9/14/09

Attitude of Gratitude

When I first began to study energy healing in 2002, my Reiki teacher told me it was important to keep the 'attitude of gratitude' in my daily life. I was learning Reiki to treat chronic pain. Since chronic pain causes depression, I did not feel I had a lot to be grateful for at the time. Furthermore, within the month, I tore a ligament in my knee while skiing. With this new additional source of pain, I felt even less grateful. I also started having increased stress at work due to my limited mobility and frequent absences for doctor's visits and physical therapy. It seemed like trouble upon trouble, which made the attitude of gratitude seem unattainable.

However, even in the midst of this, I had a lot to be grateful for. The first doctor we visited suggested we inject my knee with pain medication and forcibly straighten the leg. My husband, a competitive skier familiar with knee injuries, knew this did not sound right. He refused treatment, and we left the hospital. It is extremely unusual to refuse a doctor's treatment in Japan, but he did, and I benefited.

As soon as we got home, my husband searched the Internet for a doctor specializing in knee injuries in our area. The second doctor said the ligament would have torn further if we had followed the first doctor's advice. If that had happened, I would have needed surgery to fix it. As it was, the only treatment I needed was medication for the pain and swelling. I am extremely grateful to my husband for his intervention. I'm also grateful that I could use the Reiki I had just learned to reduce pain and promote healing in the knee.

When I started physical therapy, which lasted six months, many friends and colleagues told me I would have permanent pain and limited mobility in my knee. It's amazing how many people want to tell you their own horror stories when something bad happens to you. They may think it is helpful, but it's not. I see this happen again and again to my clients, who come in traumatized by the advice of seemingly well-meaning people. It's important to ignore this information and focus on healing, which I did. Within two years, I had overcome the constant dull ache in my knee. Within three years, I was skiing better than I ever had before. I'm grateful that I completely recovered from the injury.

The chronic pain that led me to learn Reiki spurred me along a healing path that eventually led to hypnotherapy. Once I learned hypnotherapy, I was able to reduce pain and inflammation anywhere in my body at any time for extended periods of time. I was free from carrying around pain-relieving ointments and pills. I didn't need days of rest to recover from bouts of intense pain. Hypnotherapy was so much faster and longer-lasting than pain medication that I suddenly had a lot more hours of activity than I was used to. I am grateful that Reiki led me to hypnotherapy, and I'm grateful that hypnotherapy improved the quality of my life so significantly.

I cannot say I am glad I tore the ligament in my knee, but I am grateful that what started off as a negative experience did not get worse. Even better, it turned into a positive one. I am grateful that I learned so much from the experience, including how to ski better! Seven years later, I now find it easy to keep the attitude of gratitude in my life, and I am much happier as a result.

If you have trouble keeping the attitude of gratitude in your life, I recommend keeping a journal with a nightly gratitude list. Make a list of everything that is going well in your life. These can be small things like 'I caught the train on time' or 'The sushi at lunch was really fresh' to bigger things like 'I got a raise at work' or 'My baby is healthy.'

You can also write down any and all benefits that have come out of a negative situation. Write as many things as you can on your list. Repeat them from day to day as you add new things, so that your list grows even longer. The more attention you pay to what's good in your life, the more gratitude you will feel in all areas of your life. Instead of focusing on pain, you'll be focusing on joy. That is the attitude of gratitude.



8/26/09

Childbirth Hypnosis

I became interested in teaching hypnosis for childbirth when a fellow hypnotherapist was preparing to give birth to her third child. Her hypnotherapy practice specializes in childbirth, so she had studied both the HypnoBirthing (Mongan Method) and Hypno-Beginning programs. While she liked both programs, she felt that neither one had all of the elements she needed for a peaceful and comfortable childbirth experience. She drew largely on her own knowledge of hypnosis for pain management, which we had learned in hypnotherapy school.

After learning of her experience, I researched other childbirth hypnosis programs and discovered HypnoBabies. HypnoBabies is unique because it aims to be a comprehensive childbirth education and hypnosis program. While some women may take a childbirth education course from a midwife and a hypnosis course from a hypnotist, HypnoBabies combines all of the information into one long, detailed, information-packed course. Course content includes the stages of pregnancy and childbirth, bonding with the baby in utero, support for the birth partner, hypnosis for pain management, and more. There is so much material to cover that it requires a substantial time commitment to learn it all. Unfortunately, that does not permit any opportunity to deviate from the material or to tailor the content to individual needs and concerns.

Since I have a background in curriculum development as well as hypnotherapy, I wanted more control and flexibility in designing and teaching a childbirth hypnosis course than any of these programs would allow. I also wanted to empower my students by teaching them how to hypnotize themselves without relying on CDs to talk them down into hypnosis. I decided to become certified in the Painfree Childbirth Program, which is the hypnotic component of HypnoBabies. I combined the Painfree Childbirth Program with other hypnosis techniques to create an original childbirth hypnosis course that can be tailored to the individual. In the past 18 months, I have continued to revise and improve the course based on feedback from fellow hypnotherapists and former clients.

There are many self-study programs besides HypnoBirthing, Hypno-Beginning, and HypnoBabies. The advantages to studying childbirth hypnosis at Tokyo Hypnotherapy are that you can ask questions, you can tailor the content to your needs, and you can learn skills that you'll be able to continue using long after your child is born.

8/11/09

Get Fit with Word Power

I hate to exercise. I always have. But... I love to ski, I love to swim, I love to take long walks and hikes. Just don't call it exercise! That word takes all the fun away for me. Why is that? It's because I think of exercise as work but skiing as fun. The subconscious mind moves away from pain towards pleasure, so we naturally choose to do things that are fun and avoid those that aren't. We are hard-wired that way. That's why many people who hate exercise will walk around a mall or a museum for hours. That's fine; they are still exercising! They just aren't calling it that.

If you need to exercise, but don't like the images or feelings that the word exercise conjures up, then stop using it. Use the name of the sport or activity you enjoy, such as racquetball or hula dancing. Each time you say exercise, you are undermining your will power. Each time you say hula dancing, you are reinforcing your will power. This strategy puts the hard-wiring of your subconscious mind to work for you.

This word game is also effective for making healthy food choices. Many restaurants have dressed up ordinary dishes by giving them a fancy name, and many mothers have disguised vegetables by using funny names. Studies* have shown that people are more likely to eat chicken or spinach when they're called slow-roasted free-range chicken or Popeye Power. If you don't like salad very much, then calling it rabbit food will not make it more appealing to you. On the other hand, calling it a fresh green salad or a crunchy garden salad might.

The most effective word substitution for your fitness plan is changing the word have to choose. If you have to do something, it generally isn't fun any more. If you choose to do something, then you can motivate yourself more easily. If you make a regular habit of saying choose to instead of have to, you'll find that you can overcome your resistance and feel purposeful and proactive.

Word choices are important. When you begin to use positive word choices, you will find it easier to move towards your goal and stay on the path to success. Here's to a healthier you!

* Please see the book Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.

7/28/09

Reading, Writing, Self-Confidence

You can achieve anything when you put your mind to it. How many times have we heard that or a variation of it? We may have heard it from parents, teachers, coaches, or friends. We read it in newspapers and hear it in films. Unfortunately, many of us lack the confidence to believe we can have a fraction of what we want, let alone all of it. Without confidence, most goals will remain unattainable. So how can we develop self-confidence?

One of the best ways to start developing your self-confidence is to gather evidence of all of your skills and talents. Make a list, and then read and rewrite it frequently. By gathering this evidence, you begin to appreciate yourself. By reading it over frequently, you reaffirm your self-appreciation. By writing it over repeatedly, the evidence filters down to the subconscious so that you can begin to believe in yourself.

In making your list, the first step is to think about your past and current situation. Think back all the way to the time you were small up to the present day. What did you used to do well or do well now? What awards, scholarships, commendations, or other special recognitions have you received? What skills have enabled you to succeed professionally, socially, athletically, etc.? What leadership roles have you held in professional, social, or other organizations? What makes you unique? Write all of this down.

The second step is to think in a larger circle. Think about those who love, like, respect, or care about you. What do you think they like about you? What are you complimented on? What do you have that others envy? What nice, thoughtful, or helpful things have you done for others? What can you do as well as or better than anyone else you know or admire? Write all of this down on your list.

Once you have exhausted your own thoughts, the third step is to ask close friends and family members to check over your list and add their suggestions. Ask them the same kind of questions you asked yourself. This will help them to think of a wider range of skills and talents, including those that they might have otherwise overlooked. Write this on your list.

Now that you have a lengthy and informative list full of ways in which you are unique and special, the fourth step is to believe that this is true. Every day, you will read over your list, add to it, and copy it out again by hand. By reading it, you are seeing visual proof of your worthiness. By adding to it, you are increasing your awareness of how special you are. By writing it out, you are internalizing the information. This repetition will send the evidence down to your subconscious, where it will take root. Your confidence will begin to grow and flourish as a result.

Building self-confidence takes time. If you give up too quickly or too easily, then you are telling yourself that you are not worthwhile, that you don't deserve to feel good about yourself. That is not true. You do deserve to feel good about yourself. By taking the actions above, you can begin to believe in yourself. Once you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything you put your mind to.


7/14/09

Portable Home

Now that summer is upon us, many people look forward to having time to return home. For many Japanese, this means traveling to the countryside during the Obon holiday. For many foreigners, it means flying overseas.

It's wonderful to have a place where you can feel 100% at home. Unfortunately, many Tokyo residents feel like we have to travel someplace else to feel that way. Why should it be that home is someplace other than where we live?

When we are at peace with who we are, we feel at home no matter where we are. We are able to adapt to different cultural, professional, or social expectations and demands without losing our sense of self. By remaining true to ourselves, the feeling of being at home becomes portable.

We can remain true to ourselves by taking time daily to reflect, meditate, or pray. Quiet time for ourselves is often undervalued and overlooked, but it's essential to developing and maintaining a sense of peace and balance. Time spent reading, listening to music, watching tv, or exercising does not count as quiet time. These are activities that stimulate the mind, rather than quieting it.

If you choose to reflect, this does not mean judging yourself. Reflection means recalling pleasant memories, noting progress or achievements, or dreaming of the future. If you choose to meditate, this does not mean you follow your thoughts when they intrude. Instead, you just notice them as they arise, then let them go and return your focus to your breathing or mantra. If you choose to pray, this does not mean focusing on what you lack and begging for assistance. Prayer means expressing gratitude for prayers answered and then turning your problems over to God.

By taking time daily to reflect, meditate, or pray, you will come to know and understand yourself more fully. As a result, you will find it much easier to remain true to yourself. You will develop a sense of calm and peace that you can carry with you. When you make time to quiet your mind, you cultivate a sense of being at home in your own body. That is something you can carry with you wherever you go.

7/1/09

Think Positive

There are many benefits to positive thinking, but negative thinking has it benefits too. For example, when you design a product or launch a company, you need to believe it will succeed, but you also need to think of everything that could possibly go wrong so you can prepare for and prevent it. That's a good balance of positive and negative thinking.

Unfortunately, for many of us, positive and negative thinking can fall out of balance. Some people might be overly optimistic when some negative thinking would be useful. Fortunately, optimistic people bounce back from problems easily because they know the next time will be better. On the other hand, pessimistic people who encounter problems find it harder to bounce back because they expect the next time will be the same or worse. This can lead to further negativity.

Negative thinking can lead to excessive self-doubt and self-criticism. Self-doubt can be useful. If you think your public speaking skills aren't up to par, you might be motivated to work on improving them. Self-criticism can help you refine your techniques. But excessive self-doubt and self-criticism can lead to an erosion of self-esteem and self-confidence. Negative thinking that continually undermines your ability to value and believe in yourself is not productive and can lead to depression. You can halt and repair the damage by replacing negative statements with positive statements.

This may sound too easy to you. It may sound like it would never work. The fact is you may have already spent many years telling yourself negative messages or hearing them from someone else. Repetition bypasses our critical thinking and gets ideas into the subconscious. This is why commercials and nursery rhymes are repeated over and over. The good news is that repeating positive messages to yourself can override and rebuild the confidence that has been eroded. Hypnosis and hypnotherapy can speed up the process considerably.

6/13/09

Weight Loss Roadblocks

How many of us would like to lose a little weight so we can look and feel better?

Maintaining a healthy weight requires motivation and dedication. While most people have plenty of both when they embark on a weight loss plan, many give up before reaching their goals or stop paying attention to their health as soon as they do reach their goals. After taking a little break and gaining as much or more weight back, they try again with another program, diet, or workout plan... until they give up again. Does this describe you?

One reason that people give up is that they focus on weight loss. If you keep telling yourself you need to lose weight over and over like a mantra, your subconscious mind takes this literally. Subconsciously, you start to think, 'Oh, I lost something; I had better go find it!' This can lead to weight gain. It's better to focus on returning to the best weight for you. This is an idea your subconscious can support without undermining your conscious efforts.

Another reason that people give up is that they may use food to comfort themselves or their weight may serve as a protective barrier. Sometimes this is conscious, but often it is not. If your subconscious mind wants to eat large amounts of comfort foods or maintain that protective barrier, your conscious efforts to eat right are going to be overruled. To lose weight, these subconscious beliefs must be released. Once those are gone, it's easier to stay on track and achieve your goals.

Weight loss is one of the top concerns of most people-- and one of the top three uses of hypnosis. Hypnotherapy can release the subconscious beliefs that are sabotaging your weight loss efforts and bring your conscious and subconscious mind into alignment so that you can achieve your goals.

6/1/09

Be Happy!

No matter what initially causes a person to embark on a journey of self-improvement, the underlying goal is always the same: to be happy. People seek to make a change when they have reached a limit on their pain and suffering, when they are bored with the current state of affairs, or when they feel a yearning to get more out of life. They are seeking fulfillment, contentment, and satisfaction-- synonyms of happiness.

One woman dedicated a year of her life to following all of the advice from various self-help books and turned it into a blog called The Happiness Project. You can find all kinds of useful ideas about how to become happy at her site.

After you read through and implement some of the advice, you might find you get stuck in places or you just can't seem to progress as far as you'd like. If you have made a conscious effort to be happy and you have not reached your goal, this is when hypnotherapy can be the most effective. 

Hypnotherapy removes the roadblocks to happiness by enabling access to the subconscious part of our minds. All of our negative beliefs about ourselves are stored in the subconscious. Using hypnosis, we can find those negative beliefs and release them. When the subconscious and conscious parts of our minds are in agreement about what we want, this is when lasting change can take place. True happiness is attainable; it's as close as we believe it to be.

5/18/09

Expectations

Long before I became a hypnotherapist, I visited a hypnotist as a client. I wanted to stop biting my fingernails. I didn't have a lot of faith that it would work, but I thought it was worth a shot. Before we began, I asked the hypnotist if this could be fixed in one visit. She said that if it was just a habit, it could be. I settled in and prepared to be cured. Unfortunately, I started biting my nails again within five minutes of leaving her office. When I contacted her later, she said I would stop when I was ready. I was thoroughly disappointed with her answer and gave up on hypnosis. I didn't understand at that time how our expectations influence the results we get. I hadn't expected hypnosis to work, and-- surprise!-- it didn't. 

When I was suffering from chronic pain a few years later, I looked for a non-medical way to manage the pain. After quite a lot of research, I developed high expectations that hypnosis would be effective. I had read a number of articles from various mental health journals, medical websites, and newspapers like the New York Times, had watched a number of news programs about hypnosis, and had spoken to a doctor who had witnessed a surgery performed with hypnosis in lieu of anesthesia. By the time I saw a hypnotherapist for pain management, I was convinced that hypnosis would work, and --surprise!-- it did.

This is not to say that the results were instantaneous, but I knew that if hypnosis could work for other people, then it could also work for me. I was also much more motivated to stop feeling pain than I had been to stop biting my nails. I realized I couldn't take a passive role and expect to be cured. I had to be proactive. I had to participate in my treatment by using self-hypnosis and doing the exercises assigned to me by the hypnotherapist I saw. When hypnosis worked for the chronic pain, I realized that I had given up too easily and too early on nail-biting. I hadn't really believed hypnosis would work for that, and I hadn't really wanted to stop. However, I knew that hypnosis would work for chronic pain, and I really wanted the pain to stop. Different expectations--and different levels of motivation--produced different results.

Since becoming a hypnotherapist, I have worked on a number of personal issues. Using hypnosis, I have overcome allergies, asthma, and chronic pain and have set and achieved many other personal goals. Ironically, nail-biting was the most difficult behavior to stop. The main problem was motivation: there didn't seem to be any penalty to continuing a behavior I had been doing for over 30 years. If you don't have a clear reason for changing your behavior, then chances are good that you won't. Finally I thought, "I'm a hypnotherapist, what message does this send to my clients if I bite my nails?" Shortly afterwards, I stopped!

5/12/09

Mind Control vs. Thought Control

Many people associate hypnosis with some kind of mind control. Hypnosis is often depicted as mind control in cartoons, movies, and television shows. The hypnotist swings a watch or spins a psychedelic disk in front of a subject's eyes and then suddenly has total control over him or her, like a kind of puppet master. If you have seen a live hypnosis stage show, you may have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand. However, like watching a magic show, what you think you saw and what you actually saw were not the same. 

Hypnosis is about controlling the mind. However, we all control our own minds. Even when you are in hypnosis, you have control over what information you will tell a hypnotist and what suggestions you will accept from the hypnotist. The participants in a hypnosis stage show are carefully selected. Anyone who resists the hypnotist's suggestions will be asked to leave the stage, and those that remain on stage are choosing to accept the silly suggestions and perform for the audience. It's like someone pretending to be drunk so that they can get away with behavior they might otherwise be too inhibited to do. However, it is not like being drunk-- you are always in control when you are in hypnosis. If you hear a suggestion you don't accept, you will either ignore it or come out of hypnosis.

Many of us feel like we can't control our minds. We can't control our thoughts. However, controlling our minds and controlling our thoughts are not the same thing. We all have thoughts throughout the day. Thoughts arise just as surely as blood flows. Meditation and spiritual practices can teach us not to attach to those thoughts-- let the thoughts come, notice them, and let them go. If you can resist attachment to your thoughts, then you are controlling your mind. Unfortunately, it can take years to learn how to do this.

Hypnosis replaces negative thoughts with positive thoughts. This is much easier to do than learning not to attach to thoughts. Most of the thoughts we have throughout the day are repetitive and many of those are negative. What we say to ourselves about ourselves is what we tend to believe about ourselves. Therefore, if these thoughts are negative, we feel terrible about ourselves, and if these thoughts are positive, we feel great about ourselves. This is mind control: controlling the kind of thoughts we have rather than allowing the thoughts to control us.

1/1/09

Events

2010
January:
Trained in Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)

2009
January:
Trained in Vipassana meditation

February:
Conference presentation on How Hypnosis Can Help You and Your Students for Women Educators and Language Learners conference

March:
Joined an EAP provider as a workshop trainer and EAP therapist

April:
Conference presentation on Learned Optimism through Meditation for International Mental Health Professionals of Japan conference

Elected to serve as Outreach Coordinator on the IMHPJ board

May:
Joined Tokyo English Life Line as workshop trainer

Newspaper article entitled Hypnosis Can Have Physical Benefits for Daily Yomiuri, Fresh Perspective Column

June:
Corporate presentation on Building Resilience to Stress

July:
Community presentation on Hypnosis for Painfree Childbirth for Tokyo Pregnancy Group

August:
Corporate presentation on Active Listening

September:
Newspaper article for Daily Yomiuri, Fresh Perspective ColumnOctober:
Corporate presentation on Tips for Managing StressCorporate presentation on Benefits of Proper BreathingCorporate presentation on Instant Calm Techniques