Cognitive Hypnotherapist and Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner in Kingston Surrey
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Being a Dad

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Neil Mackay has written a  great piece on modern fatherhood. There is something quite primitive about becoming a parent. It taps into a deeply rooted part of our evolutionary history of protecting and nurturing our offspring. Having worked with lots of  men and women in my career as a probation officer, it is the one thing I’ve noticed every parent has in common, a desire to be the best and a worry about being the worst. It’s so easy to focus on all the things that you don’t do well as a parent and blame yourself for everything your child does wrong. Being the best parent you can be isn’t always easy, but it’s always possible.
Believe it or not, the greatest gift you can give your children is your own happiness!

So little sleep

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Is it a tight deadline that’s keeping you awake, or your baby’s sleepless night or have you just got a lot on your mind? There are times when we wish we could survive on less shut-eye but would that be sensible?

It can seem surprising that human beings, who can be so full of life, energy, and activities, can, at a certain point each day, withdraw from life, lie down and apparently become oblivious to the outside world for up to eight hours. (We spend up to one-third of our life asleep.) Nobody really knows why we sleep although we have a good idea of how we do it. During sleep complex changes occur in the brain as we repeat a 90 minute cycle 5 or 6 times. There are 2 main types of sleep

REM (rapid eye movement sleep when we dream) and non-REM sleep, also called slow wave sleep (SWS).

When we are awake and active we draw on a huge amount of the bodies resources to function. During Slow Wave sleep the body recuperates and replenishes itself. By contrast, in REM sleep, large amounts of the brain’s energy reserves are expending on dreaming. Dreaming is clearly performing a very important function and the theory I like most is that it clears any excess emotional arousal from the day so we can start the next day ready to deal with whatever life throws at us. So sleep is a release and recovery process.

Sleep problems affect every age group. 17% of the population now has a serious insomnia problem. For millions more people the body’s need to have an appropriate amount of quality sleep is frequently compromised. If they knew the likely price, they would give an adequate night’s sleep a much higher priority.

Sleep is much more than time out from busy schedules; it is essential to the maintenance of physical and psychological health.

There is a good reason why they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture in Guantanamo bay. The emotional processing during REM sleep is very important; the National Sleep Foundation in the USA reports that people with chronic insomnia are more likely than others to develop several kinds of psychiatric problems.

Even temporary sleep loss can impair our ability to concentrate, cope with minor irritations and accomplish tasks, all of which can put a strain on our relationships. When we lose sleep we — and those around us — are at high risk from accidents at work and on the road. For example, a report prepared for the National Commission on Sleep Disorders in the USA arrived at the conservative estimate that sleepiness accounted for 42%of road accidents. In 1988, a total of 269,184 accidents and 17,687 deaths on the road were caused by sleepy drivers.

So sleep is a very important element of keeping mentally and physically healthy.  We all have periods of sleeplessness when we have things on our mind but protracted sleeplessness or insomnia can become habitual and can cause havoc in our waking lives. Cognitive hypnotherapy is a very powerful way to change sleep patterns and by working out why the unconscious mind thinks it’s a good idea to keep us awake in the first place. Once you get to the bottom of this and get into some good sleeping habits again, your insomnia can become a thing of the past.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

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As the Autumn and Winter approach, Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD can affect some people quite significantly. SAD can sap your energy and really affect your mood during the winter months. Hypnotherapy can really help with SAD. and the feelings of depression and anxiety that come with it.

SAD can make everything around you seem pretty bleak and can significantly impact people around you. The good news is that hypnotherapy can help you to overcome the tricks the mind can play on us. You can retrain the way you think and feel so you still might feel a bit down , like we all do from time to time, but it’s temporary so you can manage your mood more steadily throughout the year. SAD can make you feel out of control and believe that nothing can make a difference – that’s not true. Even taking the first step to decide to do something about it means that you can get back in control and it’s a lot more easier than you might think.


It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.

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A quote from Muhammad Ali.

I’m doing a lot of training at the moment on resilience and wellbeing. Everyone knows exactly what wellbeing is and can tune in quickly to what’s in place , what they need to do more of and less of. It’s quite easy to plan for that future ahead when you have a whole day to step back, reflect and make plans for change. What makes the difference is what you actually do with that thinking and planning. So often we get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and lose sight of those great insights, those plans we made on that training day.

So  it’s important to have your eye on the day-to-day stuff. What is it that gets in the way for you of continuing to strive for wellbeing? Money worries, avoiding conflict, succeeding, failing, self-doubt…? Everyone has their own particular things that hold them back.

Building resilience is tapping into that innate capacity we all have to get through things. We can be so skilled at problem solving and getting back on track after a setback. The most important thing is your ability to tune into yourself and others to notice when things aren’t working for you and to put the brakes on those negative thoughts and feelings.

It’s not having the stone in your shoe that’s the issue, it’s not doing something about it so you can get back on track until the next hurdle comes your way. The more you practice being resilient, the better you become. Over time you might just find you can take more and more hurdles in your stride.

If you think back over the last 3 months, think of 3 occasions when you’ve managed a setback and pinpoint the qualities that you already have that make you resilient. Write them down so that the next time you find something challenging, you can remind yourself of how capable you are, get the situation back in perspective and go about finding solutions. Keep adding to your list and you’ll be surprised how resilient you already are!

Is a phobia an uphill struggle?

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I’m working with a client at the moment and he has chronic agoraphobia. He went to see his Doctor for some advice. She said it was going to be ‘an uphill struggle’ to get rid of the phobia.

Health professionals say things to their clients all the time. With all the good intention in the world, they can plant negative suggestions without even realising it.

It is possible that a chronic phobia can clear quickly or for some it may take a little longer. Most people I see with phobias can get back in control of this mental miscalculation within a few sessions. That doesn’t sound to me like ‘an uphill struggle’. Change isn’t always easy but it’s always possible.

What if the Doctor has said something like:

‘I’ve no idea how long it will take for you to clear this phobia’.’ It might be a challenge but you can get back in control of it as it’s just a mental miscalculation of the brain’

Your mind thinks you are in grave danger when you have a phobia so it latches onto any negative comments to entrench the pattern even more.

A phobia is just a learned habitual response and when you have one , you can’t imagine life without it even though consciously it makes no sense. That’s just a trick of the mind.

So interestingly since that meeting with the Doctor, my client has been driving and going out and controlling the way he thinks and feels. It hasn’t always been easy, but its been possible.


Strong Emotions Make you Stupid Joseph Le Doux

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This quote is my favourite. Joseph Le Doux is a neuroscientist who wrote a great book ‘The Emotional Brain’.

I’ve recently been running training for the Samaritans in resilience and wellbeing.It really struck me just how capable all the participants were and yet how their strong emotions got in the way of their logic and lead to poor decision-making driven by emotional reasoning which can created problems for individuals at work and at home.

One senior manager was ranting about a domestic problem with an ex partner- a really difficult situation for her that was very stressful. The more she talked about it, the angrier and more upset she got. Her colleagues, over sympathising with her, made it even worse. I asked her three questions which completely shifted her focus from problem to solution.

First question- what would be the best case scenario? She painted a completely unrealistic picture of what she wanted.

Second question- is that realistic? No, was the response

Third question -so what is possible? She calmed down instantly and found a whole range of options for the things she could control. She also accepted that she couldn’t control everything. For the first time she saw the ex partner’s perspective and let go of all that anger and started to smile.

So very quickly she took the emotion out of the situation, and was able to problem solve again.

So what’s going on here? Well I think the answer is how we manage our relationship with ourselves and the world around us and in particular how we manage our emotions. We like to think we are always in control and, most of the time we are. However we can only control ourselves and not other people. We can seek to influence but we can’t control someone else. Focussing on the problem usually makes it worse. When you focus on a solution and calm down there are usually more options than you think.

In a nutshell resilience and wellbeing is something we already have. It is an inside out process rather than an outside in. Nothing was different for this woman in he outside world but her approach to it was different and that made all the difference.

What does this mean?

Have you ever noticed how children have a natural ability to be happy? They live in the moment, enjoy being in the moment and are at one with themselves? The truth is that as human beings this is our natural resting state so we all have this ability. If you’re not sure, remember how relaxed you feel when you are on holiday, when all that clutter of life seems to clear itself and you rediscover what’s important to you. I describe this ability as having an inbuilt, innate compass that knows exactly what’s right for you in any given moment. Using this you can understand and navigate emotions effectively, activate the amazing problem solving skills we all have and find a solution or a way forward for most things.

My primary goal in all my work with clients and workshops on resilience and wellbeing,  is to put people back in touch with this ability. It’s always been there but it gets lost in the turbulence of negative thoughts and feelings which is a factor for every client I see, every individual that attends one of my day programmes.

When you begin to realise that you can experience and manage your reality in a very different way, that can open up a wealth of possibilities, new horizons, new ways of making sense of the world and a way to use and manage your feelings constructively. Could you just begin to imagine how powerful that could be?

The road to resilience and wellbeing leads you right back to your own front door!!

The Power of Mirror Neurons

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I found this You Tube clip hard to watch. It just shows you how powerful mimicry, the firing off of neurological connections, is for a child as they mirror the parent. We do this all the time, as adults as well- it’s why we sympathise so much with people in distress We run a simulation of it in our own head. Powerful eh?

So if we can run simulations, why wouldn’t you use that ability positively? Take a look at 5 people you are close to. You’ll be running simulations all the time of how they behave, speak etc. Without you realising it, you are responding neurologically to what you are experiencing. If you have friends with a negative influence, you’ll be swimming in negativity, which will affect your mood and your well-being and the opposite is true.

So decide what kind of environment you want to live in and create the one you want! If you don’t like what you see around you in your friends or family, change your response to it or develop some new friendships.

Changing from the inside out

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I works with a lot of people with a whole range of problems. Not only can they believe that change can happen a lot quicker than they think, it can be a lot more straightforward than they think. By the time we have finished working together, nothing has changed in their outside world at work or at home but they’ve changed from the inside out. Their relationship with themselves is stronger, their sense of self-worth has grown and their self belief in what’s possible hugely increases.

This doesn’t mean that life is perfect from now on but ex clients have a bag of tools to deal with whatever life throws at them – life tends to be like that! Managing the way you think and feel is a key to navigating life’s journey. Taking action when you want change is also key. Do you think that might be useful for you?
My oldest client was 89, Agnes. When I first met her she was house bound, crippled by agoraphobia and feelings of anxiety and depression. It didn’t take her long to retrain her mind to experience the world differently and step out of her front door and enjoy the world again rather than see it through her living room window. She has given herself the gift of managing the way she thinks and feels. My job has been to enable her to find this. The outside world beyond her front door is no different but her relationship to it is. She has relished in the freedom that can bring.
I don’t have a magic wand, but you do even though it might be out of sight at the moment. So I figure if you can change at 89, you can change at any age! There is always hope for us all however difficult your current problems are! Change isn’t always easy but it’s always possible because of the plasticity of the brain.

“One of the most important functions of the mind is to transform hindsight into foresight.”

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There’s no doubt about it, we are all products of our past. However, the past has gone; it’s over and yet so many people I work with get bogged down by what they did or didn’t do. Strong emotions like guilt. shame, anger and regret can still remain with us for a long time. I work with people who carry resentment around with them like a heavy rucksack. Anger is toxic in the body. It’s like taking poison and expecting your enemy to die!

So what do we do about the stuff in the past that affects our present and makes us fast forward to a negative future? Easy; you change your relationship to it. What makes the past so vivid sometimes is the power of the mind to reverse and re experience past events so powerfully.

So what if the past was just a whole load of learning that you could use in the present and future to decide how you want things to be different? Because that’s really all the past is. It’s a bag full of experiences that make you the unique and special person you are. If you think about the future, it is a whole load of possibilities that havent happened yet. So all there is is now. The rest is just a bag of thoughts which you can choose to feed or not.

So hindsight and the learning that comes from that, can guide you towards the future you want. How cool is that?


Rejuvenation in the Body

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The surface of the skin is replaced every couple of weeks.Skin cells regenerate four times faster after a gentle injury, like ripping the top layer with sticky tape.

Liver cells turn over every 300 to 500 days.The human liver has an amazing capacity to regenerate itself. Remove up to 70 per cent of the organ and it will grow back to its normal healthy size in as little as a couple of months

The gut lining is replaced every 2 to 3 days.

Your fingernails grow almost 3.5mm each month, although the little fingernail grows more slowly than the others.Toenails grow at a rate of 1.6mm each monthand the big toenail grows fastest.

Your taste buds are replaced every 10 days.

The lining of the bronchial tubes is replaced every 2-10 days . Microscopic air sacs called alveoli last 4 to 5 weeks.

The skeleton is completely replaced every 10 years and is the slowest to rejuvenate.


So you are literally not the same person you were as your body continues to change; some parts quicker than others.

So why is changing eating habits so difficult?

Why is giving up smoking so difficult?

It’s the mind. The habit is engrained in the cells and the thought patterns and the chemicals in the body have come to believe that the habit is rewarding. This is a complete fantasy for negative habits. It’s a trick of the mind. Cigarettes don’t relax you, nicotine is a stimulant drug. Eating sweet stuff to excess doesn’t offer comfort from stress or difficult emotions. It’s a mirage  that the unconscious mind makes you believe to maintain a habit it’s been deluded into thinking is good for you. So if your body can rejuvenate, so can your mind and you can retrain it to let go of old habits and learn new ones.

Cognitive Hypnotherapy uses the power of the body and the mind to work with this natural regeneration process so you can get back in control and change any negative habits.