back with constructive feedback about where I could improve I would view it as criticism and in my mind that meant that I was not good enough. Any time my work came back with positive feedback I felt that I was lucky or that I still could have done better.

In my penultimate year, with one essay to go I gave up. Just like that. The stress of trying to be good enough, the feeling of being judged, my own expectations of what I should achieve all got the better of me and I quit. Then I spoke to my friend.

‘What if you just finish this year?’ she said. ‘It’s only one essay and then you can give up and never have to do another one in your life after that?’

That ‘what if’ was powerful. What if I did do just one more essay? What if I did one more year? What if I did something for no other reason than I wanted to do it? Those ‘what if’s’ resulted in a completed degree in psychology.

Our ‘what if’s’ can become a beacon of possibility instead of a shield of protection enabling us to think about what we are capable of and beyond. It’s one of the things that I ask people to consider when they tell me all the reasons why they can’t or shouldn’t do something.

It’s OK to feel vulnerable, it’s part of moving forward, of developing confidence and creating a world in which you are the person you want to be. So think about what you would like to achieve this year and get ‘the what if’s’ working for you.

Warning – Forest operations

How hypnotherapy can help you find the motivation to change

I am fortunate that each day I get to walk my dog in beautiful countryside much of which belongs to the National Trust. One of our favourite places to walk is Limpsfield Chart. It is a large wooded area that consists of both native and non native trees. There are three main areas of non natives, predominately pines that provide a dense, dark and almost silent space in the woods. These are my dog Theo’s favourite, he rolls in the fallen pine needles and digs in the rotten tree stumps. Not much grows below the top third of the trees as it’s so dark.

Over the last few months there have been ongoing forest operations in the woods. They are stripping out the pine trees with a view to re-plant natives and encourage new growth and wildlife into those dead places.

It looks awful. Great swathes of trees have been cut down, the earth churned by the huge machinery needed to complete the task and branches and small trees have been crushed and lay fallen on the paths.

All of us that use the wood have felt the loss of those trees, of the shelter that they provide from the wind and the sun and the rain. All of us it seems are mourning the loss of what were essentially dead trees. Why? Because change can seem difficult.

Despite knowing that once the forest operations are complete and the replanting finished there will be a beautiful, alive and vibrant wood that will encourage and sustain wildlife it’s hard to trust the process.

For many of us knowing that the benefit of that change will far outweigh the short term turmoil is still not enough to motivate us to fell that first tree. So how do we find the courage to take that first step? Focus on your desired outcome. Think about your future just as you want it. Think about the things that you will be doing, the ways you will be behaving, how you will feel differently.

Somewhere in the near future once the forest operations are complete, all of us that use the wood will benefit from the changes that clearing out the dead wood will create.

Hypnotherapy and the power of thought

I was talking to a friend recently about her new neighbours. Let’s just say that relations between the two houses were not as she hoped they would be. As she was taking about them I realised that I had got caught up in her story of how rude they were and how unfortunate it was that they had moved in next to her.

So I started offering possible reasons why they may seem rude or unsocial – shy, introvert, feeling unwelcome etc. It reminded me that sometimes we do ourselves and those around us a disservice by thinking the way that we do.

When people choose hypnotherapy they often do so because they feel they have tried everything else. Part of the process that I go through with every client is to get them to try to think HOW and WHY they think what they do.

Understanding that you can change the way that you think is incredibly powerful if not always easy. So I wanted to share one of my favourite clips with you. Not only does it make me smile each time I see it but it carries an important message. We may not find it as easy to change our thinking as the lamb in the film but we can start to wonder if our thinking is the thing that is stopping us from doing more and boundin’.

Power of thought

Why Smiling is good for you

Hypnotherapy Happiness

Not really in the mood to say cheese? You may want to have a rethink after reading these hidden advantages of cracking a smile.

Smiling doesn’t just show that you are happy, research suggests that smiling has lots of other benefits that may not be so obvious.

Next time you want to seem trustworthy, sociable or even more attractive, then smile. Here are our top 5 favourites.

1. Trust.

People who smile are perceived to be more generous and more extravert. Smiling sends a message that people can trust you and that you are co-operative. In one study it suggests that a smile increases people’s willingness to trust you by10%.

2. Live long and prosper.

Did you know that smiling helps you live longer, sound implausible? A study of pictures of basketball players in 1952 suggests that those that smiled outlived their non smiling counterparts by seven years.

3. Hurt? Laugh it off.

Due to something called the facial feedback hypothesis if we smile even when we don’t want to it is enough to give us a lift in mood. This may be something you want to try in private though. People who smile at something upsetting are less likely to be judged likeable by other people.

4. Been naughty? Flash that grin.

According to a study by LaFrance and Hecht (1995) we are more lenient with people that smile after they have done something bad.

It works because we find people who smile after breaking the rules more trustworthy than those that don’t and it doesn’t seem to matter if the smile is real, fake or rueful.

5. Share that smile.

When you smile at people, half of them will smile back. Why only half? We don’t really know but what we do know if that no one shares a frown so why not see how many smile’s you can collect today but showing yours first.

So next time you are feeling low, want someone to trust you or just boost your chances of working with someone, you know what to do 🙂



Can’t, Won’t, Shan’t

Can't, Shan't, Won't - It's Only Words

In a profession where the language I choose is designed to help people change the way they think it’s good to have some research to back up why it’s so important.

Although many of us may think that semantics are trivial, studies have shown that changing a single word can, not only have a huge effect not only on how we feel but also on what we do.

In a study published in Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students were split into two different groups.

One group was told that each time they were faced with temptation they were to use the words ‘I can’t do X’ for example if tempted by an ice cream they would tell themselves ‘I can’t eat ice cream.

The other group was told to say ‘I don’t do X’ for example if tempted by the same ice cream they would say ‘I don’t eat ice cream’.

After repeating these phrases, all the students were given a set of unrelated questions to complete. As each student left the room they were offered a choice of complimentary treat, either a granola bar or a chocolate bar.

The results showed that 61% of the students who had told themselves ‘I can’t eat X’ chose the chocolate bar. Whereas only 36% of the students who told themselves ‘I don’t eat X’ chose the chocolate.

This one change in terminology significantly improved the odds that each student would make a more healthy food choice.

But this isn’t a fluke the same researchers wanted to discover how the words ‘can’t’ and ‘don’t’ affect our willingness to say no when faced with repeated temptations and distractions.

They designed a new study that asked 30 working women to sign up for a health and wellness seminar. All of the women were asked to think of a long term health goal that was important to them. They were then split into 3 groups.

Group 1 –  This group was the control group. Any time they were tempted to slip from their goal they were asked to ‘just say no’.

Group 2 – This group was told that any time they felt they were faltering to employ the ‘can’t’ strategy. For example,’I can’t miss the gym today.’

Group 3 – This group was told to use the ‘don’t’ strategy instead. For example, ‘I don’t miss my gym sessions.’

For the following 10 days, each woman received an email asking to report her progress. They were specifically asked, ‘During the 10–day window you will receive emails to remind you to use the strategy and to report instances in which it worked or did not work. If the strategy is not working for you, just drop us a line and say so and you can stop responding to the emails.’

The results supported the original research,

Group 1 – 3 out of 10 participants kept going with their goals for the 10 days

Group 2 – Only 1 out of 10 participants kept going with their goals for the 10 days

Group 3 – In the ‘don’t’ group a huge 8 out of 10 participants persisted with their goals for the enitre 10 days.

Don’t versus Can’t

Words can help create our sense of being empowered and in control. They create a feedback loop that affects our future behaviour.

‘Can’t’ reminds us of our limitations. With ‘can’t’ we are robbed of a choice, we are restricted and feel disempowered. ‘Don’t’ creates a feedback loop that enforces our belief in our own power and control over our behaviour. It gives us back a choice and affirms our determination and empowers us.

How does this help?

‘I can’t’ and ‘I don’t’ are often used interchangeably but psychologically they are very different. They provide different feedback loops and ultimately produce different behaviours.

Words are important and this is just a small example of the behaviour that even changing one word can produce. Next time you ‘can’t’ do something why not try ‘I don’t’ instead and see it make a change in your own life.

Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace. Buddha