Are you sitting comfortably?

The healing power of storiesStorytelling is one of the oldest arts in human history. Stories transcend the boundaries of language and culture and have the power to resonate with listeners over thousands of years. It’s not surprising then why we love them.

Whether it’s a horror story to celebrate Halloween, a love story to touch your heart or a tale of adventure, stories can transport you through time, across continents and even take you to other worlds. All stories, even simple ones have something to say.

I often use a story or metaphor to  illustrate a point. I have collected quite a few over the years both formal and informal so be prepared to hear some over the coming months.

I decided to share the following story with you this week as it was the first I heard that was used formally to make a point and it was very effective.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

I would love to hear some of your stories so why not leave yours here or post it to our facebook page.

Things that go crunch in the night

Do you have a habit that no one knows about? Is it so secret that you don’t even know you do it? Teeth grinding or Bruxism to give it its proper name is a common problem.

Are You Affected by Teeth-Grinding?

With estimates of up to 31% of the population affected, it often only gets diagnosed at a dental appointment when the result of the grinding has created visible damage. If you are unfortunate enough to experience some of the frequent symptoms associated with grinding your teeth then you know that it can affect your quality of life.

Bruxism can not only cause dental problems such as tooth sensitivity, wear and tear and even fractures it can also cause headaches and pain in the jaw. As a large percentage of people aren’t aware they are doing it they don’t associate their symptoms with teeth grinding and so the behaviour goes unchallenged.

Categories of Teeth Grinding

Bruxism falls into two categories. The first occurs during sleep as is known as  Sleep Bruxism – the symptoms of which are usually more severe upon waking and get better during the course of the day.  The second category, Awake Bruxism occurs during wakefulness; the symptoms of which may not be apparent upon waking but get worse over the duration of the day.

Although the consequences of both sleep and awake bruxism are similar, it is widely thought that they have different origins. The reason why people grind their teeth isn’t clear although it is generally accepted that it may have multiple possible causes.

‘Awake’ Bruxism

Awake bruxism is often associated with the occurrence of stressful events and is more common in women. It more usually involves clenching of the teeth although grinding may occur as well. It is often classified as a semi-voluntary habit in the same vein as cheek biting, lip biting, nail biting or chewing on a pen or pencil.

‘Sleep’ Bruxism

Sleep bruxism is equally common in both men and women. Evidence suggests it may be caused by abnormalities involving sleep arousal and neurotransmitters connected to the central nervous system.

In one study of sleep bruxism,* over eighty percent of the episodes were linked to a sudden change in the depth of sleep. These changes were accompanied by increased heart rate, muscle activity and involuntary leg movements.

Other studies suggest that bruxism is linked to the central nervous system. The effects of dopamine altering medications are cited as evidence that disturbances of the dopaminergic system are to blame. This may explain why smokers are twice as likely to grind their teeth than non smokers as nicotine stimulates the release of dopamine.

It has also been suggested that there is a connection between the vagus nerve and tension in the neck and jaw. The vagus nerve is responsible for lots of tasks including heart rate, sweating and quite a few muscle movements in the mouth. It stretches from the medulla in the brain and passes through the skull down to the chest cavity where it branches off in multiple directions to stimulate organs and muscles.

Stress is a risk factor

However stress is generally considered to be one of the biggest risk factors in grinding teeth. Research suggests that people that grind their teeth respond differently to stress than non-grinders. Although the research connecting stress with awake bruxism is more robust than the research connecting it to sleep bruxism it has been shown that children with sleep bruxism are much more anxious than their non grinding counterparts.

If you suspect that you grind your teeth or maybe you have a partner that does, traditional treatment relies heavily on using mouth guards or splints in order to prevent the teeth connecting. This is obviously only really effective in sleep bruxism and can be uncomfortable for some people.

Hypnosis Teeth Grinding

Hypnotherapy May Help

As stress is thought to be a common factor in both types of bruxism, learning how to deal with stress could prevent a temporary short term issue from becoming a long term habit. If you feel that you need support in managing stress, then hypnotherapy may help.  If you’re not sure that hypnotherapy is for you, then why not buy our free download for bruxism and let us know how you get on.

*Macaluso et al

A simple technique to achieve Self Hypnosis*

Have you ever wanted to reach a deeply relaxed state but find it difficult? Why not try this simple self hypnosis technique. Originally designed as an aid for insomnia it uses sight, sound and feeling to lead you into a relaxed state of mind.

If you have any doubts or worries about hypnosis rest assured that you probably drift in and out of naturally occurring trances every day. Finding yourself intensely involved in a book or TV programme or daydreaming your way on a journey so that when you think back to it you can’t quite remember how you got there, are all trance states. There is nothing special about hypnosis it is just a state of concentrated focused attention that we can all practice.

Sunray Self Hypnosis

Although this process is simple read it through completely so that you can do it without referring back to the instructions.

1. State what you want from this session. e.g. I want to feel refreshed / more confident / sleep deeply etc.

2. Set a timescale for the session and declare it. e.g. I will do this technique for 15 minutes / 1 hour etc.

3. State how you want to feel at the end of the session. e.g. I will feel more positive / energetic / deeply relaxed etc.

Technique

Find a comfortable place to sit or lie, let your focus become soft so that you move into peripheral vision.

  • Make a mental note of 3 things that you see and record them in your head e.g. I see a clock, I see a plant, I see a book.
  • Make a mental note of 3 things that you hear and record them in your head e.g. I hear a car, I hear the clock, I hear my breathing.
  • Make a mental note of 3 things you can feel. e.g. I feel my back on the chair, I feel the breeze from the window, I feel relaxed.

Go slowly, pausing for a short while on each. As you stare, focus all of your attention on the object’s appearance, if your mind wanders gently pull it back to the object you are focusing on.

Now repeat the process but this time…

  • Make a mental note of 2 things that you see and record them in your head e.g. I see a doorknob, I see a lamp.
  • Make a mental note of 2 things that you hear and record them in your head e.g. I hear the birds outside, I hear myself swallowing.
  • Make a mental note of 2 things you can feel. e.g. I feel my feet on the floor, I feel warmth in my hands.

And again…

  • Make a mental note of 1 thing that you see and record it in your head e.g. I see a picture.
  • Make a mental note of 1 thing that you hear and record it in your head e.g. I hear a dog barking in the distance.
  • Make a mental note of 1 thing you can feel. e.g. I feel warmth in my hands.

You have now done the external section of the exercise so now it’s time to do the internal part by closing your eyes.

  • Imagine one small thing you see. It doesn’t matter what pops into your head just  focus all of your attention on it for a short while.
  • Imagine one thing you hear. Though this is technically the ‘internal’ part of the process, you can use an actual environmental noise if there is one present it’s better to use it than be distracted by it.
  • Imagine one thing you feel. Try your best to focus all of your attention on these sensations as if they were actually happening. Again, if an actual physical sensation comes to your attention, use it.

Repeat the process with two different images, two different sounds, and two different feelings.

Repeat once more using three different images, three different sounds, and three different feelings.

Once you reach the end just notice your breathing and enjoy relaxing for a few minutes. Then you are ready to open your eyes and go about your day.

I hope you enjoy it, I’d love to hear how you got on.

*Based on a technique developed by Betty Erikson.

Curiosity and world peace

Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.
Samuel Johnson

I was travelling back from London last weekend after assisting on a Quest training course when I was lucky enough to witness a wonderful conversation on the train.

I was sitting across the aisle from a man who was interrupted from his iPad musings by a woman and her two children who wanted to share the 4 seat bay he was occupying. The children wanted the window seats so the guy moved to the isle so that the little girl who was about 4 could get the view. The boy who was around 6 was obviously curious about what the man was doing on his iPad and kept looking over. It wasn’t long before he said ‘hello’.

It was one of those moments that if you travel a lot sometimes happen and it can go one of two ways. Either the person ignores the greeting or they engage with it.

The man looked up from his iPad and said ‘hello’ to the boy. There was no turning back from there. the children curious about the man asked his name, where he lived, what he was doing on his iPad and where he had been.

He in turn found out their names, where they lived, what they had been doing in London and that it was not long before the boy’s birthday and that he didn’t know where he would have his party as they were moving house.

Then the boy said ‘you have black skin and pink nails’. This could have been a hold your breath moment but both the mum and the man who I now know was called Ian were both completely relaxed about the conversation. The children were curious not judgmental and it made the conversation charming and innocent. They went on to talk about the differences between them, about what the children were doing at school, their friends and what they were like and before I got off at my station Ian had been invited to the boy’s birthday party.

Those children made a connection, a friend on that journey because they were curious about the differences not scared of them. It made me wonder how many connections we could make every day if we were just curious instead of fearful or suspicious of other people. Just think how much more positive our experiences could be if we treated everything with a sense of fascination. So why not try wearing your curious head next time you are out and about and see what a difference it makes.

Pain management and self hypnosis

A couple of weeks ago one of my clients asked me if I use hypnotherapy on myself.  I do and I’ve had a superb opportunity over the last couple of days to use what I know about pain management. On Friday morning I had an accident whilst walking my dog. I twisted and broke the middle finger of my right (dominant) hand. The break is between the first and second joint, and bad enough that my finger was looking in the wrong direction (apologies if you are squeamish!)

Pain can be very helpful. Without pain, we might seriously hurt ourselves without knowing it, and we might not realise that we have a medical problem that needs treatment. Being able to manage your own pain through techniques such as self-hypnosis can be very useful, especially if the pain is chronic or severe.

There are several techniques that we can use for pain management. This ranges from completely anaesthetising an area, to dulling the pain so that it is at a manageable level. After the fall, I decided to make it just comfortable enough to get home from the dog walk. I wanted to make sure that I didn’t damage it further by not being able to feel when it was under strain.

The staff at the hospital were excellent. Despite all the pushing and pulling and resetting at the hospital, I only had one moment when the pain reached an uncomfortable threshold and I’ve have managed the pain without drugs since Friday.

So if you do have issues with pain why not consider giving hypnotherapy a try, have a look at WedMD for a review of how hypnosis can help: WebMD: hypnosis for pain.

Please remember that pain is usually there for a reason. If you are dealing with an injury, please consult your doctor, give yourself time to heal properly and be patient.

‘I am feeling very Olympic today’

With the Olympics kicking off this week it seemed a ideal time to talk about performance.  Although the immediate focus will be on sport,  performance in other areas such as presenting, exams, driving tests and interviews can also be improved with some simple techniques.

1. Centre yourself.

This technique helps reduce anxiety and stress and re directs your focus to the present task. Imagine your lungs are divided into 3 parts, lower, middle and upper. The lower part is in your abdomen and the upper part is in your chest.  As you breathe in through your nose imagine that you are filling your lungs from the lower part upwards. You should notice your stomach expanding first and then as you continue to breathe in, your chest should also expand pushing your shoulders up and back slightly. Exhale through your mouth and as you do think of a key word that helps you focus on what you want to do. For example ‘sharp’, ‘relaxed’,  ‘ready’ or whatever word has meaning for you . Keep practicing this technique so that it becomes automatic when you need it most.

2.Visualise yourself getting the outcome you desire.

Research has found that repeated visualisation can build both confidence and physical and psychological reactions in certain situations. With mental rehearsal, the mind and body can become trained to actually perform the skill imagined.

  1. Sit comfortably in a place where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  3. Create a vivid and convincing image of yourself and of what you want to achieve. Imagine the sights, sounds, feelings and even the smells of the experience. Visualise as much detail of the scene as possible. What are you wearing, are you alone or are there other people around you? What can you hear? How do you feel?  See yourself achieving your goal.
  4. If your mind wanders just focus on your breathing and gently bring it back.
  5. Always end the exercise with a positive image.

 3. Believe in Yourself

If you recognised the quote ‘ I am feeling very Olympic today’ from Cool Runnings then you will know that belief in yourself is as important as the talent that you have. Cool Runnings is loosely based on the true story of the First Jamaican bobsled team trying to make it to the 1988 winter Olympics. They had no experience, they used borrowed equipment but they had a strong belief that they had a right to compete as equals and that’s what they did. Believe that you can achieve and remember that there is no failure only feedback.

So whatever your goals are over the coming weeks or if you are just watching for fun good luck.