Have you ever found yourself spiralling into negative thoughts? You can shake up your perspective, and learn automatic, positive responses instead…
Now, don’t get us wrong, however you are feeling is valid. And you don’t have to react positively 24/7. But if you find yourself dwelling on the worst-case scenarios too often, and persistent negative thinking is affecting your wellbeing, the good news is that there are tools out there to help you break free, and hypnotherapy is one method that could help you stop the cycle.
When you first start out on your journey to positivity, it can be daunting, and even seem a little unrealistic. But making that first step towards change is actually a bigger achievement than you might think, because you’ve acknowledged your negative responses.
To put positivity into perspective, Lesley Lyle, psychologist and hypnotherapist, suggests that having a positive mindset is about consciously noticing what is already working well in your life. “It’s not about being blindly optimistic regardless of one’s circumstances, but more about noticing what is already going right in your everyday life and enjoying that, while still maintaining a realistic understanding of the challenges you might face.”
Lesley suggests that maintaining a positive mindset is all about the ratio. “In order to have a positive mindset, we need to experience more positive than negative emotions (experts generally agree this is a 3:1 ratio). The good news is that even the briefest experience of a positive emotion is enough to make a significant difference to our positive mindset.”
In fact, even the simple pleasures in life – such as enjoying a delicious cup of coffee, or listening to birds sing – can bring us joy, and it’s important that we consciously notice these moments and hold on to them. And this is where hypnotherapy comes into play.
How does it work?
At times, we can get stuck in negative thought patterns and cycles that serve no use, but we still unconsciously give these patterns power to dictate our lives.
Negative thought patterns are habits that we have learned, and any habit can be ‘unlearned’. It takes practise and patience, and hypnotherapy can be an effective tool in ensuring an automatic positive mindset becomes an everyday response.
Hypnotherapist James Brannan explains that the brain is constantly working to automate responses wherever possible. So when we have a learned, negative habit, intervention is needed to reinforce positive responses. James says: “Sometimes your brain will make snapshot decisions about what something means, and how to respond to such things in the future. Your brain automates certain responses in order to free you up to engage with new things effectively.
“This is great in one way, because it means we can keep moving between focuses and attend to many things in life. However, the downside is that we sometimes end up with responses that we don’t like doing and feeling, and yet they run unconsciously.”
The practice of hypnotherapy can help change this automatic pattern by activating those responses (in a safe, comfortable environment such as the hypnotherapist’s office or your home) and then introducing them “to new brain cell networks”, by the power of suggestion.
Negative thought patterns are habits that we have learned, and any habit can be ‘unlearned’
James says: “Rather than firing round the same old loops and keeping the old responses going, when present brain cell activity gets connected to other brain cell activity, then things change. Using hypnotherapy, it’s like we can join a person in the maze they are stuck in, grab them by the hand, lead them out and introduce them to new areas. We do this by activating the original problem and feeding in new thoughts, images, ideas and feelings.
“Once done, when a person tries to activate these original thoughts, it activates all that’s been introduced as well. They can’t go back to their old pattern without it now triggering the new one.”
Hypnotherapy is effective in this instance because when you are deeply relaxed, or in a ‘trance’-like state, you are more susceptible to suggestion, and therefore more likely to adopt a new habit, the ‘learned’ response.
Self-hypnosis is key
In maintaining a positive mindset, regular practise of self-hypnosis is key. A daily dose of self-hypnosis helps you establish your new habits – in this case, reinforcing the positive mindset as the new normal. Self-hypnosis allows you to enter into a deep relaxation, and uses statements spoken in your mind, to reinforce the change you want to make.
Before you start, have three affirmations that you can repeat to yourself – such as “I reject all self-doubt from my life, and I embrace, confidence, positivity, and prosperity” or “Today I will be happy, healthy, and strong.”
To enter self-hypnosis, find a comfortable space where you’ll be uninterrupted for about 10 minutes, close your eyes, and let your muscles totally relax – if it helps, tense your muscles first to really feel the tension dissolve. Slow your breath, and focus on its calming rhythm. It’s important to visualise yourself in a situation where you are achieving your goals, to see yourself with these new habits in place.
Now focus on repeating two or three affirmations that you can truly connect to. Embrace the change you feel in yourself when you’re saying these words.
Techniques to try at home
Lesley says: “Think about three different scents that evoke happy thoughts or memories. Explore what it is that most appeals to your senses. Then repeat using the same process to consider three sounds, sights, tastes, and physical feelings. You can repeat the whole process several times if you wish. You are likely to find this exercise evokes many different positive emotions.”
The power of smell can be invaluable. Have you ever entered a room and smelt something so strong it roots you in the spot, but has the ability to take you far and wide to where you first smelt that particular scent?
“Sometimes we are aware of how we don’t want to feel – anxious, stressed, upset – but fail to consider how we would like to feel instead. Positive psychology categorises positive emotions into 10 that are universally recognised – love, inspiration, hope, gratitude, awe, amusement, pride, interest, joy and serenity,” Lesley says.
“Choose a positive emotion from this list that you would most like to feel at this time, and induce a state of self-hypnosis. Visualise a situation in which you would be most likely to experience this emotion. It could be an actual memory or something of your own imagination. For instance, you might remember an occasion that evokes feelings of amusement or pride, or imagine how serene it would feel to be lying on a tropical beach. As in the previous exercise, explore aspects of what you might see, taste, hear, feel or smell.”
Bank these feelings, so you can tap into them when you feel a negative thought pattern arising.
Regular practice of self-hypnosis, and support from your hypnotherapist, will equip you with a mental toolkit to maintain a positive mindset, and thrive from it.
To learn more about creating a positive mindset, visit hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk