It’s Only a Test It’s March and for many students and their families it is the season of mid terms and Spring Break. Test anxiety is in the air. A worried student may say “I hope I don’t fail this test.” The problem is that the subconscious doesn’t process language well but does work with actions, senses, feelings and images. A classic example is “Don’t think of a white elephant” the common result is visualizing a white elephant. The student’s subconscious hears “fail this test” and responds, “we can fail this test, we’ve failed lots of tests, lets do this”. A better approach would be to think and say, “I can pass this test, I will pass this test” and while taking the test, “I am passing this test”. Just like struggling to remember a name or some fact, the harder one tries, the harder it is to come up with the answer. When the conscious mind is distracted with something else or falls asleep the answer magically appears. It was safely stored in the subconscious the whole time. Trying too hard during a test actually makes it more difficult to remember, while being calm makes it easier. For some tests, a technique to bring the mind to a calm place is to close the eyes and take a deep breath before reading each question. Often if the student has studied the material the answer will be right there. If not repeat the process or continue to the next question. Often a subsequent question will either have the answer as part of the question or will trigger a memory of the solution. This technique only works if the student has actually looked at the material. Learning by osmosis is not a proven strategy for success. Looking at the big picture can take the pressure off most tests. Typically, any one test does not determine the course of one’s life. 91% is still an “A”. In the real world, outside of school, most employers don’t care about GPAs or where someone ranked in their class. Employers want to know if the applicant can do the job and that often includes things that aren’t measured by tests, such as people skills and the ability to be calm under pressure. A nice deep breath and it’s off to Spring Break.
Try a Little Tenderness It’s February, Valentine’s Day and it’s all about love. Usually this is about love to others, expressed through flowers, chocolates, massages and nice cards. There is a gift to the self that allows giving greater love to others. Humans seem hardwired to looking for the negative. This serves a survival purpose, being aware of threats to existence is crucial to living to the next day and continuing the species. The next level is being alert to the negative, things which cause injury to the self or damage to social standing. Lastly and least vital is noticing the positive. These days there are relatively few things that are a threat to existence. Flying in a plane, sharks, snakes and spiders may seem life threatening, but seldom are fatal. Things that are truly life threatening, like smoking, excessive; eating, sitting, drinking and pain medications seldom rise to the level of immediate concern. Everyday negative threats, like eating spoiled food, failing a test, getting fired, a poor grade, not getting a date, being rejected by a group, public speaking, doing poorly in a performance or athletic event are much higher in the conscious. There is heightened to perceived personal faults and inadequacies. All this attention to negative factors leaves little bandwidth for noticing the positive externally and internally. An exercise to train the mind to notice the positive is simply keeping a list. At the end of each day record: 3 things that were positive today 3 things to be grateful for 3 things positive about one’s self. Interestingly most people have a greater struggle with the last item. Being more tender with one’s self allows more space to give to others. It’s not too late Many resolutions have bit the dust. No need to give up. There is help in achieving those goals.
New Year Mind Games: Play to Win
It’s a new year, a time to let go of the old and embrace the new. Many people decide to set goals or make resolutions. The gyms are packed the week after New Years Day. There is plenty of room by Valentine’s Day. Here are some tips to make this year the most successful one yet.
Brainstorm: write down anything that you would like to change or improve.
Rank the items and pick the most important, maybe three.
Decide if each goal is a process, making a long-term change like eating healthier, improving finances or working toward a degree. The other type of goal is an either/or. Smoking is a classic example; a person is a smoker or not. Most people can’t smoke occasionally.
Make a plan. For example, if person wanted to run a marathon in a year and isn’t running now, the thought of running a marathon would be overwhelming. It would be easy to quit or not even start. A SMART goal is a practical way to turn a dream into a reality. SMART stands for Specific (running a marathon) Measurable (26.2 miles) Achievable (yes, with the proper conditions) Relevant (it is important to the person) Timed (one year). This would be broken into smaller goals like a 5K in 3 months, a 10K in 6 months, a ½ marathon is 9 months. There are more details for using SMART goals, but this is the big picture.
Accountability is key. Telling another person about the goals and daily or weekly progress greatly increases the likelihood that a goal will be achieved. Meeting someone else at the gym is a powerful way to increase motivation. Put goal activities on a calendar, paper or virtual. It’s easier to ignore, forget or put off things that aren’t written down.
If something is taken away, replace it with something else. Substitute sparkling water for soft drinks. Use a calming breathing technique in place of smoking.
Think long term. Any progress is better than waiting for things to be perfect. Practice self-acceptance. Eating a cookie or even many is not a reason to feel like a failure and give up on a healthy eating plan. It’s just one day in a process. Maybe it is a learning opportunity. Let it go and move on.
2020, a new year, a new decade, a new opportunity for a better life.
Winter and Holiday Blues
December is here and with it the holidays. There is less daylight and for many more drinking. For students, finals and the end of the semester. There may be rushing around, the pressure to get just the right gift/s. Parties to attend. Many people increase their debt. The blues can occur anytime of the year but receive more publicity around the holidays. The Blues: SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder occurs most often in the winter is associated with decreased daylight. Exposure to light has critical effects on our physiology. Some people are more sensitive than others. Although medication can help, a natural solution is simply to get more light. This can be as easy as spending more time outdoors. There are light boxes which can be used for up 30 minutes over the course of the day. Sadness: Sadness is part of the normal range of emotion, healthy and temporary. It helps process painful experience and loss. It helps connect with other people’s pain and suffering. It’s even our common language, “It makes me sad to hear that ….”. Depression: Sadness is a component of depression when it lasts more than two weeks. Depression is more than sadness, it includes decreased energy, difficulty concentrating and making decisions, insomnia or excessive sleeping, changes in eating patterns, feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and thoughts of self-harm. Depression is pervasive, with sadness a person can experience outside of the area of sadness while depression is all encompassing. Depression is not normal and requires treatment. Grief: Grief is a normal reaction to a tremendous loss. This can include the death of loved one (human or animal), loss of a relationship, severe negative changes in health or other devastating loss. It shares many of the characters of depression. It can last much longer than two weeks and can be temporarily triggered with the anniversaries of events and the holidays. Grief can turn into clinical depression. Peer groups, counseling and being with supportive people can help. Suicide: It is a myth that there is an increase in suicides over the holidays. In any season, it is important to get help quickly. Resources: The National Suicide Prevention Hotline (24 hours, everyday) 1-800-273-8255.
Quitting is Winning The Great American Smoke Out is November 21 sponsored by the American Cancer Society. The following information came from the American Cancer Society website. “More than 34 million Americans still smoke cigarettes, and smoking remains the single largest preventable cause of death and illness in the world. Smoking causes an estimated 480,000 deaths every year, or about 1 in 5 deaths. And more than 16 million Americans live with a smoking-related disease. While the cigarette smoking rate has dropped significantly, from 42% in 1965 to 14% in 2017, the gains have been inconsistent. Some groups of Americans suffer disproportionately from smoking-related cancer and other diseases, including those who have less education, who live below the poverty level, or who suffer from serious psychological distress, as well as certain racial and ethnic groups, and lesbians, gays and bisexuals.” Money of course is a literal cost of tobacco use. In a Flagstaff hypnotherapy clinic, clients looking to be tobacco free were spending on average eight dollars per day, fifty-six dollars a week, almost three thousand dollars a year! One client realized that every month he was smoking a car payment. By quitting he got a “free” car. Another client discovered that she was spending three months of rent every year on cigarettes. Health is the other main cost. Looking on the bright side when someone quits smoking; within 12 hours carbon monoxide in the blood drops to normal, from 2 weeks to 3 months circulation and lung function improve, 1 to 9 months coughing and shortness of breath decrease, by 1 year the risk of coronary heart disease drops to half of a smoker. With the years of being tobacco free the risks of various cancers and stroke drop dramatically. Anger is not usually considered a healthy emotion. It can be helpful to realize that people are getting rich by selling them an addictive poison while making them poorer. Anger to the point of refusing to give those people any more money is healthy. The tobacco companies are heavily invested in the vaping industry. Many people are becoming addicted to vaping which turns out to not be safe. Vaping and medical marijuana can complicate quitting traditional cigarette smoking because the behaviors are so similar. Helping people quit smoking is probably the best-known use of hypnosis other than entertainment. Hypnosis is effective in many cases and can be used in conjunction with nicotine replacement therapy.
Except in science fiction, time travel doesn’t seem possible. The truth is we time travel all the time. Every time we are lost in a memory or dreaming about or dreading something in the future, we are time traveling. If you think about it, in the moment, we might physically be sitting in a chair, in a class or at work, driving, walking or lying in bed yet our minds are miles and years away, we feel just as good or bad as if it is happening right now. Most of the time we are not in control of this time travel, often in a negative way. We are trapped in bad memories or anxiety about possible negative outcomes. Marie Kondo would ask “does it bring you joy?” It turns out that we have the key to escape this unhappy situation. At anytime we can come to the present. Simply paying attention to anything that is happening in this moment brings or consciousness to the present. Closing our eyes and just noticing our breath is the most basic and always available. Noticing anything about our bodies in the moment or listening to anything in the environment brings us to the now. Once in the present, we have the power to travel into the past, choosing positive memories to feel positive. We can anticipate a positive future, imagine something we really want, something that does bring us joy. Just by remembering or imagining something positive we get to feel positive as if it is real in this moment. Time travel is real. We get to choose the time, destination and feeling. Happy travels.
It is Spring Time in Flagstaff, a Time of Renewal and Fresh Starts
Spring in Flagstaff means; snow, rain, dry, sunny, cloudy, cold, warm, calm, windy. In Flagstaff we have it all. One thing about spring you can count on is new growth. Aspen and oak trees begin to bud, and sprouts begin to push up through the ground. Spring can be a time of new beginning for humans too. Those goals and resolutions that laid dormant over the winter can sprout anew. Every time we wake up is a new opportunity to start over. Sometimes, it is helpful to launch a plan on a specific day or event. Birthdays, the beginning of school, even New Year’s Day are popular. For Catholics and some other Christians, Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, lends itself to starting a new habit, often by letting go of an old one. Forty days works well to create a lasting change, IF the person truly wants to make a change. March 20th, the first day of Spring could mark the beginning of a better life. Make a plan. Write reasonable, specific, measurable goals with timelines. Put action items on a calendar. Have an accountability group or buddy. Reach out for help. Any step forward is moving toward the goal. For more information on developing and achieving your goals contact Don Berlyn, PT, Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist
February is the Month of Love, Try some on Yourself
Most people are their own harshest judges. Actions by others that we either did not notice or would have considered trivial become huge when thinking about our actions. Frequently we beat ourselves over things we have said thinking; “that was so stupid”, “everyone must think I am an idiot”, “how could I say that”. It can be interesting and helpful to sit back and notice all the things that people say. Many conversations are about trivial things. Often there are little slip ups, an inappropriate word here, a negative comment there. Many people have verbal tics, habitual space holders like “uhm”, “and all that other stuff”, “and stuff like that”, “you know” and “honestly”. My personal one is “alright then”, especially in public speaking and yes, I’m working on it. Of course when other people are not speaking perfectly we usually ignore it but when we think about what we say and how we say it the torture begins. We beat ourselves up over so many things that we readily accept in others. We treat other people with more kindness, compassion and understanding than we do ourselves. Well, we are them. We are other people’s other. Try thinking of yourself the way you think of others. Have understanding, compassion and kindness for yourself, you deserve it as much as anyone else. During this month of love, share a little with yourself.
The Gift of Inner Peace for the Holidays
Thanksgiving and Hanukkah have past and Christmas is rapidly approaching. For many people it can be very stressful. There are three visitors that can bring gifts. First is the Ghost of Christmas (insert your holiday here) Past. Remembering how things used to be can bring happy memories or sadness, even anger. The happy memories can be resources for the present. To enliven the positive memories, find a quiet place, get comfortable, close your eyes, go back in time and remember as many details as you can. Focus on each of your senses, what did you see, hear (include even your singing), smell (food, fireplaces, pine trees), taste (eggnog, gingerbread, hot chocolate) and even feel (snow, pine cones, tinsel) and the positive emotions, (what did you feel inside?). Make a practice of reliving these memories so that you can easily experience the positive feelings whenever you need a happy boost. For the negative memories, practice being present or counteract with a positive one. The Ghost of Christmas Present can bring the gift of perfection. The need to be perfect can kill joy in its tracks. Holiday magazines, ads, Facebook posts and other people’s outdoor displays can bring on feelings of inadequacy. There is pressure to make everything perfect, to produce so much; gifts, food, to put on parties. It can be overwhelming. Stop. Get grounded. Feel your feet on the ground. Breathe in deeply and notice the feeling. Have a conversation with yourself. If you are not being paid for it or it is not going to be in a magazine, it does not have to be perfect. Good enough is good enough. Holidays don’t have to be a competition, even with yourself. A goal of creating and enjoying a comfortable, happy experience will create the positive memories you can have for the rest of your life. The Ghost of Christmas Future brings the gift of worry. The future is unknown, anticipating a negative outcome is a recipe for misery. Imaging a bad future is to feel as if it is happening now. A quick fix is to bring yourself back to the present. That is the technique of noticing now. Feel your feet on the ground. Notice your breathing. Take some deep breaths. Experience what is around you right now. What do you see, hear, smell, taste and feel? You can always bring up the positive memories. Imagine a positive future outcome, making it as real as possible. Experience that in place of the imaginary negative future. May you have a Happy, Peaceful and Grateful Christmas and an Amazing New Year.
Hypnosis in the Media
Link to research demonstrating that gratitude is good for your health http://chicago.suntimes.com/lifestyles/study-gratitude-is-a-healthy-attitude/
This article reports that the CDC finds that Physical Therapy is better than pain meds for chronic pain. This should be true of hypnosis and related techniques. Combining appropriate movement/exercise with mind techniques should be the best of all!
A staggering 25 million Americans suffer from chronic pain, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). A January 2015 report notes physical therapy as a suitable, non-pharmaceutical alternate for chronic pain management. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in its newly released guidelines as of March, specifically highlights physical therapy as a safe and more effective treatment measure for chronic pain compared with opiates such as Vicodin and OxyContin. Additionally, the CDC reports that opioid use led to more than 28,000 deaths in 2014 alone. Unlike acute pain, attributed to a specific ailment such as burn or fracture, and spanning from the time of injury to approximately 7 to 10 days, chronic pain is discomfort persisting for 3 months or more and carries an emotional component. The American Chronic Pain Association (ACPA) describes chronic pain as "pain that continues when it should not."