How Rituals and Routine help us in our daily lives

The Cambridge dictionary defines ritual as: a set of fixed actions and sometimes words performed regularly, especially as part of a ceremony. A routine is defined as a usual or fixed way of doing things.

There is not a lot of difference between a ritual and a routine. I will refer to both during this article, as some routines are rituals and can even have elements of superstition.

Rituals are practices by different cultures, religions, professional practices, therapeutic practices, families, societies, countries, and the list continues. Let’s take a look at each of these.

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Various cultures will have rituals and routines and some of these will be represented and performed during annual holidays such as Thanksgiving in the US, and Guy Fawkes day in the UK. Some rituals will be in the form of gestures such as bowing in Japan, kissing booth cheeks in most of Europe, and walking on the left in London. Various religions will have sacred days such as Easter in the Catholic church with the ritual practice of Lent preceding it involving attendance at the Stations of the Cross on Friday’s; and Puja (Pooja) which is a Hindu morning practice that is performed every morning, but only after bathing and dressing and before eating or drinking. Professional practices may use certain colours throughout their establishment, for instance in China, red is a symbol of prosperity. And therapeutic practices may use a consultation as a routine and ritual for preparation to treat a client. Families may have a weekly gathering for Sunday lunch. Societies such as fraternities and sororities will have an induction process often referred to as pledging or rushing. Before a football match, the crowd sings the home countries national anthem. In many cultures, the groom is not allowed to see the bride before the wedding on the wedding day.

There are many examples of the routines and rituals that we perform that have become an accepted part of our lives, no matter where we live. It has often been pondered, debated and researched as to why we have developed rituals and how their uses impact our lives.

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I don’t believe that rituals are fully mindless. In fact, I think they are a form of mindfulness. I believe that we think about them, from the time that it is time to perform them until we end them. Think about when you are on the settee, and you know it’s time to ‘get ready’ for bed. The ‘getting ready’ is the ritual. Before giving a talk, you may rehearse your speech. Every Saturday you may go to an outdoor market and perhaps your routine is to look at all the fresh flowers. Before bedtime you may write in your journal to reflect on your day.

There has been some research done on how rituals influence our thoughts and behaviours and ultimately how we feel. Professor Harvey Whitehouse, Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Oxford, and Director of the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, heads up the ‘Ritual, Community and Conflict’ project funded body of anthropologists, psychologists, historians, archaeologists and evolutionary theorists. Professor Whitehouse says ‘We wanted to test our theory that there were 2 basic clusters of activity in ritual: frequently practised ritual with a low emotional intensity and less frequently practised, more emotionally intense ritual. We surveyed 645 rituals from 74 cultures, selected randomly from the eHRAF (electronic Human Relations Area Files), and constructed a database recording frequency, arousal and contextual information for each of the 645 selected rituals.’[1]

The research covers evolutionary anthropology and social cohesion, but the research suggests that rituals precipitate our way of thinking, how we behave and how we feel.

 

Rafa nadal

There is a difference between a ritual and a superstition. As an avid tennis fan, I have watched in awe as over the years my favourite players have performed rituals that appear to be superstitions rather than rituals, and have often been labelled as such. I can agree with this label for Rafa Nadal, Andre Agassi and perhaps others, as often their rituals were performed for fear of not achieving a desired result if not performed. However, from my observations and my own research in private practice, I cannot conclude that all rituals are performed superstitiously.

To make the difference more defined, I would see that someone making the sign of the cross as a religious ritual with the intention of a blessing for either themselves, or to begin to offer prayers for someone or something else. It can, however be done superstitiously, for instance, after praying, you may feel that if you do not end the prayer with the sign of the cross, that the prayer is incomplete somehow, or your ritual is incomplete and therefore superstitiously you perform the sign of the cross because you fear that if you do not, the prayer will not be heard. In this instance, this ritual is performed superstitiously, but also as a ‘rite’, a solemn ceremony or act.

Catholic-rituals

When Rafa Nadal lines up his water bottles by his chair and adjusts his shorts before serving, he may be performing this ritual superstitiously, and I suspect this is the case. It will however, provide him with a sense of comfort and most importantly, a stimulus of control over a situation that even he, one of the most talented players we have ever seen, knows that he cannot fully control. The person on the other end of the court across that net has a 50/50 stake on the control lever. For a real competitor, that has to cause some anxiety. He can however, control how he lines up the bottles, adjusts his shorts, and shuffle his feet on his way back to his chair, before and after each game. When another factor is introduced, for instance, the change of ends on the court, this can bring an entire new set of anxieties, and so we begin to see the rituals either increase or change somehow, as a new challenge is presented.

I could use the tennis analogy for this entire piece, but don’t worry, I won’t as I am fully aware I will lose a lot of you if I do so. However, it is such a great game where ritual, psychology, metaphors and superstition are on full display anyone who is interested, and provides us with an insight into how our lives can be affected by performing rituals. Although I may use a few more examples below.

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Rituals can often bring comfort, stability, uniformity, community, peace, calmness and control to our lives. We learn to seek pleasure and stability from within the womb. And stability is present until we are thrust out into the world and we must breathe on our own and feel the heat and cold of the world outside of the womb. We even have to cry for food. That’s anything but soothing. As we grow beyond infancy into childhood, we may still require extra soothing, so sucking your thumb, twiddling with your hair, or biting your nails may bring a soothing, calming effect. In adulthood we may continue some of those soothing rituals or create new ones. For instance, you may start smoking, drinking or over-eating. You may even continue to bite your nails or go from twiddling with your hair to pulling your hair (trichotillomania), or grinding teeth (bruxism). These are soothing rituals that can cause harm and can become difficult to treat in adulthood. As adults, we can choose more wisely.

Rituals that are found to be soothing:
• Yoga in the morning or evening as you begin and end your day
• Changing your sports shirt in front of a huge crowd on the tennis court to garner applause and whistles to boost your confidence (men, that it)
• Having a weekly message
• Walking first thing in the morning
• Making a toast as you raise your glasses on someone’s birthday
• Attending church on Sunday’s
• Phoning a parent every day
• Saying a prayer over every meal
• Driving the same way to and from work, even though other routes may be shorter
• Attending the gym daily
• Meditation
• Washing your car weekly
• Playtime with your pet
• A skin care regime
• Reading the Sunday papers
• Afternoon nap or siesta
• Lighting a candle before praying
• Having coffee/tea at the same café at the same time
• Ordering the same meal
• Asking ‘How are you’
• Saying ‘Sorry’
• Saying ‘I’m fine’
• The same meal for Christmas dinner or lunch

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When we are faced with uncertainty, challenges, or new situations and conditions, rituals can help to ground us in the here and now, as they are done in the present. The ritual can often disrupt the possibility of negative thinking or awfulising the outcome of an event, your day or a performance.

Besides athletes, rituals and routines can be seen practiced in other performance-related careers. Actors often tell each other to ‘break a leg’ before a performance. Athletes often eat the same meal before a match or game, and some will use visualisation to focus on winning. Some performers wear the same under garments they wore when they created a particularly successful piece of work. Some musicians chose to work in the same studio in which their most critically acclaimed work was created. Some painters will not use the same paint brush for a different piece, and will discard them afterwards. Some orators refuse to practice their speeches beforehand, as they think this will ruin the spontaneity of their talk. Some tennis players rush forward to shake the referee’s hand first. Various writers use the same manual typewriter with which they wrote the book that won them a Nobel Prize or Oscar for screenwriting.

Human beings enjoy routine. It provides a sense of stability. I believe that this is why the rituals of practicing meditation and yoga are often so helpful, so popular and so highly recommended, because they have proven to provide comfort and a sense of participatory fulfillment.

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Francesa Gino and Michael Norton of Harvard Business School, accompanied by Kathleen Vohs and Yajin Wang of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, carried out a series of studies which investigated how ritual changed the experience of consuming different foods. In a study, chocolate was used, and participants were asked to ritualistically taste the chocolate, which for some was the process of unwrapping half, or breaking the bar in half. They reported finding the chocolate more flavourful and savoured it more. A similar test was used for eating carrots, which when eaten ritualistically, was enjoyed more.

This evidence suggests that when personal involvement is involved, it becomes the real driver of these effects. ‘Rituals help people to feel more deeply involved in their consumption experience, which in turn heightens its perceived value’. Harvard Business Review [2]

Reading in bed

The benefits of rituals:

  • Reduces anxiety
  • Calms worry by acting as a distraction
  • A mindfulness technique that supports focus
  • When practiced with others it can create a sense of community and support

We can create our own rituals to help us to maintain equilibrium, calmness and focus.

Here is a Daily Ritual for Mind Body Spirit that you can print out and try out. Make adjustments to meet your needs and schedule.

But first, make a list of what are already practiced rituals in your life, be they daily, weekly, monthly or annually. Don’t leave anything out. Make sure that weekly Bingo game is in there, and the 3-Rhythms dance class that you attend once a week.  If you’ve been at least 3 times in the past 2 months, it’s a ritual, not just a night out.

Look at your list. Are there any rituals that cause you some anxiety if you do not perform them? If so, contemplate whether they are rituals or superstitions.  Do any of your rituals make you so elated that you perform them more often depending on the structure of your day? Are there any rituals which you perform infrequently? If so, why might this be the case?

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Rituals are meant to benefit our lives. It may be time to adjust your routine.

Try this on for size. As as always, please let me know your thoughts and ideas on rituals.

Routine for Optimum Health revised

[1] http://www.ox.ac.uk/research/research-in-conversation/being-human/harvey-whitehouse

[2] https://hbr.org/2013/12/new-research-rituals-make-us-value-things-more/

Picture credits where not labelled:

Woman Stretching in Bed with a Man Sleeping Beside Her — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Reading in bed – Getty Images

All other images are Stock images.

 

Posted in Behaviour Therapies, CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, DBT, EFT, EMDR, Emotional Freedom Technique, Holistic Therapies, Humanistic, Hypnotherapy, Laughter, MBT, Meditation, Psychology, Rational Emotive Therapy, REBT, Relaxation, Rituals, Stop Smoking, Stress Management, Talking Therapies, Uncategorized, Visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Past Life Regression: What’s it all about?

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As talking therapies have become a mainstream in our society, and alternative therapies have gained momentum in the past decade, the idea of past lives does not seem to be shunned so much as a possible way to explore spirituality.

Have you ever wondered why you are in a job you hate? Why you don’t get along with your own child? Why you don’t feel settled? Why you never finish anything you start? Why you failed at school? Why you never went to University? Why you keep choosing the same kind of partner and it never goes anywhere? Why you struggle financially? Why you hate pets? Why you are afraid of flying? Why you don’t like anyone in your family? Why your health has always been a problem?

Of course, you could look for the rational and logical answers to all of the above. But is there the possibility that there is no logical explanation?

You may have looked at absolutely every other avenue, had years of therapy, moved to Tibet to live in silence, taken every self-help course, go to Church daily, fast weekly, or even lived in silence. And still, no answers and no change. How could this be?

It just may be that a past life is karmically helping you by, well, not helping you. It’s helping you because it is showing you the effects of your actions in a previous life. And also it is giving you the chance to elevate your soul to a higher frequency so that it can evolve. Evolution is the key. It is our goal and our mission on this Earth plane, or in this Earth school, as some call it.

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Although, when we speak about Past Lives, there are 2 means in which we can learn about them:

  1. Past Life Regression. A past life regression session is where a trained Hypnotherapist will assist you using hypnosis to regress you back to a past life. In this session, you experience the past life yourself, or aspects of it. Most people want to explore past lives to uncover what karmic ties or manifestations they may have brought to this life. If you find yourself struggling with a particular issue and not matter what you have tried you feel you are unable to find a remedy, a past life reading could help you to unveil and pinpoint exactly where you may struggle.
  1. Past Life Psychic Reading. This is a psychic reading (or through a Medium) where the information is channeled through the Medium. Details of that particular life as well as the death is revealed. Usually the life that is most affecting you right now will be discovered.

I believe that a Medium gives a more descriptive reading for a past life as opposed to a psychic. A psychic can only tell you information based upon your aura or energy system. A Medium is connecting directly with the Spirit World, Guides and Helpers and if the Medium is Clairaudient, will hear the information. If she is Clairsentient, she will feel things and of course, if she is Clairvoyant, she will see the life itself.

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How are the memories accessed and why are they still there? The soul is our blueprint, so it only shifts, changes and evolves. If we allow it to do so. Our soul is who and what we are. As we evolve or reincarnate, we take with us into the next incarnation, all that was left undone, unfinished, ‘un-evolved’. That which is still an issue, remains an issue. It’s just like the old saying, ‘You can take the boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. Well, you can die and take the body away from the soul, but the soul will find another body. It may be in another life time. It may even be another sex, another race, another nationality. And some believe it may even be another species. Many people believe that their animals are their departed relatives. Well, having conducted so many past lives in my practice, I have yet to witness someone regressing back to when they were an elephant. So for me, as a past life regression therapist and Medium, the jury is still out on that one. I think that the animal kingdom has a group consciousness just as we do as humans. But they are in a class all to themselves. They’ve never suffered from trying to work through giving unconditional love, like we do as human beings. That makes them in a league all their own.

I find that Past Life Regression is by far one of the most misunderstood psychic sessions, in so far as there is usually confusion as to whether you will be regressed.

As a trained hypnotherapist, my actual past life regression session lasts 2 hours and I use my skills to help regress people to their past lives.

However, in a Past Life psychic session, your Guides and Helpers, my Guides and Helpers impart upon me the information about your past life, which I relay to you. As a Medium, I am allowed to see, sense, hear and feel what was happening in your past life. It is fascinating, extraordinary and revealing.

ID-100298328You may wonder how to make the choice whether to have a regression session or a psychic reading of past life. I would say that there are major advantages to both. But if you are short on time and if you can’t come to my clinic in London, then it’s best to have a psychic past life reading, which is just as effective and helpful. The only difference is that it doesn’t take 2 hours and you won’t have to feel or go through that particular life all over again. At some point, you may want to try both. Most souls have had a few journeys.

It can be life changing for some people, to actually experience, see and feel what happened in a past life. I have been privileged to help to facilitate some amazing and extraordinary sessions with people, where other languages were spoken, and where valuable information has been accessed to help with major change in this life. Once the issue is revealed, it’s like a light bulb that puts the spotlight on something that has been hidden for decades in this life. And like anything that is revealed, it has to be acknowledged. And with that acknowledgement comes a healing. Spirit will often give the words, the wisdom and the healing as the life is revealed.

Whilst I always receive inquiries about past life regression, I thought it would be helpful for others to experience a past life psychic session (not regression), where a past life is revealed to you. Usually my Guides will reveal the past life that is most affecting you today.

Also, it may surprise you that the information is not always to do with problems you may have. Sometimes people have extremely successful lives or they are very happy or they have just been promoted or gotten engaged. Sometimes a past life relating to their success is revealed.

through a window in the cloudsOne of the most fascinating past life psychic readings is always to do with relationships. Others include career and family issues, friendships, and spiritual paths.

There is no prerequisite that you must believe in past lives in order to benefit from a session. You only need to be curious enough to allow yourself to explore the possibilities of new information coming up that is presented to you. You are then free to use this information in the best way to move forward.

I offer a 2 hour past life hypnotherapy regression session.

*As always, be diligent about who you chose as your therapist and ensure that all professional bodies information is available to you.

 

Posted in Behaviour Therapies, Holistic Therapies, Hypnotherapy, Meditation, Relaxation, Stress Management, Talking Therapies, Uncategorized, Visualisation | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Laughter. Is it on your to do list?

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Funny. Ha Ha.

Laughter is contagious. It’s also universal. When you laugh, there is no question that you either find something funny or ‘laughable’, for whatever reason. We all have an inherent capacity for laughter.

We do know that laugher occurs because of different feelings within the body, like being tickled, or the brain producing certain thoughts, like a funny scenario. So we do know that the two go hand in hand. So is laugher an emotion? Some people can laugh when they are unhappy. How does this work?

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Smiling and laughter can occur in babies as young as 2 months old. They surely haven’t the capacity to work out a funny joke. Unless you are it! Their brain may be thinking, ‘What on Earth got me here?’ Probably not. However, a baby’s body may feel something that the adult may describe as joy, or better yet, comfort. This feeling is inherent in us all. A baby knows when it’s comfortable or not. But what about all those ‘goo-goo gaga’ faces you make at your new-born? And that beautiful gargle laughter that comes. Well, perhaps they are being kind enough to humour you, since you’re going to so much trouble to make them laugh. Probably not. It’s probably closer to being the first signs of a baby feeling that ‘all eyes are on me’ and they love it. Babies are naturally born narcissistic. In a good way! It’s all about them. And it should be. 

Why Laughter? What happens you when laugh, mind body and soul connection.

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Which comes first, the tickly feeling and then laughter, or laughter and then the tickly feeling? Or is it that you hear the joke and register it as funny first? Then you get the tickly feeling? Then you laugh? We can look at all three as they are equally as important as each other.

The Brain

brain

Laughter helps the brain regulate the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol. The founding father of Gelotology, the scientific study of the psychological, physiological and neurological effects of laughter, was Norman Cousins, who used himself as a study participant. He discovered a link between laughter and the production of anti-bodies and endorphins, the body natural pain killers. Laughter is also a fantastic distraction away from any stressful situation, anger, or procrastination.

Your brain will register what it hears, feels or touches. Therefore an idea, thought or image will be taken in by either seeing or hearing, all through the senses. The body then reacts.

The Body

body lungs

The physical release you experience when you laugh kick starts a rebalancing and rejuvenation of your energies. In doing so, you will also experience an emotional release. The neurotransmitter Dopamine, also known as “the pleasure hormone,” regulates focus, mood, learning, and motivation.

Laughter also reduces your stress hormones, and gives the feeling of a great release. It also enhances your health hormones such as endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones and this contributes to the good feeling and sometimes euphoric feeling you experience with laughter.

Even greater benefits include the increase of the number of anti-body producing cells, which therefore enhances the effectiveness of T-Cells (cell mediated immunity), strengthening your immune system.

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Laugher is known as the cure to all ills. I mentioned earlier the famous author and politician Norman Cousins who suffered from heart disease. He developed a recovery programme of taking Vitamin C and laughter. He is one of our original pioneers for natural medicines. He stated, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an aesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.” Cousins survived an incredible 36 years after first being diagnosed with heart disease. His best-selling book, ‘Anatomy of an Illness as Perceived by the Patient: Reflections on Healing, remains one of alternative medicines’ go-to book on ways to be creative and to take charge of your own healing abilities.

 The Soul

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Laughter is also a very social attraction. People always want to look into the direction in which there is laughter. It radiates an energy of lightness. Suddenly wherever there is laughter there is brightness and light. This will increase your social capabilities since it connects you with others. This in itself reduces your stress levels. And since we’ve already established its contagious quality, others will often want to join in. There is also no doubt that if you have a sense of humour, you will indeed be quite popular. Everyone likes to be around laughter. And those who find it a problem may need a good dose of Vitamin D (sunshine) and try doing thing that will reduce their depression.

So what makes us laugh?

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How often do we hear someone else’s laughter and find that we want to laugh as well. Or we may begin to recall good jokes or funny incidents that have happened to ourselves or others just to keep the laughter flowing. When was the last time you had a belly-aching laugh? A laugh that was so intense, so incredibly rich that it went right down into your belly?

Laughter may consist of a set of gestures and the production of a sound. When laughter occurs, the brain knows that it has heard something and then is spontaneously jolted into a physical reaction. As much as we feel better after a good cry, we feel even better after a good laugh. There are many ways to induce laugher.

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-watching funny films

-visiting a comedy club

-reading a funny book

-joking with friends and family

-finding the humour in your life

-watching comedy TV programmes

Laughter Yoga is one form of exercise that is somewhat similar to traditional yoga, as it incorporates breathing, yoga, and stretching techniques with laughter. There is a structured format which includes laughter exercises for a period of up to 45 minutes facilitated by a trained professional. It can be used as complementary or preventative therapy.

laughing yoga

Sometimes the old simple trick of looking directly into a mirror can make you laugh. Especially if you are someone who doesn’t take yourself so seriously. We can laugh at ourselves. But we must take care at what we laugh at in others. We have all been the butt of a joke by someone at some time in our lives. And we know that people have different senses of humour. This is simply due to our life experiences, belief systems and learnt moral compasses. Topics vying for the attention of laugher are politics, religion, sex and race. And these topics are often the most controversial subjects to steer clear of when you consider what to laugh at, or that which to make fun.

If you haven’t had a good laugh lately, perhaps you can ask yourself why? If you are finding it difficult to find the humour in things, you could be suffering from depression. If you are finding everything in life funny to an ill-proportionate amount, then there may be cause for concern. When in doubt, speak with friends or family members, or your GP.

Why the funniest people are usually the most tragic?

Robin Williams. Richard Pryor. John Belushi. Chris Farley. Phil Hartman. Freddie Prinz. Greg Giraldi. Joan Rivers.

These comedians died tragically from substance abuse, suicide or homicide, or medical neglect. And the list goes on. But they didn’t die because they were comedians. They died because they are human. There are many who died as they did who aren’t comedians. In our culture, we often find it perhaps more ‘relatable’ if we can categorise or summarise groups of people. The reality is that human beings can suffer from a range of afflictions: addictions, depression, bad choices and neglect. Society has somehow linked the comedian to the ‘tragic figure’. I believe this couldn’t be farther from the truth. In fact, the only group you may be able to link them to is the ‘group of the gifted’. That is their inherent spiritual gift, to make others laugh. How they died is the human side of mortality.

Laughter

It is a gift to be able to make others laugh. We can all do it, whether we believe so or not. There are all kinds of humour. You know what usually makes you laugh. So go get some laughter. Or go and induce it in others. That is your gift. Please give it to others.

Special thanks and credit to: picture of group yoga www.thetimes.co.uk

Posted in Behaviour Therapies, CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, DBT, EFT, EMDR, Emotional Freedom Technique, Holistic Therapies, Hypnotherapy, Laughter, MBT, Meditation, Rational Emotive Therapy, REBT, Relaxation, Stop Smoking, Stress Management, Talking Therapies, Visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Depression: Real or Imagined?

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People often used the word ‘depressed’. They may say, ‘I’m so depressed about this’. Or ‘This is so depressing’. They are describing what appears to be a ‘down’ moment. What will determine, however, whether you actually suffer from depression or not is whether you recover quite quickly from these down moments, or stay in them for long periods of time, or constantly.

When suffering from what was known as ‘clinical depression’, you have a very low mood and perhaps other symptoms every day for at least a fortnight. Often the symptoms can escalate and interfere with the running of your everyday life and activities.

What is Depression?

The word ‘depression’ is used to describe and assimilate everyday feelings of very low moods which can affect you from time to time. This is different from just feeling sad or down, disappointed or stressed, upset or angry. Depression as an illness means you experience intense and chronic feelings of ongoing sadness, hopelessness and helplessness and these feelings are often combined with physical side effects such as loss of energy, lack of sleep and physical ailments.

If you’ve felt the same way for a long period of time, you may not realise that you are depressed. You may put it down to bad luck, or other people, or circumstances. Some people find that they reach a state where their life is no longer functioning. It is then that they may see their doctor and they may receive a diagnosis of depression.

Medical sign

How do I know that I’m depressed? What are the symptoms?

Some people think that they may have a physical illness alone and are unaware that they are also depressed. The following is a list of symptoms that you may experience when you are depressed. You may have one or two or several.

  • Loss of enjoyment and interest in life and activities that you used to enjoy
  • Low mood nearly every day and life in general appears ‘dark’ or ‘black’
  • Persistent feelings of sadness and lack of joy, accompanied by crying
  • Tiredness, loss of energy and inertia
  • Physical aches and pains with no medical cause
  • Suicidal thoughts, occupation with death
  • Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, guilt and worthlessness
  • Poor motivation where simple tasks seem very difficult
  • Self-harm (cutting, burning, overdosing)
  • Sleep problems
  • Loss of appetite or increase in appetite
  • Loss of sex drive or other sexual problems
  • Poor concentration, such as difficulty reading, working, driving, etc.
  • Agitation, restlessness and irritability

If you find that you have most of the symptoms on this list, this can indicate how severe your depression is at this time. The severity can fluctuate from mild to severe.

What is the cause of Depression?

There has been no single exact cause known for depression. In most cases, there are usually a series of reasons and experiences that contributed, but in some cases, no obvious reason can be found. This is where the research about chemical imbalances, hereditary and genealogical causes find merit.

An episode of depression may sometimes be triggered by an event in life such as bereavement, loss of job, illness or relationship problems.

It has been found that women are more prone to depression than men. Menopause and postnatal depression after childbirth are common times for women to become depressed, as well as fluctuating hormones with menstruation and family responsibilities. An alteration in the chemicals in the brain is thought to be a reason why some antidepressants can work in treating depression. More on this later.

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What are the myths associated with Depression?

Unfortunately, we are finding that there is still stigma associated with mental health problems, especially depression. People tend to think that if you are depressed then you are of a weak nature. But in fact, many very intelligent, high profile, hard-working people have suffered from depression. The most noted is Winston Churchill.

It can also be frustrating when healthcare professionals themselves are not specially trained in depression and are unaware of what is helpful language to use in treatment. Telling someone to ‘pull their socks up’ or to ‘snap out of it’ is not only ignorant but can prove to be harmful and add to existing feelings of unworthiness and worthlessness.

It is helpful to understand that the symptoms you suffer are due to depression. It is a very common illness and one of the most presented at GP surgeries. If a GP is appearing to not understand your symptoms, you can ask to be referred to a specialist practitioner who can examine your symptoms in depth and take a full case history.

Commonly Used Terms

Manic Depression (now most commonly known as bipolar). People suffering from bipolar disorder experience severe mood swings with extreme ‘highs’ of excitement, elation and energy, to extreme ‘lows’ of lethargy and sadness. Symptoms of bipolar disorder tend to show up very early on in childhood, but as late as late teens.

Post-natal depression. Mothers can experience mood swings, crying spells, or extreme lows during the first few days after giving birth. This can continue up to a year or so if untreated and if conjoined with sleep difficulties and anxiety.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). As the seasons change and winter looms, this type of depression can begin to affect your sleep and eating habits. This is due to the lack of daylight hours and sunlight. Special ‘light boxes’ have been invented to help increase exposure to light.

Reactive depression. When traumatic events occur in life, people can begin to feel low, irritable, anxious or angry. These emotions can be directly related to the traumatic event and cause this reaction. This type of depression can go once the event has passed or the condition is treated. However, it can also continue if the stress is prolonged.

Endogenous depression. Similar to Reactive depression, this type of depression can be triggered by a stressful event or time in life. Physical symptoms are most common in this depression and tiredness, sleep disturbance, low mood and poor concentration can also affect everyday life.

What May Help?

Treatments for depression vary and can be a combination of medication, talking therapies, holistic therapies, and self-help peer support groups. Let’s look at these in this order:

Medication

Medication

  • SSRI’s (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors have been around since the 80’s and tend to cause the least side effects. They are also less sedative than other types of medications. Serotonin is our natural feel-good drug that the body produces naturally. This is a synthetic one but helps to emulate the effect of serotonin in your brain.
  • RIMA’s Reversible Inhibitors of Monoamine Oxidase are similar to MAOI’s and are usually prescribed in higher doses as they are given to those for whom other treatments have proven non-responsive.

There are other medications available and this can be discussed with your GP. Sometimes these medications may be combined with anti-anxiety medication.

Talking Therapies

Therapy

Medication doesn’t address underlying issues such as childhood trauma or other psychological problems that may have contributed to being depressed.

Whilst there is a plethora of psychological therapies available, there are a few that are specifically designed to help treat some of the more severe symptoms of depression.

Psychodynamic Therapy This type of therapy be helpful when exploring long-term problems that recur and lost memory and childhood trauma. It is known to be thought provoking and anxiety inducing. It is based on the premise that whatever is brought into the therapy room is explored and relative to ongoing issues. This therapy can go on for years and most people attend 2-3 sessions per week.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Known most commonly as CBT, this therapy has been backed by the NHS and is time-limited and goal focused. For this reason it is easier to produce evidence and outcomes, in other words, progress. Your thoughts, behaviours and feelings are explored. Tasks are given to complete between sessions. The average number of sessions is 12 on the NHS, but can be longer privately, depending on your symptoms and progress.

Counselling. This can involve several different schools of thought and as a general rule, counselling is the opportunity for people to explore what happens to them when they are depressed and focusing on the here and now, rather than going back to childhood and more deep-rooted problems.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy. Better known as DBT, this therapy helps those who have self-harm as a symptom and uses Mindfulness as a means to help the person focus on the here and now and being mindful of every thought and action and what it produces. The typical treatment time is 1 year and a ‘step-down’ program offered as telephone support if needed. DBT specialises in helping those with personality disorder and self-harm. It is offered on the NHS, but some DBT therapists work privately.

Mentalization Based Therapy, known as MBT is a therapy that helps you to ‘mentalize’ which means to understand your own mental state, perhaps asking yourself ‘why did I do that?’ You begin to stop and understand or examine why you behave the way you behave and what your mental state was at that time. This is known to be helpful for personality disorders and self-harm. It is offered on the NHS, but you can also find specially trained MBT therapists who work privately.

Holistic Therapies

Remedies

There are a number of holistic or alternative therapies that can help you to ease the symptoms of anxiety. These include Hypnotherapy, Stress Management, and Acupuncture, Relaxation and Visualisation therapy and meditation. Also many of the homeopathic remedies such as Bach and Australian Bush remedies may help. Massage therapy, reiki and sound therapy have also yielded results for some people from the symptoms of depression.

As a Holistic Therapist, I must add that before manufactured medications existed these remedies successfully treated ‘mania’. I believe that these remedies can be used in combination with conventional ones.

Self-Help Recovery and Support Groups

social media

The online community is very active in offering information and support for depression.

There are also peer support groups throughout the UK who offer meetings where people with similar symptoms can meet and discuss coping strategies. If depression has caused you to be isolated, attending a support group can be a way to get you out of the house and amongst other people. It often lifts your mood.

Helpful hints and tasks:

Flower

  1. Keep a mood diary. Note the days and how long you feel down. Also note physical symptoms and feelings.
  2. Identify your feelings. Get a list online of feelings. Go through it and see if any particular ones stand out. Note if you feel some more than others.
  3. Stay clear of substances that exacerbate depression such as alcohol, drugs and tobacco.
  4. Find a hobby that can occupy your time for at least a few hours per day.
  5. Pay attention to your person hygiene. Be sure to shower, wash and put on clean clothes. This can increase your mood immediately. It can also induce a feeling of relaxation.
  6. Try to continue to work if you can manage it. Although if you need to take time off, speak with whom you need to do so, your GP and other’s to determine the best course of action.
  7. Take care of areas which may be cause for concern, like debt, relationship difficulties, disputes, falling grades at school, or other responsibilities like pets and the household. Seek help if you need it.
  8. Try to speak to at least one person per day if you are isolated. This can be in person or telephone or even online.
  9. Try to get to bed at the same time each night.
  10. Try to get up at the same time each morning.
  11. Make it a point to prepare for bedtime. Take a soothing bath. Make sure your bed covers are clean.
  12. Try to meditate or sit quietly for a while. Listen to nature sounds or a favourite piece of music.
  13. When you retire at night, make a list of what you did that day that made you feel better, even if only for a few minutes.

Here are a few online communities:

community

Depression Alliance          www.depressionalliance.org

Depression Recovery Groups         www.depressionrecoverygroups.org

Turn 2 Me           www.turn2me.org

Depression Understood         www.depression-understood.org

For more information about depression visit:

Mind UK     www.mind.org.uk

Rethink        www.rethink.org

 

 

 

 

 

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Panic Attacks. Is there any hope?

Panic

Panic Disorder & Panic Attacks

Have you ever felt so frightened that you felt you would pass out? But you didn’t.

Have you ever felt so scared that you thought you would throw up? But you didn’t.

Have you ever felt so doubtful that you thought you couldn’t walk? But you did.

If you have ever felt any of the above, chances are that you were having a panic attack. Defined as a sudden or gradual escalation of intense fear resulting in several disturbing and uncomfortable symptoms which can include heart palpitations, breathlessness, sweating and trembling.

The good news is that no one has ever passed or died from a panic attack. The bad news is that when you are having one, you don’t really care about the previous statement.

Let’s see what the symptoms can be, as they often vary depending on the circumstances.

Any or all of these can apply:

Intense overall fear Palpitations Shaking & Trembling
Intense fear of dying Sweating Chills or Hot Flashes
Chest pains Coughing or Choking Numbness or tingling
Dizziness, Faint, or Unsteadiness Feeling in a daze Loss of Breath

The overall fear is that something terrible, drastic or detrimental is going to happen at any given second.

Although panic attacks are usually experienced suddenly, they can have a gradual escalation of up to 5 minutes or more. At it’s worse, or peak, the general time is 10 minutes.

So what is actually happening to the body while the mind runs free through fear?

The body’s normal coping mechanisms in times of stress is the ‘fight or flight response’. This is the body’s inbuilt normal ‘go to’ when it thinks it is being threatened or is under attack. This normal inbuilt strategy is triggered at a time when you are not actually in danger, but the mind has perceived that you are in danger. And this is when it becomes confusing.

The term ‘Panic Disorder’ is often used for this reason; the mind and body are ‘disordered’ in their way of assimilating their environment and have misconstrued the perceived threat. And if they occur often, then it is treated as a disorder. Because of this condition, your every day life and how you live it can be disrupted. If you have a panic attack before you go to work, for instance, depending on its severity, you may never get out the front door. This could lead to other challenges such as agoraphobia (fear of being outdoors for fear of a panic attack). You could attempt to avoid leaving home for long periods of time.

Am I the Only One?

Anxiety Disorder accounts for 30% of mental health problems in the UK. It is more common in women than in men, and usually starts in early or late teens.

panic calm

How Is It Treated?

Treatments for anxiety are varied and include medication and therapy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has been shown to be very effective in its treatment as it focuses on the thoughts behind your fear which directly dictates how you behave.

Applied Relaxation can be helpful. Guided Visualisations can be practiced several times a day to help you become used to relaxing your mind and body. Mindfulness is very helpful to re-train the mind to be in control of your thoughts.

Your GP may prescribe anti-anxiety medications such as SSRI’s (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which help to increase the level of serotonin, the ‘feel good’ factor in your brain. Some can be taken long term, but as with all medications, it should be monitored with regular check-ups with your GP.

Sedatives are another alternative and this can be discussed in detail with your GP. In some cases they are very helpful. You can discuss side-affects and other factors with your GP.

Your anxiety started for a reason. It is not always necessary to discover the reason, and you may already know how and why it began. Challenging your thoughts with support and guidance from a professional, coupled with relaxation can be an effective treatment.

What Is Helpful?

Relaxation Mindfulness Hypnotherapy
Yoga Therapy (CBT, Psychotherapy) Staying active
Exercise Support groups Hobbies you enjoy

 

What is Unhelpful?

Caffeine Alcohol Drugs
Smoking Focusing on the problem Staying up without sleep
Unhealthy eating Watching disturbing movies Ignoring the problem

relax

People do learn to live with ‘free-floating’ anxiety. They make a plan and stick to it. You can do the same. Support is widely available on line through various networks and support groups.

Be active in your decision to become anxiety-free. And you may notice that before you are fully aware, you’re no longer anxious.

For more information go to:

www.anxietyuk.org.uk

www.anxieties.com

 

Posted in Behaviour Therapies, CBT, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, Holistic Therapies, Hypnotherapy, Meditation, Relaxation, Stress Management, Talking Therapies, Visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Relaxation really does work!

Relaxre·lax/riˈlaks/  1. To make or become less tense or anxious; 2. Rest or engage in an enjoyable activity so as to become less tired or anxious.

According to the International Stress Management Association, an estimated 1.2 million people said they were suffering from an illness caused or made worse by their work, down from 1.3 million in 2009/10. Of these, 500,000 were new illnesses occurring in-year.

These are staggering statistics. People are putting in far more hours at work. According to the Office of National Statistics, the UK work the 3rd longest hours in Europe completing a total of 42.7 hours per week (Austria & Greece follow averaging 43.7 hours per week). The responsibility of juggling work with home, family, friends and a social life can lead to unnecessary pressure and a feeling of being overwhelmed.

Stress arises when individuals perceive that they cannot adequately cope with the demands being made on them or with threats to their well-being. R.S. Lazarus (1966). ‘Psychological stress and the coping process’, New York: McGraw-Hill.

With extended working hours, and life’s pressures, when do we find time to relax and just enjoy a moment? With commuting, mobile phones, the internet and reality TV, when do you give yourself space to just close your eyes and relax?

Chances are, you don’t find that time. Many people say they relax whilst watching TV, but your emotions are often involved in this perceived ‘relaxing’ past-time.

In order to relax, you don’t have to spend an hour or two. Fifteen minutes will often do and is the equivalent to taking a short nap. If you can set aside 15 minutes as soon as you get in from work, or after you’ve eaten, then take this time for yourself.

Find a quiet place to relax. Tell everyone you are ‘unavailable’ for the next 15 minutes. Use headphones and listen to relaxing music such as nature sounds (ocean, birds) or orchestral music. Many different CDs are on the market to help. Close your eyes and begin taking a few deep breaths. Soon you will find yourself drifting off.

If you are in a creative job, you will find this relaxation session extremely useful. Many artists, writers, musicians and performers rely on this relaxation technique to spark inspiration, new ideas and the energy to see projects to completion.

Relaxation is a proven technique that can help you to manage stress. The NHS now provides relaxation sessions for staff which include alternative therapies such as aromatherapy message, Indian head message, and spiritual healing. Amazing!

There are many benefits to learning relaxation. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following:
The benefits of relaxation techniques
When faced with numerous responsibilities and tasks or the demands of an illness, relaxation techniques may take a back seat in your life. But that means you might miss out on the health benefits of relaxation.

Practicing relaxation techniques can reduce stress symptoms by:

  • Slowing your heart rate
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Slowing your breathing rate
  • Increasing blood flow to major muscles
  • Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
  • Improving concentration
  • Reducing anger and frustration
  • Boosting confidence to handle problems

As stress is at an all time high due to the increasing feeling of lack of security as jobs change, I made a series of CD’s (or mp3) to help people to work with learning how to relax. The CD ‘Give Me Relaxation’ focuses on learning how to breathe and focus on your body relaxing. I also take you on a journey of self discovery which helps you to build incentive to practice relaxation daily.

Relaxation cover GOOD

If you’d like some basic techniques, go to the Presentation article here  and follow the simple techniques that are outlined.

Remember, a little goes a long way.
The ‘Give Me’ Series of CD’s and Mp3 is available on iTunes or Amazon.
*Additional information & thanks to the Mayo Clinic and Mind UK.

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Tapping Is Easy: EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique

 

eft_point What is EFT?

Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT, is a psychological acupressure technique I have incorporated into my practice as a way to help people to overcome old habits and old belief systems.  

It can often be overlooked, as it has been linked with hypnotherapy and NLP. But actually, it is a much more client-active measure in which you take a much more active role in applying the technique yourself.

Emotional patterns can develop from a very young age, and this can then instil certain beliefs about yourself. If these beliefs are positive, then you most likely will have beneficial and positive results occur regularly in your life. If the beliefs were negative, then you will get exactly that, negative results on a regular basis.

 

In applying a combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation, this works to clear away a link or circuit to the emotions associated with the thoughts.  

 

Your body’s bioenergetic system then restores your mind and re-balances the body creating a much more equal and holistic healing mechanism for your body’s chemistry.

 

I’ve always thought that the resistance or wariness that comes from other practitioners about EFT is that it focuses on the electromagnetic energy that flows through the body and regulates our health. To some scientists, this is debated, very much like Acupuncture and the Alexander Technique and even Osteopathy.

 

There is also the ‘affirming’ element, where you speak out loud a positive affirmation to address the negative belief whilst tapping on the meridian centres.

 

How Does It Work?

tapping-chart

 

The basic EFT sequence is straightforward and generally takes clients only a few minutes to learn.  I always go through the sequence first with you, and tap on you , so that you can concentrate on the process of what we are doing. After a while, you will be able to tap on yourself. 

You will use your fingertips to tap, and you can use 2-3 finger. The Meridian points are on your body as well as your fingers.

 

You can use either hand, whichever feels most comfortable for you. It is best to remove jewellery like watches, rings and glasses.

 

The indication is to tap in a solid motion, but not too hard or pounding. You can use both hands if you chose to do so.

 

You will tap 6-8 times, and this is not critical, but just enough to take effect.

The sequence is that you will start at the top and work your way down.

 

What are the Tapping Points?

EFT-Chart

 

You will tap in this sequence:

 

1. Top of the Head

 

2. The eyebrow

 

3. The side of the eyes

 

4. Under the eye

 

5. Under the nose (top of lip)

 

6. Chin

 

7. The collar bone

 

8. Under the arms

 

9. The wrists

 

 

In addition to this, you can hold your wrist and say ‘Peace, Tranquil, or Calm’.

 

You will be asked to focus on your problem and the emotion that goes with it. You will hold that focus and them begin to tap whilst saying words and sentences give you a positive acceptance of yourself despite the problem stated. For instance, ‘Even though I have a fear of heights, I completely love and accept myself’.

 

The important thing to remember is that this can take some time. Go easy on yourself.

 

You must be patient with yourself and take time to review your affirmations. The energy points will feel odd when you first start to activate them.

 

When Do I Tap?

 

You can tap at any time, anywhere. After a while you will learn to tap without actually tapping. You will learn to just imagine that you are tapping and those energy points will be activated. This is the power of the mind-body connection

 

What next?

 

Practice tapping at least 5 times a day. You may do it more often depending on the need. If you find negative thought arising or old behaviours coming to the surface, tap on it.

 

Here’s a Quick Guide:

 

1. Identify a problem

 

2. Set a goal

 

3. Do a sequence of tapping

 

4. Re-examine the problem

 

5. Notice what’s changed and what is still there

 

6. Identify what is still there

 

7. Set a goal

 

8. Do a sequence of tapping

 

9. Begin again.

 

If you’d like to learn more or have an appointment  for EFT, please contact me for an initial discussion.

 

Recommended Reading:

EFT Tapping: How To Relieve Stress And Re-Energise Rapidly Using The Emotional Freedom Technique by Colin G. Smith.

 

Pictures used copyrighted: eft-courses; curezone;

 

Posted in Behaviour Therapies, EFT, Emotional Freedom Technique, Holistic Therapies, Hypnotherapy, Relaxation, Stop Smoking, Stress Management, Talking Therapies, Visualisation | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment