Alison's Blog

Welcome to my blog


My musings, things I've found interesting and thoughts on how knowing more about the way the mind and body work might help us to make the positive changes we want.

By arison, Sep 30 2017 03:15PM

With Stoptober just around the corner, I have been thinking about the people who have come to see me in order to stop smoking. And, in particular, about one of the oft-mentioned impacts of smoking – one that surprised me.

When someone comes to see me for stopping smoking, one of the key things we do is explore their reasons for stopping smoking. Motivation plays a large role in how smokers become non-smokers.

But everyone is different. One person's reasons for becoming a non-smoker will be very different to another person's motivations for stopping smoking.

For example, it will be of little value for me to include suggestions about having more money if you're not concerned about how much the habit costs and more interested in having better lung capacity for running and exercise.

If your primary motivation is to improve or safeguard your health, you may or may not give two hoots about having a better sense of taste and smell for dining out at your favourite restaurant.

On the other hand, you might have some vague concerns about body health in the background but the biggest driver for you right now is having healthy skin, gums and teeth and fresh breath.

So it's really important that we find out what your specific motivations for stopping are. You might have just a few clear reasons or you might have a page-long list. Motivations range from the familiar motivations about health and money to very individual reasons.

One of the recurrent motivations, which surprised me initially in its frequency, has to do with time and procrastination. This has come up in various forms and is really intriguing to me, given one of my other interests is helping clients to create fulfilment.

Many of the then-smokers I have worked with have cited one of the greatest benefits of being a non-smoker as having more time. And more than this - having the energy or motivation to do something positive with the extra time.

Many smokers not only find themselves losing time in bothering with all the paraphernalia and logistics of having a cigarette but also feel smoking holds them back in some way. Somehow it stops them from pursuing things that would bring them real enjoyment or achievement.

I was amazed by this. How could such a seemingly small habit (in terms of how the size of the action appears) have such a huge impact. I wondered...

Is it because smoking interferes with the body's natural motivation & reward system? By messing around with the production of dopamine and serotonin does it somehow affect our motivation in other areas?

Is it because smoking affects our mood? Far from being relaxing, smoking actually creates the stress smokers crave to relieve, and is associated with depression.

Is it because those little pockets of time that smoking steals really make a big difference to how we manage our time and organise our lives?

Maybe it’s one or a mixture of these reasons depending on the person, or something else altogether.

Whatever the reason, the one thing we do know is that the freedom, extra time and positive feelings that emerge from being a non-smoker can provide a boost to doing that thing you’ve been thinking of doing but never quite get around to starting ... because ... oh I’ll just have a cigarette first...

With this in mind, I will be launching an offer on Monday for stopping smoking so you can make the most out of Stoptober...

By arison, Aug 19 2016 09:42AM

A few occurrences over the last week or so have struck me about how disconnected we are becoming from nature. Not just in the way our increasingly digital worlds mean we spend less time outdoors but also in other aspects of our lives.

My thought train began with hearing a piece on Radio 4 about the growing popularity of artificial grass. It may well be easier to maintain and look more consistently full and green than real grass but what are we losing? By replacing a part of the natural world with something artificial, we are both reducing habitat for wildlife and losing more of our connection to nature. Being in nature is naturally stress-reducing and beneficial for our health and well-being. Thus, I wonder how these subtle disconnections from nature are affecting us?

Shortly after this, I was taking a train to Suffolk and as I looked out of the sealed thick-paned train window, and felt the air conditioning around me, I noticed how detached I felt from the beautiful scenery outside. The green of the fields, the sparkles from the sunshine, the natural breeze were all around me but felt so distant; it was like I was in a bubble looking out at pictures. I could see it; but I wasn’t really there; I couldn’t feel it.

By contrast, the first leg of the return journey was undertaken by an older model of train with much thinner window panes and open windows. I felt so much closer to the world outside. And felt so much more at peace inside. It was far noisier than the stillness of the air conditioned trains yet strangely I felt more relaxed. Probably because I was more connected to nature.

And then on the same train (of thought), I read an article citing studies that indicate positive benefits from walking barefoot. It is thought the direct physical contact with the natural earth – be it sand, grass or soil – may improve mental and physical wellbeing. Yet few of us often experience this as the world we’ve created generally necessitates shoes.

This all made me wonder in how many other ways we are disconnecting ourselves from nature in some way; replacing the natural world with something artificial. And I wonder what effect this is having on our health and wellbeing. And what can we do about it?

Well I guess it’s obvious to say spend more time outdoors: in the garden, park, getting out into the countryside. But what about day-to-day things? Perhaps it’s worth allowing 10 minutes extra for the commute to or from work and finding somewhere along the way to spend 10 minutes being in nature. Yes, stopping to smell the roses. Going outside in your lunch hour. Going for a run outside rather than on the treadmill. Reading in the garden or the park; maybe even spending some time there barefoot and enjoying the feel of the grass beneath your feet.

And I really think that getting out there in nature can help us to gain insights, get ideas, see things in a new way. Interaction with nature – and movement – is a great way to start getting unstuck.

By arison, May 16 2016 09:10PM

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The Mental Health Foundation’s theme this year is relationships and they are inviting you to make resolutions to improve your relationships. To kick off with they have given two suggestions:

• To meet up with or call family more often

• To not keep checking your phone when out with friends

In these busy, digital times there is no doubt that the way we relate to one another is changing, and this is likely affecting our health and wellbeing.

We may all be more connected digitally yet loneliness, depression and anxiety are on the rise.

So here are just a few reasons to make a relationship resolution today:

• The brain’s feel-good chemicals (endorphins, oxytocin) are released from sharing a joke, an understanding, a hug – good for your mood and your health;

• Spending time together makes us feel listened to, valued and cared for – all essential human needs;

• Taking a break from work/technology/etc reduces stress and allows the unconscious brain to find solutions to problems;

• Having a conversation opens up new ideas and can help us to see things from a new perspective.

Of course the nature of the time spent together is important too. So having these benefits in mind can help steer you towards more positive interactions.

And finally here are some more ideas for possible relationship resolutions:

Live with someone? Have dinner together with no TV; focus on good conversation, relate the good things that happened during your day, discuss a topic, or a enjoy a verbal game;

• Phone at least one friend each week for a catch-up conversation;

• Rather than eating at your desk, go for lunch with a work colleague or arrange to meet a friend;

In a relationship? Have a weekly date night;

Single? Arrange a weekly activity or night out with friends – a walk, a pub quiz, play frisby in the park, watch a film then chat about it afterwards;

Shared house? Find a comedy you all enjoy and make it a ritual of watching – and laughing – together (with all phones away for the half hour/hour).

By arison, May 17 2013 09:09AM

Today is World Hypertension Day – an annual worldwide reminder of the serious risk high blood pressure poses to people around the globe. It’s perhaps a particularly important ‘reminder day’ as many people don’t even realise they have hypertension.

Why does it affect so many people? Well, there are many different factors that contribute to high blood pressure. Yes, our lifestyles can play a part – being overweight, not getting enough exercise, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much salt, etc, etc could all be culprits.

However, it’s also been recognised that, in the case of primary/essential hypertension, our emotional health – as a common example: how stressed or anxious we regularly are – can also lead to high blood pressure. Most people now generally accept this. We’re all becoming aware of this negative connection between the mind and body. How easily we accept the negative!

But what about the upside? If we can negatively affect our health by our thought patterns and internalised emotions, the flipside means we can also improve our health by addressing these emotional factors. Why are we so ready to accept we can become ill because of our emotions yet so reluctant to accept that we can use this mind-body connection to heal? It’s time we turned this thinking on its head...

There are simple things we can today, this week, this weekend to let go of negative feelings and create positive messages between our mind and body...

Just some ideas:

20 minutes relaxation/meditation while focusing on breathing deeply ... maybe listening to some relaxing music...

A walk in the park, noticing the sky, wildlife, greenery, hearing the birdsong, feeling the air and the sunshine...

A massage or some yoga...

Spend time relaxing with your pet - stroking your pet releases health-beneficial hormones...

Watch a comedy - especially if makes you laugh out loud...

Yes, maybe it takes an initial outlay of effort ... but the benefits are soon felt as soon as you start.

And you’d also be helping your blood pressure.

If you do have hypertension or are pre-hypertensive you should of course see your doctor in case you need treatment. But why not also turn the mind-body connection to your advantage to help lower your blood pressure naturally?

There are many things you can do yourself. Additionally, the Hypnotension programme can help you find the motivation to change lifestyle behaviours and address any emotional factors which are likely to be behind your raised blood pressure. It uses specific cognitive and hypnotherapeutic techniques to help you reduce your blood pressure naturally. Feel free to contact me if you'd like to know more or would like to book a Hypnotension consultation session.

However you do it, why not incorporate a bit of self-healing into your day?

By arison, Nov 28 2012 05:44PM

Memory is important in Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Whether it’s resolving a negative memory or using a positive memory as a resource for the future, these techniques often form part of the hypnotherapy treatment. But as our memory has such a powerful effect on our identity and behaviour, perhaps we could start using it to help us every day.

Recently, I was having a drink with a friend, who was reminiscing about a day out we’d had seven or eight years ago. I remembered the day in question but not much beyond, and certainly not all the amusing details they remembered. As they spoke about it, vague images flittered across my mind but most bits I just couldn’t recall at all.

It made me wonder...

When did I lose that memory? I must have had it for a while. In fact, thinking about it now, I feel I remembered it quite fully once. It wasn’t the best memory ever but it was a fun memory; an interesting memory. I wish I could remember it in more detail.

Why didn’t I go back to it and relive it? Why let it slip away? How many more good memories have I lost?

That made me think ....

Rather than just letting memories spring themselves upon me, I should take more action to remember the good ones. So as not to lose them, of course.

But maybe there’s an even more important reason. If, as a person – in our outlook and character - we are the sum of our memories, then wouldn’t we be more positive and happier if we focused on the positive memories...

How many times do I go back over unfavourable memories and let perfectly good ones just slip away?

If the nature of memory is that every time we recall a memory, we strengthen its place in the memory network, why am I not reinforcing the positive ones more?!

I decided it’s time that I make a more conscious effort to think back over and relive the positive experiences – whether amazing or simply pleasant – to strengthen those memories.

There is an exercise from Positive Psychology ("Three Gifts") which I sometimes task clients and use myself. It involves - at the end of each day - thinking of three good things that happened that day. Its purpose is to re-focus the mind onto noticing positive things.

Why don't I extend this exercise by reliving in detail one or more of those positive memories?

If thinking back automatically over the events of the day, we might find any (evenly slightly) negative memories have more emotional impact - drawing us back to them, mulling them over, leading us to disregard the good things.

But what if instead we sifted through the events of the day to find positive things to remember – however eventful or uneventful they are? (After all, a simple memory of a sunny morning, a funny joke or a friendly greeting are all great memories to store).

What if we log those memories? Then, as the days go by, what if we keep returning to the most positive or enjoyable ones, to reinforce them?

I wonder just how different we would start to feel about ourselves and the world around us...

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