School days remind me of repitition and the learning by heart of historical dates, french verbs, capital cities. Many, many years later I can still recite my verbs by heart much to the disgust of my French phobic teenager.
But how is that possible?
The answer lies in the brain. Neural pathways have been formed which have etched little paths in my head signposted for each childhood subject. My mind still easily slips into these grooves and remembers the content.
Whatever our effort goes into forms those neural pathways, whether we want it too or not. Whether it is positive or not.
Our brain evolved to protect us from the threat of extinction. It has a problem focused, negative bias and its natural state would be to rehearse whatever your attention focuses on the most. Often that is problems and concerns.
Thoughts form neural circuits thus meaning we are more likely to return to that line of thought. That’s why daily negative self talk and catastrophising during unplanned 3am awake time can be so normal for us.
One of the benefit of mindfulness practice is that it puts us back in control. We can transfer our attention from unhelpful thinking such as worrying to something helpful such as who we are with and what we are doing at one precise moment. Instead of practising unhelpful thinking processes we can practice helpful ones.
Deliberate practice in action
Athletes use this deliberate practice to rehearse moves, apprentices use it to rehearse specifics which allows them to better carry out a particular task.
I know in nursing we have regular CPR training and we are laying down the nueral pathways to enable us to remember the procedure when faced with the real emergency situation.
The frightening part of all of this is if we continue to put so much effort and time into worrying that is what we will achieve a superior performance in!
A gold medal in worrying.
Techniques to help
Mindfulness is incredibly helpful for many negative thinking patterns such as rumination, worry and self criticism. It has to be rehearsed so that the correct pathways have time to be laid down and imprinted in our brains.
Hypnotherapy can be a great tool for this. It helps to imprint positive thoughts in our brain more effectively than visualisation or meditation. It is such a gentle and peaceful technique and one which can be taught to do yourself at home to complement the work we do in the clinic.
That is what I love about hypnotherapy. It is not me taking control and telling you what to do, it is giving suggestions and letting you run with it. It is empowering you to be your best.
Susan was a worrier. She stressed about work, her husband, money, her health and worrying itself and as a result suffered from insomnia, comfort eating and an inability to relax.
She had attended her GP and was awaiting CBT therapy. The waiting list was three months long so she decided in desperation to come to see me. We had a long chat about her lifestyle, diet and history and discussed what could realistically be achieved.
We set a plan for one hypnotherapy session a week for a month then fortnightly and then reassess.
Our focus during the sessions on coping techniques, calming the mind and learning the skill of self- hypnosis.
She found hypnotherapy a very relaxing therapy and was able to carry out self hypnosis in between sessions at home. She loved feeling she had some control over her symptoms.
Susan felt much better by the time her referral came through. I still encouraged her to attend CBT and to learn even more skills for her self care arseThe last time I spoke to Susan she was enjoying life and is still practising self hypnosis, calling it her “moment of zen” in a busy day.
Please contact me if I can be of any help or can answer any questions.