Novelty Presents and Resolutions (my January column from the Peterborough Telegraph)

In the whirlwind of secret santas, novelty socks and painfully long visits from the in-laws, it can sometimes feel like the Christmas season stretches on without end. Then all of a sudden January is here and we are facing a brand-new year. A good time to start afresh and take another look at what we want from life.

Whether it’s giving something up, like alcohol or cigarettes; or starting something new, like going to the gym – change can be daunting.

Motivation can fade. Bad habits can creep back in. We discover that changes we thought we’d made for good were only on the surface and, before too long, our hopes for renewal are like last year’s toys, abandoned and face down in the shed.

That’s why I stopped making resolutions twenty years ago. But then something changed. I got a wake-up call.

After years of being perfectly healthy, I found myself in and out of hospital having surgery for a blood clot on my brain. It was a shocking and scary time. I was single, I was hard up – and I was in real need of a change.

That time of illness did me a good turn though, as my long recovery gave me the headspace to reassess my life and ask myself some uncomfortable questions. Am I really happy with my job? Is my lifestyle as healthy as it could be? Am I carrying emotional baggage from my past that is holding me back? What do I really want?

To get some answers, I went to see a hypnotherapist. It took some time to find someone I felt I could trust (I found the cheapest were cheap for a reason) but it changed my life forever – and inspired me to retrain as a hypnotherapist myself.

Writing this now, six years later, I find myself healthy and in a happy relationship. I opened a very successful hypnotherapy practice in London and have recently moved to Peterborough. Not only do I feel great, I have helped hundreds of people to change their lives for the better.

When I was taken ill, the future felt unassailable. Life was like a bunch of bills and credit card statements, shoved in a drawer, unopened. I couldn’t face it. It took that dose of fear to wake me up.

Now I keep a notebook of all the things that I want to achieve. So this month I have a handful of new resolutions. If you want to make a change, what are you waiting for? Don’t suffer another moment. If not now, when?

You don’t need to face things alone. I see so many people who suffer from anxiety and fear who walk away changed forever.

Hypnotherapy works on our deep, unconscious patterns. It is a brilliant way to make new beliefs and delete old, unwanted behaviours. It isn't mystical and you'll remember everything. You won't run around like a chicken or bark like a dog. Unless you'd really like to, that is. 

Happy New Year. And happy resolutions.

John Cooper (Peterborough Telegraph, January 2019)

Baby Give it Up

To quit or not to quit? That is the question.

A good friend of mine has just left social media. Goodbye Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Soon the chattering voices will quieten down and there’ll be no more pictures of food, cats or inspirational quotes about following your dreams.

Stopping is the new starting, I reckon. 

Years ago, people would host parties with cheap Spanish plonk and show cine film from their fortnight in Torremolinos. Yesterday, someone I know tried to show me a hundred pictures of her holiday on her phone. The tragedy is that I’d already seen them on Facebook, but still had to go through them all again making interested noises.

 Owning smart phones mean that we are plugged in 24/7 - we can’t escape the notifications, even when we are on the toilet. We are addicted to tittle tattle and its stressing us out, me included.

Taking a break can save our sanity. We all need time and space to reconnect with ourselves and slow down. Money aside, most of my friends say that the biggest thing they need is time to themselves.

Self-hypnosis is good for this. It takes twenty minutes and you can do it from your armchair. I teach my clients how to do it. It’s great for managing anxiety and re-connecting with yourself. You’re worth twenty minutes of peace, aren’t you?

Instead of taking a break from something, you might want to go cold turkey. What do you have in your life, that if you quit today, would make your life better? The big three are- smoking (expensive and deadly), alcohol (same but with guilt) and a bad diet (the whole lot). There are dozens more, we are all different. Most of my clients come to see me to quit something.

When we stick with bad habits we lie to ourselves. Smoking doesn’t calm you down, it raises your blood pressure. It squeezes your heart and lungs, takes the moisture out of your skin and makes you look older. Some people however, want to spend their money more wisely.

I once asked a woman to put the money she’d have spent on tobacco in a jam jar. At the end of the year she got in touch to say that she’d booked a holiday for her and her son with the money she’d saved. She’d imagined that in our first session and now it had happened.

How do you give things up? You focus on how great you will feel in the future when you’ve done it. You design the life you want to have when you’ve accomplished your goal. Make that goal really special and you’ll drive yourself forward.

It feels good to give things up. It’s easier than you think too. You just have to imagine what you’ll get out of it and it really works.

Stopping is the opposite of starting. When you stop doing something, if you know what I mean, you don’t have to actually do anything at all. Easy eh?

John Cooper (Peterborough Telegraph September 2018)

Copy of Enjoy Yourself, It's Later Than You Think

Stress, anxiety and worry are caused by too much future and not enough presence. Being present is a wonderful thing. Treat yourself!

My Nanny had modest tastes. Her only indulgence were mint imperials. No ‘la dolce vita’ in her house unless you count episodes of ‘Last of the Summer Wine’ in front of the three-bar electric fire.

She wasn’t extravagant but she knew what made her happy- she took enormous pleasure in slipping me a fiver when my mam wasn’t looking. She loved days out and bath salts.

If you haven’t lived through two world wars and done your washing in a tub in the yard, it’s hard to know how tough things were for people of that generation. I’ve never had a bath in front of the fire or worked a ten-hour shift down a coal mine. In fact, I still complain about the paper round I did when I was thirteen.

Even when the goings hard, you can take time to smell life’s roses.

My Aunty Agnes had plastic covers on her sofa to protect it from wear and tear. She probably lived her whole life without her bum making contact with the furniture. She had a room she never went in and china she kept for best.

When she died they found a cupboard full of unused Christmas presents; pairs of slippers, scarves and gloves, still in their wrappers. The slippers she died in were worn out, it was only the holes that were keeping them together. She was keeping everything for best.

What is best? If today isn’t good enough, when is?

If you have things squirrelled away for a special occasion--a bottle of vintage wine, a fancy tablecloth or silver-plated cutlery- use them tonight, even if you’re just sat at home watching Take Me Out and eating alphabetti spaghetti.

 You are alive right now! Keeping things for a rainy day is disrespectful to the present moment, as if you’re telling yourself that your best times are always ahead of you. Tomorrow doesn’t exist if you’re always waiting for something better.

Use the good china, wear your best hat and open that bottle of champagne you’ve been saving. Because it’s always and only ever now, now is the time to take pleasure in the little things. Put on your new slippers and think about what makes you happy. You don’t have to blow your life savings on a yacht to enjoy life’s moments.

I took my family to the fair last month and although I’m too scared to go on the rides that whoosh you upside down and hurl you a hundred feet in to the air, I did nail a very tricky hall of mirrors and hooked a couple of fierce looking ducks. There was a moment, when we were all in hysterics at something, that I realised I was truly happy in this moment. I remembered Kurt Vonnegut’s advice. I thought, ‘If this isn’t wonderful, I don’t know what is’.

Rainy Days and Mondays...(from 2018, first seen in the Peterborough Telegraph)

After a bad day it can be hard to get to sleep. Replaying stressful conversations over and over in your mind can leave you feeling worse than when they actually happened. The more you focus on things, the stronger they get.

Understanding that we aren’t our thoughts but the being that thinks them, gives us options. It’s very difficult to change our core identity but much easier to change our beliefs and behaviours. With a little practise, you can choose your thoughts.

When you find a way to turn that self-talk into a positive message, you can start to talk to yourself with kindness and understanding. Once you’ve stopped criticising, you can encourage. At first it might be hard to say nice things to yourself but with a little help, your confidence will grow. Hypnotherapy does just this; it pulls up the weeds and puts in a rose bed. It teaches you to use your imagination for your own good.

 I find gratitude helps me to be a nicer person so every night I spend a minute thinking of the things that I am grateful for. It’s okay to start with the basics- health, food and the roof over your head. As it becomes easier you can search for qualities like tolerance, forgiveness and kindness. You’ll find them, perhaps they’re just hidden from view. Be grateful for the learning that each day brings.

You can keep a gratitude journal, writing down five things a day that you enjoyed or are glad for. Use your imagination and write down some things that you’d like to have happen. Complete it every night before you go to bed.

 Here is something very powerful and it only takes a minute. Before you go to bed, find a nice quiet spot and make yourself comfortable. Starting with breakfast, use your imagination to review the day and change every scene that didn’t go well for you. Make a movie that you’re happy with. Was someone unkind and you reacted badly? In this new movie you kept your cool and stayed in control. Now you were patient with the kids instead of snappy. 

It won’t change the past but it will change how you deal with the future. Learn to rehearse good feelings instead of going over old ground.

Here’s another thing. Give yourself credit for the progress you have made. Are you still the person you were twenty years ago? How are you stronger, wiser, better off? If it’s not obvious, do your research, write it all down. You’ll find plenty of things. I’d enjoy hearing from you about your journey. What did you do to change the direction you were heading? Did you change the way you spoke to yourself?

 

Therapy for those inner voices..

We all have inner voices that fight for our attention. It’s not easy to know which one to listen to, particularly when their messages are all contradictory and confusing. One voice, however, tells the truth. Among all your inner voices, your true inner voice is the one which encourages you, gives you hope, and wants you to trust and be kind to yourself. Inner conflict is caused by our inner voices telling us what to do, all singing from different hymn sheets. We get mixed messages from the various aspects of ourselves. Some voices are quiet and some loud, some are reassuring and some nagging and hurtful. Accepting that you have choices, you can hone in on the good ones, the voice of understanding, support, and positivity – this can help resolve internal conflict.  

If you're unsure about which way to go or what to do next, you will benefit from finding and listening to your true inner voice. You can connect with it by remaining relaxed and alert, while listening carefully. Meditation and self hypnosis can still your conscious mind so you can listen without prejudice. You may hear many voices as you meditate and the one you should pay attention to is the one that speaks to you with love, understanding, and compassion. No more competing or in house fighting and it will never push guilt, annoyance or criticism on you. It has your interests at heart.

 

A good hypnotherapist can help you to quieten the destructive voices and bolster the good ones.

The more you listen to and believe in what your true inner voice is telling you about your value and your potential, the stronger that voice will become. The voices you ignore will fade in to the background and disappear. Like a theatre play, whatever you rehearse gets better. By finding and rehearsing your true inner voice, you can focus on the things that make you feel good and say good bye to the devils on your shoulder.

 

Vaping? Come back to cigarettes mate...

I heard something on the radio this morning that raised an eyebrow. Possibly two, there was no mirror to hand.  

The NHS are considering making vaping available on prescription. Well, I meet a lot of smokers seeking hypnosis to quit smoking. They’ve nearly all tried patches and vaping.  

People are happy with vaping for a while but they nearly always go back to cigarettes. They haven’t addressed the psychological causes of smoking and the secondary gain.  

Vape away, friends. I doubt it will work though.  

Raining in my heart (well, in my garden)

In every life some rain must fall and tonight it did. No matter how great the sunshine is (and it really is), I was glad of the downpour. It's like we needed a bit of rain to spruce the place up a bit.

Rain and sun need each other. I've been to Abu Dhabi so I know. Anyway, hang on...

I've been trying to make a rain metaphor work for half an hour now and I haven't got very far. Basically, if we say (for the purposes of this post) that rain is bad and sunshine is good (I'm struggling here) then we have to accept that the rain also brings some good things with it. Like re-growth and drinking water and flowers and all that.

So we accept the rain and all that it brings. Just like we accept the roadworks on Bourges Boulevard. A pain in the backside for four months but think how brilliant it will be when we get the new traffic lights! Oh, hang on...So if sunshine is a functional contra flow traffic system and rain is Peterborough City Council....I can't do this.

I've really failed here. There's sun forecast for next week. I'll work on my metaphors until then. In the meantime, get the washing in off the line, it's chucking it down.

Was your week full of Anxiety, Driving Nerves and Low Confidence?

This week I've helped people with anxiety problems, low self confidence and driving nerves. I've helped someone come to understand and release negative emotions inherited from their parents and a man with obsessive compulsions.

No day is the same in my job and I like that. It keeps me learning. Everyone is different and needs a program designed just for them. It reminds me to keep working on myself so today I will make a new outcome frame. What's that? It's a plan for what I want to have happen over the next three months, combining a few NLP techniques to make sure that it's locked in to my unconscious mind.

Then I'm off to a wedding tomorrow. I hope the sun comes out for us all this weekend. 

Beating Anxiety with Respect

Thank heaven for music. It’s a great mood changer. I’ve just put on an album I love, quite loud, while doing the house work. I even did a silly dance and sang along  

Then someone called and after a few minutes they said how upbeat and happy I sounded. I wasn’t sad when I woke up but maybe a little...low key. Amazing what a song and dance can do for your mood.   

Some people go for a run, some people do some yoga. If that’s not for you may I suggest a little song and dance to some eighties synth pop. Better for you and cheaper than a new outfit or mood enhancer. 

This isn’t a cure for depression but it might just shake you up for a bit. Over and out.  

Fear of flying? Fear of anything? Have you considered hypnosis?

Fear of flying is a very common phobia, with an estimated one in 10 people experiencing flight anxiety. Fear of heights and dogs is quite common too, but so are fears of buttons, balloons and frogs. I've treated people with fear of a hundred different things.

Phobias are irrational and very difficult to treat with conventional methods. Hypnosis works because it works on an unconscious level, removing the negative emotion from the cause and then scrambling the patterns of fear that you have created.

If fear is spoiling the quality of your life, there is help out there.

What actually is HYPNOSIS?

I bumped into an old friend recently in the supermarket. He asked me what I was doing these days and I told him I was a hypnotherapist. ‘I don’t believe in hypnosis’, he said.

I didn’t fancy an intellectual debate in the dairy aisle of ASDA so I left clutching my whoopsied chocolate eclairs. Hypnosis is learning. I teach people to be free from emotional pain. I didn’t think of that until I was half way home though. Typical.

When I sat down with a cup of tea I started thinking about how to best explain what hypnotherapy is and what it definitely isn’t. Here are a few thoughts…

A clinical hypnotherapist can’t make you do anything you don’t want to do. You can’t get stuck in hypnosis either, just like you can’t get stuck in a dream. I got stuck in a revolving door in Debenhams once but that’s another story.

When hypnotised you will not be knocked out, unconscious or enter a parallel universe. It’s not so dramatic. You can hear and remember everything that goes on. It feels good to be hypnotised- it’s peaceful and comfortable like a daydream.

You can talk in hypnosis. In fact, it’s encouraged.

Hypnosis is not a truth serum. You won’t tell anyone where the bodies are buried.

Hypnosis is a natural state that we go in and out of all the time like when we are watching a film or driving down the motorway. Our analytical mind moves out of the way and we are more connected with our inner world.

Is hypnotherapy the same as stage hypnosis? Will I make you think you’re naked or run around like a chicken? Definitely not. Stage hypnosis is a comedy show and the volunteers are willing participants. They are hypnotised but they are playing along. It’s showbusiness. My job is to help, not to embarrass anyone.

Hypnosis is not the same as sleep; it’s actually a very active state of absorption. Can anyone be hypnotised? Yes, as long as they want to be. It’s a great way to release negative emotions and beliefs.

A belief is just a thought that gets repeated until it becomes a pattern. It isn't necessarily true but it becomes your truth. The unconscious mind doesn't know the difference between reality and fantasy, so whatever you tell yourself becomes real.

We rehearse bad feelings. We run over scenes in our mind and replay anxious conversations. Hypnosis can help with this. There is no need to get stuck watching sad or scary films over and over again.

I’ll leave you with this. People do the best they can with the choices they have available. Hypnotherapy gives you more control over how you feel.

I’d like to think that the man I bumped into in Asda wasn’t being mean, he just didn’t really know what hypnosis was. Either way, I hope he enjoyed his fray bentos steak and kidney pie

Sleep well and let your dreams take the pain away

Does everybody dream? Do dreams mean something?

Sleep is often categorised into four stages, the fourth being the NREM, or very deep phase. At the top is the REM sleep of darting eyes and dreaming. If you wake up during REM sleep then you'll probably remember (briefly) what you were dreaming about.

REM is very important in our wellbeing and if you are denied it, you will suffer. It's primary function is to process our day's activity and emotional ups and down, deciding which to forget and what needs attention. It governs our memory and emotional state.

What destroy's our REM sleep? Alcohol, drugs, depression and sleep apnea.  Some things may help you to drop off but they stop you healing and processing.

A lack of deep NREM and REM will leave you tired, stressed and potentially very ill. When I treat a client for sleep problems, I use hypnosis to find the unconscious cause then we work to release it. People get in touch to tell me that after a couple of weeks of good sleep they feel like a new person. It's worth thinking about how you'd benefit from a proper kip.

 

Stress that hangs around for too long.

When you’re a therapist you’re meeting people that are suffering. You spend an hour or two with them and it’s hard not to take on some of that struggle. Especially when you’re tired. I think many of us take home stress or pain from work. 

There are things you can do. I always wash my hands after every client, to symbolically end the session. This is a trick I picked up from a GP friend of mine. A shower is good but not always practical. A walk, burning some incense or a change of clothes can all help to bring some new energy.

I’d like to know if you’ve any strategies you’ve picked up for leaving the stress behind.  

Hypnotherapy - How to stop asking questions and start loving yourself.

life journey, life coach peterborough, be present.

What, I wonder, is the point? What is the ultimate, definitive point in being alive?

Perhaps consciousness is an end in itself. There’s no need to ask questions that don’t have answers - it’s a waste looking for specific, definable meaning in a sunset, an argument or a piece of abstract art.

Life is knowing what you want to make you feel good. Life is a series of moments all stretching out in front and behind us. Life is learning to love and be loved.

LATE FRAGMENT by Raymond Carver

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.

Sleep Problems? Don't let a lack of sleep stop you from dreaming.

insomnia, sleep disorder therapy, sleeping problems hypnotherapy Cambridge, insomnia hypnosis Peterborough

I ask all of my clients how they sleep and the answers are often the same. Not very well. We take a good night's sleep for granted when we are younger but as we get older things get in the way. Stress, anxiety, noise and bad habits can all mean that we lie awake with only our thoughts for company. 

We all know that dreaded feeling when you're lying there thinking about the alarm clock and how tired you'll be at work in the morning.

Many of us use alcohol or cannabis to sleep better but it actually has the opposite effect. They both stimulate the nervous system and although they may help you to drop off, they will also stop you from getting REM sleep, the state in which we process information and de-stress. It's not just the amount of hours we get, it's the quality of our sleep that matters.

When we don’t sleep well, we can experience low energy, irritability and anxiety. Chronic sleep depravation can lead to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and diabetes.

What is a good night's sleep worth to you? You have the ability to sleep peacefully, perhaps you've just forgotten how.

Does hypnotherapy work for people who are late for everything?

Mad Hatter, Always Late, time management hypnotherapy, peterborough hypnosis.

I used to be late for everything. I even took pride in it, like it was an important part of who I was. My friends got tired of picking me up at our agreed time and I'd just be getting in the shower. I'd leave friend sitting in the pub for half an hour waiting for me (pre mobile phones so they had to make do with reading beer mats). I thought it was funny but now I know it was rude. It's not that I had a busy life or anything, I was just bad at managing time. I was bad at respecting other people's time. I was excellent at arsing around.

I was for ever running for trains, apologising to bosses and telling white lies about why I wasn't on time. It caused me stress and cost me money. I refused to set my alarm for twenty minutes earlier. I thought that it was 'just who I am'. 

I changed. I can't remember exactly when. Perhaps it was when I became a professional actor and I was so amazed to be in this job that I couldn't bear to jeopardise it.

Separating my IDENTITY from my BEHAVIOUR was a step towards breaking old habits. Just like admitting that you aren't a smoker, you smoke cigarettes. Knowing that is a step towards quitting. You aren't a late person, you are a person that is often late. 

Changing or deleting a behaviour is much easier than changing your core identity. We get them mixed up sometimes.