Sick of your workplace?

Stress at work is to some extent something we all expect and live with. Eustress (a helpful influence that drives us to perform well) is a positive influence. Distress, on the other hand, may cause everything from worry and sleepless nights to misery, anxiety, depression or illness.

The sympathetic nervous system governs our body’s physical response to an emotional stimulus. It is governed by the unconscious mind, which is our primitive self. Our unconscious is responsible for all automatic behaviour including appetite, sleep and awareness of threat. Interestingly, the unconscious mind perceives emotional threat (what people sometimes disparagingly call ‘all in the mind’) in the same way as physical threat. 

The idea that emotional stress is in some sense less ‘real’ than physical threat doesn’t convey the lived experience of individuals suffering from psychological turbulence. Anyone who has suffered a panic attack will testify to the present and terrifying nature of extreme anxiety. 

Mind-body science

The ‘flight or fight’ response to distress involves large amounts of two hormones. The first is cortisol, which regulates functions such as mood, blood pressure and the wake/sleep cycle. The second is adrenaline, which makes the heart beat faster and increases alertness. When we lived in caves and were at risk of regular physical threat, such responses had the ability to save us from death and disaster. In a sense, anxiety, depression and other responses to stress are remnants from our primitive past – something that has remained after our conscious selves have evolved. This means that conflict at work, for example, may provoke the same chemical response as the prospect of a physical encounter with an angry bear! 

How many of us suffer from Workplace Stress?

Stress accounts for 46% of long-term absence from work1. It’s bad for the individual, and bad for the individual. It is particularly prevalent in high ‘human capital’ industries such as health, public administration, education and social welfare. Women in the 35-44 age group and men in the 45-54 age group are most likely to suffer from workplace stress, with frequency increasing with the size of the organisation. Work-specific issues account for 42% of workplace stress and interpersonal relationships for 26%. Despite the economic impact of staff absence, a survey by Mind showed that 56% of managers said that mental health issues were not a priority for their company.3

How can the workplace make us sick?

However, chaotic work environments where autonomy and positive feedback are low can lead to distress and resulting health problems. Most people need their employment and thus are, in a sense, at the mercy of those who run the company and sometimes co-workers too, so walking away is not an option.

Some of the issues that can provoke stress are:

  • Poor definition of responsibilities
  • A heavy workload, or one which does not match the individual’s skill set or training
  • Being given responsibility without authority or input 
  • Unrealistic or inflexible timeframes
  • Lack of respect, encouragement or recognition
  • Poor resources to carry out the job
  • Bullying or harassment
  • Conflict with the goals of others
  • Disruptive change or instability
  • Poor work/life balance

In recent times Covid has caused a variety of additional difficulties around stability of work, isolation when working from home, 24/7 proximity to other household members, financial problems and work/family priority conflict. 

How do I know if I have workplace stress?

The emotional signs of stress can provoke physiological reactions. These include flight or fight responses such as elevated heart rate and high blood pressure, but also fatigue, headaches, migraines, pain in the torso, infection susceptibility, digestive problems, loss of libido and sleeplessness.

Emotional symptoms include low mood, anxiety, absent-mindedness, tearfulness, relationship problems, lack of concentration, low self-esteem. These difficulties can lead people to self-medicate with alcohol or other substance abuse or to more severe behavioural issues. Workplace stress can lead to a myriad of problems affecting an individual’s everyday life and expanding like ripples into the lives of their families too. While medication can help relieve anxiety and depression in the short term, psychological approaches are more helpful in leading individuals to develop a better long-term coping strategy.

What can I do about workplace stress?

The first step would be to consult a line manager or HR department. If this is not possible or does not yield results, the next option is to seek help from a counsellor or therapist. Solution Focused talking therapy or Hypnotherapy can help the individual find a path through workplace stress. 

While the protocol for Solution Focused therapies is standard, each person is encouraged to find their own inner resources for coping. The assumptions made by this kind of therapist are that every person already has the resources to cope, but these are hidden and need to be found, and that the client wants to be well and is thus always collaborating and co-operating in the process. 

Although far from ‘imaginary’, stress does exist in our imagination – in our mind. The greatest tool in countering the impact of stress is the ability to choose one thought over another. This means that we have a choice in whether to see challenging events as overwhelming and unmanageable or challenging, but achievable.

Although this may sound like a simple ‘mind over matter’ notion, hypnotherapy acknowledges the importance of the unconscious mind. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy encourages the conscious and unconscious parts of the mind to collaborate over solutions by following solution-hunting discussion, by proven relaxation, visualisation and suggestion techniques. These imitate the restorative process of sleep, which helps put our rational mind back in control instead of responding with our fearful primitive mind. Far from being a mysterious process, researchers have found that “SFBT is an effective treatment for a wide variety of behavioral and psychological outcomes and, in addition, it may be briefer and therefore less costly than alternative approaches.”

To find your nearest Solution Focused Therapist, go to 2020. CIPD Health And Well-Being At Work Survey 2020. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 2 November 2020].

2 2020. Work-Related Stress, Anxiety Or Depression Statistics In Great Britain, 2019. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 2 November 2020].

3 2020. Work Is Biggest Cause Of Stress In People’s Lives. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 2 November 2020].

4 2020. Solution Focused Brief Therapy: A Systematic Review And MetaSummary Of Process Research.

SAGE Journals. 2020. Effectiveness Of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Systematic Qualitative Review Of Controlled Outcome Studies – Wallace J. Gingerich, Lance T. Peterson, 2013. [online] Available at: <; [Accessed 2 November 2020].

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Hypnotherapy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome, known as IBS, is one of the most common digestive problems in the population1. It affects up to 20% of people in their lifetime and tends to be a long-term condition. People with IBS find it upsetting, uncomfortable and often embarrassing.


IBS is a collection of symptoms, rather than a specific condition. Symptoms vary but can include abdominal pain, cramp and distention, constipation or diarrhoea. The unpredictability of  the condition can cause anxiety and low mood, affecting other areas of life. Symptoms may be mild or severe enough to be life altering.

Those with IBS often undertake a battery of medical tests to rule out other conditions such as appendicitis, gynaecological disorders or inflammatory bowel disease. GPs, short of time and often lacking access to integrative treatments, often focus on one symptom and recommend medication to counteract those particular symptoms, rather than on the IBS as a whole. IBS is a collection of symptoms, rather than recommend medication to counteract gut symptoms.

A wide range of medication can be prescribed depending on the individual’s symptoms. Treatment may include peppermint oil-based products that sooth bloating and urgency, antispasmodics (which help with cramps), antidepressants (which reduce pain intensity signals from the gut to the brain), and antibiotics that reduce the overgrowth of gut bacteria. Every case is different. Some also respond to dietary changes such as a reduction in high gas foods, carbohydrates known as FODMAPs, or gluten.


Essentially, the test for IBS is the elimination of other conditions. If you continue to have symptoms but are not diagnosed with a cause, the chances are you have IBS.

Emotional triggers may make IBS worse and tend to have a cyclical effect; a bad bout of IBS may cause anxiety about when the next spell may occur (will the individual be at an important meeting at work, out in the country away from facilities, or in a social situation? Such anxiety, which may be unconscious, can cause the body to respond inappropriately, sparking IBS symptoms and further worry. Similarly, problems outside the condition itself – family, relationship or work problems, may cause a flare up.

Hypnotherapists will work with clients to identify trigger events and thoughts and use a variety of techniques to reduce anxiety and enable the body to function normally. It is important to note that bodily symptoms that are affected by the unconscious should not be described as ‘all in the mind’. That simplifies the situation and implies that symptoms are under the control of the individual who simply needs to enforce some kind of discipline on them. However, the unconscious mind works independently of our conscious mind, perceiving real and present danger in seemingly innocent situations.

 aida-l-nL8mTz00zb0-unsplashImagine you put your hand down on the hot cooker hob; you would snatch it away without thinking about it. Without awareness, even. It’s the unconscious mind’s way of preserving you. If someone told you the hob had been on and said they were going to make you put your hand on it, your unconscious mind would prepare for the pain. Your muscles might tense, your heart and breathing rate might rise…these are responses not to physical impulses, but to cognitive stimuli – your expectation of pain. So it is with mind-body conditions; the unconscious responds to the imagination, without our being aware of it. We have no control.

Peter Whorwell, Professor of Medicine & Gastroenterology at the University of Manchester, examined the use of hypnotherapy to manage and remedy IBS since the 1980s. His innovative research showed that over 60% of IBS sufferers who embark on hypnotherapy see continuing progress and even the total disappearance of symptoms, often with no reappearance.2

Hypnotherapy is now recognised within the medical profession as an evidenced-based remedy that can help lessen the symptoms of IBS. The National Institute for Clinical and Care Excellence (NICE) lists it as an IBS treatment.3

So how do I choose a hypnotherapist for IBS?

You can find a NCH-registered hypnotherapist in the Hypnotherapy Directory. Look for a practitioner who cites IBS as one of their treatments. You can also ask your local professional hypnotherapist whether they treat IBS. Once you have found hypnotherapists in your area, ensure they have the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma and are a member of NCH. For vulnerable people or children, check that they have the appropriate Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service certificate for the age group, which means they have been checked for a criminal record and whether they are barred from working with children or adults.

How many sessions will I need?

Here at Flourish Hypnotherapy I use a proven protocol over seven sessions to quieten the conscious mind, induce deep relaxation, reduce gut sensitivity and improve confidence. 

The number of sessions and space between them are discussed with the client and agreed as we go along.

What happens at a hypnotherapy session?

All sessions are entirely confidential. I will take a few notes including contact details, brief medical history and lifestyle. We will discuss any concerns that may be contributing to your symptoms.

During hypnosis I will teach you how to relax very deeply and will help you to:

  • Visualise how you will be feeling when your problem is resolved
  • Process any anxiety you may have
  • Use suggestion within hypnosis to decrease the sensitivity of your gut and increase feelings of health, positivity and confidence
  • Learn self-hypnosis through the audio recording that I provide to listen to between our sessions together

Should I speak to my GP?

It is useful if you have already seen your GP and been tested to rule out other potential gut issues. It is worth telling your doctor that you are having hypnotherapy.

The National Council for Hypnotherapy is one of the largest not-for-profit professional associations in the UK and provides an assurance of a well-trained, ethical and insured hypnotherapist.





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Hypnotherapy for weight loss

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Most people wanting to change their weight, size or shape have tried dieting at some time. Diets have become a ‘normal’ way of attempting to rectify what we see as a problem. But do they work? Are they helpful? If they are so effective, why are we still overweight?

In the UK people of normal weight reduced from 45.5% in 1993 to 35.1% in 2018. Obesity levels went from 14.9% to 27.7%1

It seems evident that the problem lies outside the simple idea of food choice and restriction.

Food is not the issue
If we are finding it difficult to make healthy food choices, what does that say about us? It is not hard to find information on the internet for any number of simple or complex diets, most of which revolve around reduction of certain food types, or portion size, often coupled with exercise regimes.

So why can we not follow that idea? Energy in minus energy out is the equation of any weight loss principle.

Perhaps rather than looking at how to cure the symptom, we should look at what is causing the problem. How have we come to be this size, shape, weight in the first place? When I ask clients when they were larger or smaller, I receive a range of responses from “when I’m in a happy relationship I put on weight” to “when I feel really down, I tend to comfort eat”. State of mind impacts on how and what we eat.

Superficial problems may have complex origins
It is common for the mind to cope with a great deal of distress before it manifests the problem. Symptoms may lie hidden for some time. The desire to eat can be the result of feeling out of control, depressed, anxious, angry or exhausted.

Beneath our eating pattern is sometimes a level of self-abuse where we make ourselves feel guilty to confirm our own beliefs that we are a disappointment or an unworthy person. We sabotage ourselves to prove the point.

Our body shape and size are our outer advertisement. Our outward image is often tied up with our inner identity and how we see ourselves. The rise of social media has fuelled our innate tendency to compare ourselves with others and that can be very disheartening for some people and fuel the fire of discomfort.

What your new slender self says to you is that you are worthy, worthy of love, respect, desire, employment, friendship…a host of good things. It is not an end in itself but the imagined key to a better life.

Self-discipline is often associated with mood

If we are unhappy with the direction our life is taking, that is when we seek control. So, by the time we make that decision, the chances are that we already feeling low. Diets which tell us to eradicate foods that boost your mood (usually high carbohydrate or sugar products) continue the cycle of crash and burn. First you were feeling low, then you were told you couldn’t eat chocolate, right?!

Some ‘comfort eating’ serves as a means to avoid those negative emotions. If you are overeating to avoid feeling emotions, dieting can cause those feelings to re-emerge.

The struggle between what you want to eat and what you ‘mustn’t’ eat creates a tension between desire and denial, which drain your body’s reserves of dopamine – a chemical which promotes wellbeing. When your mood is low, you are open to the temptation of breaking the rules of the diet and feeling guilty again.

Denial is ineffective
Diets promote a good/bad form of thinking which is extreme. Any day could be a success or a failure, leaving you feeling emotionally unpredictable. Hypnotherapy for weight loss leads to a balanced approach, bolstered by the power of the unconscious mind through relaxation and visualisation2. This kind of approach is what athletes use to encourage peak performance – what they visualise enables them to succeed in the real world. Hypnotic suggestion can leave you feeling good about yourself, help you reflect using your intellectual conscious mind and make good choices. You are less likely to suffer black and white thinking and more likely to find balance in your day.

Internal struggle leads to drama and energy drain
Often it is the diet itself that causes addiction. The days when you step on the scales and see you have lost weight and are winning the battle give a boost. The feeling of being hungry, empty, or light can also provide a more dangerous buzz, where individuals start to actively avoid eating as much as possible to maintain the high of self-denial. This moves us into the realm of an eating disorder for which help should be sought.

Criticising ourselves rarely yields positive results
Our mind responds more to reward than punishment. If you feel you have been ‘bad’ or ‘let yourself go’ or been ‘out of control’, you are likely to feel in a negative state, which does not encourage you to carry on.
Diets have a central premise that we are flawed. We have not been disciplined and need direction. Once we have lost weight, how long will we keep it off? If we suffer from low self-esteem, this can lead to never ending speculation about the future and adds fuel to our poor sense of self. When we accept ourselves, freed from the struggle against eating ‘bad things’, we can take control of our feelings and create a positive relationship with eating.

Self-imposed change is more effective than change imposed from outside
Changing your life without training the mind is hard work. Eating belongs to the realm of the unconscious. Hypnotherapy works on the unconscious mind to promote self-esteem, happiness and positive relationships in a safe, non-judgmental space.

So, do all diets fail?
It is definitely possible for anyone to work towards a healthier body, with the right state of mind. We could argue that weight loss may not automatically result in happiness, but that happiness may be more likely to lead to losing unnecessary weight.

Make your journey to a healthy body easier and more successful using hypnotherapy as part of your plan.

Eating is not a crime. It’s not a moral issue. It’s normal. It’s enjoyable. It just is.
Carrie Arnold

1Nuffield Trust Obesity Figures
2Hypnosis and Weight Loss

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Shut down your inner critic

Could do better?

Self-evaluation can be an effective instrument, but if we have a small voice in our head telling us constantly about our shortcomings, that critical observation can begin to block the light and cause a downward emotional spiral.

Negative thoughts like these are learned. We are not born self-critical. So how have we learned to think like this? As children, we may internalise negative experiences from parents, teachers and others by becoming withdrawn, sad, feeling unloved, imagining that we could have done better. Another theory suggests that genetically, we may be predisposed to look inwardly and seek personal flaws. Whatever the reason, we may end take viewpoint that we are not architects of our own accomplishments; success is always down to luck or someone else’s abilities, while failure is due to our personal error.

As this becomes an ingrained pattern, we may not even notice it. Often it is our friends or family members who point these traits out to us. “Why do you beat yourself up?” is a common question.

Because our thoughts dictate our feelings and in turn our behaviours, being overly and constantly self-critical can lead to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Putting ourselves down can open us up to being treated inappropriately by others, which may make us wonder why we seem often to be on the receiving end of negative influences. “Why does it always happen to me?” is a typical response.

A positive perception of ourselves, on the other hand, provides an energy and attractiveness that can help us draw positive outcomes into our lives. We probably all know someone who is able to talk objectively but positively about their own achievements without appearing conceited. Somehow that positivity creates its own magic. What we expect is often what we get. It is what we call a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So how do we silence the critical voice?

Count your victories

Research has shown that people who seek perfection in themselves often seek out negative memories which confirm how far they are from their ideal1. Recalling and replaying positive memories, however, can repair low mood2. Some cultures discourage outward shows of accomplishment and place an emphasis on modesty. But bringing out your light, to yourself (always) and to others (on occasion) can help us feel better about ourselves and begin to banish the critical inner voice.

Writing a brainstorm of past achievements on a timeline can help us connect with our successes, conquer embarrassment and learn a new way of seeing ourselves. Continuing by writing a daily log of accomplishments helps to form a positive habit. Another option is to notice our thoughts and disassociate ourselves from them. Start with : “That’s the critical head dropping its poison in again.”

Forgive yourself

In a time where we are striving to be the best mother, father, partner, employee, son, daughter, student – fuelled by our own conscience and the media images to which we are exposed – it is time to remember we are good enough. Just as we are. With our flaws and errors. We have made mistakes but have got it right far more often. We are doing our best as human beings.

Find the feelgood factors

If we can acknowledge that we are good enough, then we can accept that we deserve to be happy and that our happiness is not contingent on what we do, but on who we are. This fosters the core belief that we can indulge in activities that make us feel uplifted, energised or simply contented.

Wellbeing can be fostered by a ‘duvet day’ with a good book or film, having coffee with a close friend, opening the paint box, playing a musical instrument or any of a million things that may gladden the soul. We do not always have to be earning, producing or caring for others. We can go off the ‘production grid’ and just be.

Get out more

Research has shown that access to green space improves mental wellbeing and also assists in recovery3. A minimum of 15 minutes in the sunshine each day with sleeves rolled up is likely to give the body its requisite amount of vitamin D. Studies have explored a link between vitamin D efficiency and low mood. But are there other aspects to green space access that we should be thinking about? Studies by Ulrich (1979, 1981, 1984, 1991b, 2002) showed that just viewing the natural environment goes beyond aesthetic pleasure to include greater emotional well-being, reduced stress and better health. Gall bladder patients exposed to views of nature or trees had shorter post-operative stays, required less pain relief, and received better staff evaluations than their counterparts given a view of a wall.

It is reasonable to ascribe some feelings of wellbeing to the sensory input derived from being outdoors. The sound of the elements, fragrance of plants, sunlight, colour, movement. Before humans walked the earth, plant-life was here. Is it any wonder our primitive selves want to connect with it?

Review your social connections

People who are self-critical often feel they have the friends they deserve. When we are emotionally robust and clear headed, we can step back and assess which friends bring us joy and which sap us of positive energy. 

There are many ways to define friendship. If we seek friends solely in order not to be alone, we can end up with superficial relationships, or even toxic ones. Companionship at any cost can be dangerous. Reliable, thoughtful, kind friends, on the other hand are one of the greatest assets to our happiness and wellbeing.

Marcel Proust commented that friends are ‘the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom’. Indeed, one way to look at friendship is as a state of mutual nurturing such that we can grow as individuals while still remaining connected to others. We encourage each other’s successes and share each other’s sorrows.

Be compassionate with yourself

Our unconscious mind believes the stories we tell it. Imagine someone who constantly tells us that we are not quite good enough and must try harder. If we constantly weave this story in our own minds, that is the message that our unconscious mind accepts as reality. The unconscious is not like our rational conscious mind; it accepts thoughts as truths and acts accordingly.

Why compare?

Theodore Roosevelt once said that comparison is the thief of joy. Comparing ourselves with others means we forget to nurture what is special and unique about ourselves. We give away our own power. What is more, we never know other people’s whole story. The svelte, wealthy woman stepping out of her four-by-four may have a difficult husband, an ailing parent, a problem with substance abuse. We simply don’t know. Few people have perfect lives. And that’s fine. And we are fine. Just as we are. 

Ask for help

There are many forms of help out there. Talking to a qualified experienced therapist about your thought patterns can be liberating in itself. Learning how to retrain your thought patterns can be rewarding and life changing. Solution Focused methods guide the individual to look at how a future life could be without the struggle of self-criticism, and to find building blocks towards that future.

Find out more about Solution Focused therapy here:

1 Besser, A., Flett, G. L., Guez, J., & Hewitt, P. L. (2008). Perfectionism, Mood, and Memory for Positive, Negative, and Perfectionistic Content. Individual Differences Research6(4).

2 Werner-Seidler, A., & Moulds, M. L. (2012). Mood repair and processing mode in depression. Emotion12(3), 470.

3 Morris, N. (2003). Health, well-being and open space. Edinburgh: Edinburgh College of Art and Heriot-Watt University.

With thanks for the images to Niklas Hamann, Andre Hunter, Jonas Vincent, Josephine Baran, Debby Hudson, Nick Fewings and the team at

In association with Top Hypnosis Blogspot

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Hypnotherapy – Myth or medicine?

When you think of hypnosisyou may imagine the stereotype stage hypnotists, using hypnosis to manipulating suspects into behaving in unexpected or embarrassing ways, to the delight of the audience.

As many people now know, this depiction is far from the hypnosis used in clinical hypnotherapy to help people overcome mind-body related problems such as anxiety, low mood and unwanted habits.

So, what exactly are hypnosis and hypnotherapy? 

“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night’s sleep.”

How does hypnotherapy work?

Hypnotherapy comes from the Greek words for sleep and healing. Superficially then, ‘hypnotherapy’ is healing through sleep.However, hypnosis is not an exact equivalent to sleep, but more accurately mimics the part of the sleep process known as Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. The speed of brain waves was first explored in 1929 by Hans Berger using an EEG machine and it is now known that the slow brainwaves labelled ‘Theta’ relate both to REM sleep and to the hypnotic state. In this state, we are withdrawn from the outside world and focused on our state within. This state may be accompanied by vivid imagery and physical phenomena such as eye catalepsy (perceived inability to open the eyes). 

It is a common misconception that the subject is under the control of the hypnotherapist. This is not the case. Subjects who do not wish to undergo hypnotherapy are not susceptible to it.

The other misconception is that hypnosis is exactly the same as sleep. On the contrary, a hypnotic state is a condition of acute focus.

So far, so comprehensible. But why is this mental state important for personal change?

“I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is that they must change if they are to get better.”

A study by researchers at Stanford University in July 2016 examined what happens in the brain during hypnosis. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to view brain activity in 57 subjects in hypnosis1. Changes were observed in three specific areas of the brain:

1. Reduced connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (part of the control system involved in planning and decision making) and the posterior cingulate cortex (the part of the system which is during self-monitoring).

2. Increased connectivity between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula (the part of the significance network involved in identifying and controlling internal bodily processes). 

3. Reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (part of the system involved in the appraisal of errors and worrying). 

This shows that a hypnotic state is a very real construct and points to the science behind what hypnotherapists have observed and its physical basis.

Essentially, we are lest self-conscious, more available to learning and less anxious during hypnosis.

“Imagination is the beginning of creation.”

How can hypnotherapy help me?

So, what does a hypnotised person actually experience? Usually, suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. The subject is aware or semi-aware of their surroundings, but is in a similar state to daydreaming, becoming absorbed in internal stimuli. Subjects report a wide range of phenomena from visual colours and patterns, being ‘absent’ some or all of the time, feeling unusual body symptoms such as weightlessness. The important thing is that all experience is valid and normal. Just as we all experience reality differently, so we experience hypnosis differently. There is no right or wrong.

Hypnotic states are a common and natural occurrence in everyday life; driving to the supermarket while being unaware of the route taken is one example. However, without the ‘therapy’ side of the process, the unconscious primitive part of the mind is not subject to change.

The therapist’s suggestions, provided they are in tune with those of the subject, are the key to change.

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

The danger it perceives, however, is both physical and psychological. That’s to say that it does not discriminate between real physical threat and the negative thoughts that are said to be ‘all in the mind’. Dismissing them as such is doing a disservice to the sufferer of mental health problems. The unconscious responds to threat of all kinds by triggering a true physical response. 

How does the unconscious mind work in hypnotherapy?

Panic attacks2, agoraphobia3, migraine4, IBS5 and skin conditions6 are just a handful of conditions triggered or worsened by the unconscious mind.

During hypnotherapy, the suggestions of the therapist are taken on board by the unconscious mind as if they were physical reality. Imagery and sensation can be experienced by the subject along with spontaneous impressions that haven’t been specifically mentioned.

A hypnotised subject is relaxed and absorbed in their inner life, modifying or erasing their usual concerns in the same way as reading a good book or watching a film might achieve.

The therapist’s suggestions then become easy to embrace. Current thinking is that hypnosis allows the therapist to work with the unconscious mind directly7. Usually, we are not aware of the unconscious (the clue’s in the name!) but we know that the unconscious is working behind the scenes to ensure automatic functions are preserved. During sleep, the conscious mind is dormant, and the unconscious is active.

The unconscious controls your sensations and your emotions. When the door to the unconscious is opened, those feelings can be triggered by the therapist, for example, to bring calm feelings to those who suffer panic attacks and feelings of empowerment to those with phobias.

The unconscious mind also stores memories. Past events may be accessed more readily and links between the past and the present uncovered or remembered more vividly. 

“Almost all people are hypnotics.”

Can anyone be hypnotised?

The thorny question of how we can demonstrate that someone has entered ‘another state’ is often something asked of hypnotherapists. The idea of ‘going under’ is to misunderstand the reality of hypnotherapy. 

In a number of studies, the physical signs of hypnosis have been compared with those who have not been hypnotised8:

  • Catalepsy – rigidity of the body, or part of it, in position
  • Eyelid fluttering
  • Slowing of respiration
  • Smoothing of facial muscles
  • Reduction or absence of swallow reflex
  • Inner absorption
  • Response attentiveness

Some or all of these phenomena may be seen by the therapist.

Researchers have also examined the changes to the cerebral cortex that happen during hypnosis. (Obviously, the therapist is not aware of this). Interestingly, hypnotic subjects showed lower activity in the left hemisphere, while activity in the right hemisphere increased. The left hemisphere of the cortex is considered to be the rational control centre of the brain. It works on reasoning and logic. The right hemisphere, on the other hand, is responsible for imagination and creativity. So, a lower functioning left hemisphere fits the premise that hypnosis reduces inhibition, while a higher functioning right hemisphere suggests that the unconscious takes the lead being a creative and spontaneous entity.

The over-riding question for the therapist, however, is not whether the subject is experiencing trance, but whether they are experiencing change. If you were given three types of tablet by your GP, would you wonder, once you felt better, which one of the tablets was responsible or whether you just recovered spontaneously? 

“You use hypnosis not as a cure but as a means of establishing a favorable climate in which to learn.”

How can hypnotherapy help me?

Trance is encouraged when the subject is positive about the experience, there is rapport with the therapist and feels comfortable9. The therapist should therefore initially have taken a history and conversed with the subject to ensure they feel relaxed and comfortable about safety and confidentiality as well as trusting the therapist. The subject is then, most often using muscle relaxation and visualisation into a pleasant state of calm, deepening into trance.

Hypnotherapy is used for a wide variety of applications, including anxiety and depression, physical symptoms of mental distress, and unwanted habits. A change of mental perspective, rather than a change in superficial behaviour, is the key to permanent change. In the same way that an unpleasant sensation, emotion or habit can become ‘anchored’ in the subject’s unconscious, similarly calm, pleasant emotions and positive habits can be attached in the unconscious through hypnotic techniques.

During professional sessions, the therapist may work with long standing personal problems such as irrational fears. The mind-body link can also be used to use hypnotherapy to reduce physical pain such as that experienced during labour, for example. There is also evidence that hypnotherapy has helped cancer patients manage the side effects of treatment with the hypnotised group experiencing faster surgery recovery times and less analgesia10.

Although more research is needed to verify the efficacy of hypnotherapy in some areas, a recent literature review in the effectiveness of hypnotherapy11 indicate positive outcomes for subjects. Based on that data, Dr Leon W Cowen suggests that hypnotherapy is already established as a beneficial part of some treatment programmes and should be contemplated within treatment protocols for a wide array of disorders. He concludes that ‘overall hypnosis interventions were considered safe, effective, clinically valuable and statistically significant.’

Sarah Eley
Flourish Hypnotherapy
February 2020

1  Jiang, H., White, M. P., Greicius, M. D., Waelde, L. C., & Spiegel, D. (2016). Brain Activity and Functional Connectivity Associated with Hypnosis. Cerebral Cortex.

2 Locke, A., Kirst, N., & Shultz, C. G. (2015). Diagnosis and management of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults. American family physician91(9), 617-624.

3 Porter, E., & Chambless, D. L. (2015). A systematic review of predictors and moderators of improvement in cognitive-behavioral therapy for panic disorder and agoraphobia. Clinical Psychology Review42, 179-192.

4 Dikmen, P. Y., Yavuz, B. G., & Aydinlar, E. I. (2015). The relationships between migraine, depression, anxiety, stress, and sleep disturbances. Acta Neurologica Belgica115(2), 117-122.

5 Pellissier, S., & Bonaz, B. (2017). The place of stress and emotions in the irritable bowel syndrome. In Vitamins and hormones (Vol. 103, pp. 327-354). Academic Press.

6 Lin, T. K., Zhong, L., & Santiago, J. L. (2017). Association between Stress and the HPA Axis in the Atopic Dermatitis. International journal of molecular sciences18(10), 2131.

7 Palfi, B., Parris, B. A., McLatchie, N., Kekecs, Z., & Dienes, Z. (2018). Can unconscious intentions be more effective than conscious intentions? Test of the role of metacognition in hypnotic response. Cortex. Accessed 10th February 2020

9 Fit, A. P. (2017). Hypnosis and Clinical Social Work Practice. Social Work Treatment: Interlocking Theoretical Approaches.

10 Singh, P., & Chaturvedi, A. (2015). Complementary and alternative medicine in cancer pain management: a systematic review. Indian journal of palliative care21(1), 105.

11 Cowen, L. (2016). Literature Review into the Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy. ACR Journal 10 (Volume 1). Pages 1-55 

With thanks to Jonas Verstuyft, Johannes Plenio, Caleb Woods, Hendrik Morkel, Chris Lawton at Unsplash for images.

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What is positive thinking and how can it work for you?

If positive thinking were that easy, we would all have adopted it and the levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness would be lower than they are.

But the benefits of positive thinking are real, but not in the simplistic way one might think.

Early psychology looked at issues of mental health as a disease, focusing on what was wrong. Later models began to look at why some people managed to stay hopeful in the face of difficulty, why some people are better at bouncing back from defeat than others. What are those inner resources and how can we find them?

Positive psychology looks at resilience, courage, hope and spirituality. But the link between positive thinking and positive outcomes is not just a matter of denying the negative and pretending our challenges don’t exist.

The most simplistic views of positive thinking lead us to believe that our problems are self-inflicted and if only we could ‘think more positively’, everything would be fine. This leads us to feeling guilty that we haven’t ‘tried hard enough’. The pressure to think positively can also lead us to believe that we aren’t, in our depressed, anxious state, the people that our loved ones want us to be. The subconscious message is “we would love you more if you were different”. That message can cause people to stop talking about their problems and turn inwards.

In cognitive behavioural therapy, we are encouraged to look at our thoughts, identify which unhelpful patterns they belong to, and then find opposite thoughts and finally the balanced thought in the centre of the two polarities. 

Positive thinking is there effective when it can show us how untrue our negative thinking is, opening our minds to new possibilities.

So how can we harness the power of the positive?


Mindfulness helps you become aware that you have the power to respond, or not, to your thoughts. There’s less of a knee jerk reaction – this makes me sad, that makes me angry – and more of an opportunity to be present with thoughts and decide how to respond to them.


Gratitude is useful for recognising what is already going right in your world. A daily round up of the best things in our lives is good for mental health. And it can be something very small. The smell of the first grass cuttings in summer, the taste of a good soup, time spent with a pet.


Keeping a diary of our negative thoughts helps create a place where we can see he positive side of life. You can also write out the opposite thought and find a balanced one in between the two. 


Visualising creates a positive emotional state, enabling us to go to a peaceful happy place in our soul and absorb and remember those thoughts and feelings.

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy uses these techniques to create a positive image of the future – instead of this particular state, how would it be if life were better for you? How would you feel? Can you imagine that sensation? And from this we can draw out how we could make a start on bringing that about, breaking down the task into small achievable units. Hypnosis helps the individual to implant the suggestion of positivity into their subconscious through deep relaxation and post hypnotic suggestion.

For more information on Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, contact your local registered hypnotherapist at

Call for a no obligation chat or email me.
07932 102663

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10 Unusual Reasons It’s Time to Talk to a Hypnotherapist

Everyone understands that issues such as bereavement and divorce could be natural candidates for emotional support and professional help, but there are other less obvious issues that might indicate it’s time to see a hypnotherapist.

Do you often feel that no-one understands you?

If you have reached adulthood and have these feelings, it could be related to identity, childhood problems, trauma or difficulties in communication.

It’s worth a chat with your hypnotherapist who will guide you in imagining life differently and move towards a brighter future.

Do you find relationships hard to sustain?

Relationships are one of the hardest things we do. The question is always the same – how do we continue to be our authentic selves, while being part of a couple? Fear of losing independence or mismatches in needs for intimacy can cause difficulties and if things don’t fall into place, seeking help from a hypnotherapist can be the right choice.

Your hypnotherapist can help you look at your priorities in relationships and how you communicate and guide you to make new choices for yourself.

Are you always tired?

If you’ve visited your GP and there’s no obvious reason for constant fatigue, it could be a sign of depression. A depressive style of thinking focuses on the negative in life and when we do that, our unconscious mind tells us that this is the reality of life. Our thoughts dictate our feelings and our feelings are our benchmark of wellbeing.

Your hypnotherapist can help you find your way back to the positive in your life and visualise a happier future, cementing it into your unconscious mind.

Are you in an unhappy relationship you just can’t leave?

This kind of behaviour can often be a sign of low self-esteem or dependency. Seeing a relationship end can make an individual feel they have failed or that they are not worthy of love or likely to find love again.

These thoughts are common, and hypnotherapy can help you find new patterns of thinking that will help you make decisions about your relationship.

Do you have physical symptoms with no obvious cause?

Palpitations, poor sleep, skin and digestive problems can be signs of emotional ill health. The mind and the body are closely linked – eczema sufferers and those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) often report that stressful times will worsen these symptoms. Our physical self can be the barometer of our state mind.

Hypnotherapy will never harm you. As a safe and natural process, it can help you learn the skills of deep relaxation, which you can use even after sessions are finished.

Do you say ‘always’ and ‘never’?

This style of thinking is known as ‘black and white’. Thinking in extremes and having doom-laden thoughts are a sign of negative thinking, linked to low mood.

“This always happens to me” or “I never have good luck” are typical phrases. Your hypnotherapist can guide you back to a time when bad things didn’t happen or when you did actually have a piece of good luck.

This style of thinking is learned and can be unlearned; the hypnosis process helps to cement new learning in the mind.

Have you recently had a life change?

New job, new house, new partner – it can all seem exciting until the come-down when you might feel lost, isolated or disconnected.

If you’ve been struggling for a while, reach out to your professional hypnotherapist who can help you see through the negative feelings.

Are you just a boy/girl who can’t say no?

When your brain says “no, I’d rather not”, but your mouth says “yes, that would be great”, it can be a sign that you are pleasing others because you aren’t considering your own needs as worthy.

If you don’t have personal boundaries, you end up ministering to everyone else’s needs, at the expense of your own, which can leave you feeling drained and unhappy.

Hypnotherapy can help you change this thought pattern and take back control.

Do you wake in the small hours with palpitations?

Night anxiety can be a sign of anxiety from the day that we have overlooked or suppressed. Finding the cause of anxiety, which might not be a physical cause, but can be to do with thought patterns, can help restore your sleep.

Monday morning blues?

Work stress is often a part of life. We don’t like our work, our colleagues, the commute, whatever, yet sometimes we lack to confidence to make change because we have to work with those people day in day out.

Hypnosis and the associated talking are very useful for workplace issues, helping you escape from the ‘hamster wheel’ of negative thoughts which are never resolved.

For a no obligation chat, email or call.
07932 102663

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Three proven breathing exercises to counteract stress

How can stStressed dogress be good for you? We use the word ‘stress’ to denote something negative, yet a certain amount of stress is good for us – ‘eu’ stress, is the kind of adrenaline kick that encourages top performance, is to be welcomed. When that feeling starts to impact on our daily life however, or causes us to go into freefall by way of a panic attach or physical symptoms, we are in ‘distress’, the wrong kind.

Constant level of uncontrolled stress can lead to panic attacks for some people. Common symptoms include shallow fast breathing, palpitations, nausea and light-headedness. Stress can also exacerbate ailments such as in migraine, irritable bowel or skin conditions.

When we’re in the midst of meltdown, it’s difficult to think clearly and find a way to come back to calm waters. However, the simple act of breathing differently can alleviate that feeling of being overwhelmed.

Here then are three breathing exercises which you can practise daily. There is no mystery in how these work. But it’s a bit like sitting down at a piano in the Albert Hall hoping to play a concerto. It’s only going to work if you’ve practised!

So find a comfortable place to sit, rather than lie, back straight, supported if necessary, and begin…

1 Square breathing

This exercise punctuates the in breath and the out breath with pauses. Panic often causes people to feel they can’t actually breathe. They can, but they’ve forgotten the complete outbreath, so they continue to breathe in quickly, which causes tension and faster breathing, in a circular fashion. Square breathing allows slowing down, gaining control and fluttering down to earth.

  • Breathe in for the count of four slowly, drawing up air and filling the lungs
  • At the top of that breath, pause for the count of four
  • Breathe out at the same pace, coming down to the count of four, emptying the lungs
  • At the bottom of that breath, pause for the count of four

2 Belly breathing

We tend not to breathe fully, owing to sedentary lifestyles, poor posture and busy lives. Belly breathing aims to fill the lungs by expanding the abdomen, rather than raising the chest, thus drawing more oxygen into the body and then emptying the lungs as fully as possible.

  • Place one hand on the chest and the other on the abdomen
  • Breathe in, pushing the abdomen out gently – the chest hand should remain fairly stationary, while the abdominal hand should rise
  • At the top of the breath, wait for a few seconds – as many as feel comfortable – and then exhale, feeling the abdomen contract back

 3 Six/eight breathing

Here we’re aiming for a longer out breath than in breath. With a short break between the two. This pattern of breathing activates the vagus nerve in the brain which is responsible for the parasympathetic system, which returns us to calm after a period of anxiety.

  • Breathe in slowly for six, focusing on the abdomen rather than the chest
  • Hold for two similarly slow counts
  • Breathe out for eight at the same rate

See which of these works for you and practise, practise, practise….

Hypnotherapy utilises breathing to calm the individual to a point where the unconscious mind can be accessed and habits and patterns of thinking altered, with permission.

It is safe, effective and suitable for a wide range of mind-body issues.

In the UK, suitably qualified professional hypnotherapists can be located at

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Five things you should know before choosing a hypnotherapist


You’ve decided to seek help from a hypnotherapist.

So what now? You fire up the Internet and Google ‘hypnotherapist in my location’.

Then a string of plausible sounding people pops up and you choose one, right?

Hypnotherapy is a self-regulated industry, so almost anyone can practice anywhere with little or no training, experience or insurance. But don’t let that alarm you. Here are five steps to ensuring you have the right therapist at the right time.

1 What are the therapist’s qualifications?

The HPD, (Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma) is the gold standard for hypnotherapists. Its  equivalent academic value is an NVQ4 or foundation Degree and it’s awarded by an independent accreditation body, rather than a hypnotherapy school itself. It includes a portfolio of evidence gathered from a minimum of 120 hours of face-to-face-teaching, supplemented by private study.

2 What membership do they hold?

There are a number of professional bodies, the largest being the National Council for Hypnotherapy, the General Hypnotherapist Register and the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council. Your therapist should have membership of a body which has a Code of Ethics. All members must abide by it and it’s your guarantee of professionalism and best practice.

3 The litmus test

Are their claims too good to be true? Run a mile if you see ‘Quit smoking in just one session, guaranteed!’  Reputable organisations like the NCH forbid their therapists from making such promises in the same way that your GP won’t absolutely guarantee your athlete’s foot will be gone in a week.

4 The touchy feely bit

Take a deep breath and pick up the phone. Rapport with your hypnotherapist is even more important than their training. If they can stand in your shoes and see the world from your viewpoint without judging, you’re half way there.

5 Questions…questions…

You don’t need rhyme chapter and verse, just some information on whether they can coherently explain how hypnotherapy works, what their success rate is for your type of challenge and what their rates are. If the conversation’s stilted or awkward, you’re not going to feel comfortable about going, so hang up and try again.

Hypnotherapy is safe, effective and suitable for a wide range of mind-body issues. In the UK suitably qualified professional hypnotherapists can be located on

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Panic disorder and Agoraphobia

Beckie's Camera April 2014 170A retouched

Panic disorder affects thousands of people and can be very debilitating. People with panic disorder have sudden and repeated attacks of intense fear that last for several minutes or much longer. If you think that sounds like small beer, imagine the feeling of stepping out into the road without looking and discovering a bus is about to hit you at speed. That’s how it is, not for a merciful split second, but for minutes or longer. The subconscious mind cannot distinguish between ‘real’ and ‘theoretical’ danger which is why the symptoms are so intense. What’s more, the conscious, rational mind has no hold over the subconscious, which is why knowing that a (spider, hairbrush, button, trip to the corner shop….) cannot actually inflict physical harm on you doesn’t actually help. Panic attacks are characterized by a fear of catastrophe, death or of losing control even when there is no ‘real’ danger. A person may believe they are having a heart attack and may dread the possibility of having another attack. This in turn may lead to the person’s life becoming affected by the fear. This fear of fear itself can mean that a person begins to avoid the trigger places or situations where they had the attack. They may also feel ashamed of themselves and cover the reasons for the avoidance behaviour with a ‘more acceptable’ excuse. No-one knows why people suffer from panic disorder. Stress and environmental factors may play a role; some people may just be ‘hard-wired’ for panic disorder. People with panic disorder may have sudden and repeated panic attacks, a feeling of catastrophe or being out of control, worry about the next attack, avoidance behaviour. The fear may manifest as sweating, a pounding heart, chest pain, tingling extremities, faintness or headache, or digestive disturbance. Panic disorder affects around 590,000 people in the UK and is twice as common in women as men. Panic attacks often begin in late adolescence or early adulthood, but not everyone who has panic attacks will develop panic disorder. Many people have just one attack and never have another. Diagnosis Panic attacks can occur at any time, even during sleep. It usually peaks within a few minutes, but some symptoms can last much longer. People who have full-blown, repeated panic attacks can become very disabled by their condition and should seek help before they start to avoid places or situations where panic attacks have happened. Some people’s lives become so restricted that they avoid normal activities, such as shopping or driving. Some become housebound or need to be accompanied by a partner or friend to face the situation. When the condition gets to this stage, it’s known as agoraphobia, which literally translated, means a fear of open spaces. Early treatment can prevent people moving from panic attack to panic disorder and from panic disorder to agoraphobia. People can sometimes visit the doctor repeatedly for years before their condition is correctly diagnosed. This is unfortunate, because panic disorder is a very treatable kind of anxiety disorders, responding in many cases to cognitive and hypnotherapy which together help change thinking patterns that lead to anxiety and provide strategies for combatting the onset of panic attacks. Panic disorder can be accompanied by other problems, such as depression, drug abuse, or alcoholism and these need to be treated separately. Panic disorder and agoraphobia can be treated with medication, which usually comes with side effects, or with therapies which don’t. Cognitive behavioural therapy (which teaches people to think differently about situations) and hypnotherapy, which provides a way of ‘tuning in’ to people’s natural ability to relax and helping them develop and use it on occasions previously perceived as difficult. Hypnotherapy also relaxes the conscious mind to the point where the individual can take on positive suggestions which can be recreated in trigger situations. Once the brain learns that the panic attack is not being triggered it is becomes increasingly less fearful, thus breaking the cycle and leading to a more relaxed and calm life.

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