The Gratitude Attitude

A while ago I took on a challenge I saw on Facebook.  Every day I had to list three things I was grateful for.  If I did this for 21 days I would rewire my brain for happiness.

It seemed like a bargain.  Very little effort – I mean, how hard could it be?  And a pretty big reward at the end.  What did I have to lose?

It turned out to be harder than I thought.  Not immediately – it was easy at the start.  But when I’d worked my way through being grateful for my husband, my family members, my friends and my dogs it got a bit more difficult.  I didn’t want to keep repeating myself.

Some days wonderful things would happen.  There’d be brilliant sunshine and bright blue skies in the middle of winter.  Complete strangers would say really nice things to me.  I’d have a lovely meal.

Other days I’d really be scraping the bottom of the barrel.  Or so I thought.  I’d resort to things like “I have clean water” or “I can read” or “I’m alive”.

But then, of course, I realised.  Those things I dragged out when I couldn’t find anything else to be grateful for were really important.

Millions of people around the world walk miles to collect dirty disease-ridden water.  In South Sudan only 27% of people are literate.   Even in the UK, an estimated five million adults have a reading age of 11 or below.   And life is the greatest gift any of us has or ever will have.

When I thought I was scraping the bottom of the barrel for things to be grateful for I was actually finding the huge things.  The things that really matter.

From then on it got a lot easier.  A tiny thing like the beautiful green of a leaf reminded me of huge things like the fact I can see.  The world was full of things to be grateful for.

In the end I carried on the challenge for quite a while after the initial 21 days.  I stopped because I didn’t really feel the need any more.  I got it – there was an infinite number of things in my life I could be grateful for – so there was no need to keep listing them.

Did it rewire my brain for happiness?  I don’t know.  Because at the end of the day I’m not even sure what that means.  But it taught me to appreciate my life more.

So maybe more effort than I first thought.  But still a pretty big reward.

How Does It Feel?

A question I ask clients when they come for their first hypnotherapy session is “Have you ever been hypnotised before?”.  If, as is usual, they haven’t, I go on to explore their ideas of what it might feel like.  Because many people have a very inaccurate perception of what hypnosis feels like.

A lot of the blame for this lies with TV and film.  Most of us have seen footage of a stage hypnotist touching someone on the shoulder, only for the “victim” to slump into a deep sleep.  The subject then does something completely out of character.

How is this different from hypnotherapy?

As a hypnotherapist, I could create this rapid, deep sleep effect, but I wouldn’t want to.  It’s neither helpful nor desirable.

The technique I use is much slower and gentler.  I will talk to you, using the combination of my words and your imagination to put you into a deeply relaxed state.  You may be completely aware of every word I say.  You may find it difficult to keep track.  Or you may find my words are simply washing over you.  None of this matters.

The important thing is that your body and mind are totally relaxed, with your consciousness focused in such a way that the rest of the world seems to fade away.  People often liken it to being completely absorbed in a book or a hobby, so their sense of time is distorted and nothing else seems to matter.

In this state your conscious mind is distracted and I can talk directly to your unconscious.  I can communicate with you using symbolism, metaphor and imagery – all things that your unconscious mind finds it easy to understand.  If necessary, I can even ask you questions without your conscious mind censoring the answers.

So therapeutic hypnosis creates a sensation that is very different from the dramatic effects you might see on TV.  And one that is far more helpful.

Touch Not The Cat

Are you scared of cats? A surprising number of people are.

When my brother was a child he was scratched badly by a cat after he pulled its tail. You might think it served him right, and maybe it did. He didn’t suffer any lasting harm and grew up to be quite happy around cats, but my mother was very wary of them for a long time afterwards.

But some people are terrified of cats for no apparent reason.  Deep down they know that cute little ball of fluff rubbing itself against their is legs is harmless.  But it might as well be a hungry tiger – it has the same effect on them.

Fear of cats is known as ailurophobia and it can be very inconvenient.  After all, cats are pretty common.  Maybe you have friends who own them, or a child who longs for a cute kitten as a pet.  However hard you try to avoid them you’re almost certain to come across a cat fairly frequently.  And cats themselves seem to be strangely fascinated by people who are scared of them.

The good news is that – of course – fear of cats can be overcome.

Beat your fear of cats

There are various approaches to this.

Desensitisation involves gradual exposure to the thing that scares you.  So if you have a really severe phobia of cats you might start by looking at pictures.  You would then move on through holding the pictures, watching videos, being at the opposite end of a room from a cat to eventually being able to have one in your lap.  You’d go through this process very slowly, and learn breathing exercises to help control your anxiety.

Restructuring your thoughts involves changing the way you think about cats.  If you make a list of all the negative thoughts you have about cats, you can start to challenge them.  So if your automatic thought is that a cat will scratch you, reminding yourself that millions of people have cats without ever getting scratched can be helpful.  If you keep doing this you will eventually change the way you think and feel about cats.

You can read more about desensitisation and restructuring your thoughts here.   You can try these approaches yourself if your fear of cats is relatively mild, but if you have a full-blown phobia I advise you to get professional help.

Hypnotherapy can be used on its own or combined with the other two methods I’ve described to help you overcome your fear.  The therapist will guide you into a relaxed hypnotic state before gently helping you change the way you feel about cats.  The exact way they do that will vary depending both on you and the way the therapist works.

So if you’re scared of cats – or anything else – there’s help for you out there.  All you have to do is ask for it.

Fear of Therapy

It’s all very well for me to keep telling you how I can help you overcome your fear, but what if you’re scared to come and see me?  You really want help but you don’t know what to expect.
Just reaching out and asking for help can seem like the scariest thing in the world, especially when that involves phoning a stranger.  Believe me – I really do understand how hard that can be.  That’s why I want to make it as easy as possible for you.
First Contact
Maybe you don’t know where to start or what to say. That’s why all you really have to do is tell me you need help and leave the rest to me. I’ll just ask you a few questions to find out what I need. That way you know exactly what to tell me.
And if talking on the phone to someone you’ve never met is just too scary for you then why not contact me by text or email?  You can tell me everything I need to know and even make an appointment without ever having to speak to me.  You’re completely in control.  You get to decide when to contact me, how much to tell me, and even when you’re ready to come and see me.
First Meeting
But eventually we have to meet – and I’m a stranger.  But I won’t be.  If you at my About Me page on this website, and my Facebook page you can find out loads about me.  By the time you make an appointment to see me I’d like to think you feel like you know me.  I might not seem like an old friend but I won’t be a stranger either.  And it might help you to know that I get a little bit nervous the first time I see a new client so you won’t be alone.
But What’s Going to Happen?
Maybe you’re scared of what might happen during a session.  I get that – you’re taking a step into the unknown.  So let me give you a rough idea.
You’ll sit in a comfortable chair and we’ll talk for a bit.  I’ll probably ask you to go over everything you’ve already told me again, just so I can be sure I’ve got it right.  I might ask you a few extra questions but you don’t have to answer anything you’d prefer not to.
Then we’ll start work.  I’ll talk to you very gently and ease you into a lovely relaxed state.  You might have your own ideas of what a hypnotic trance is like but really it’s just like drifting off into a daydream.  While you’re in that state you’re very receptive to the things I say, so I can talk directly to the part of your mind that’s causing your problem.  But I can’t make you do anything you don’t want to, so you won’t be dancing the funky chicken!
At the end of the session you’ll feel relaxed, refreshed and alert – ready to carry on with your day.  We won’t talk too much about what’s just happened because that can interfere with the work.  But I will make sure that you’re feeling okay before you leave.  We can make another appointment there and then, or you can give me call later if you prefer.
How Much Will It Cost?
But maybe it’s not knowing how much it will cost that scares you.  I know what that’s like too – wondering if you can afford something and being too embarrassed to ask.  That’s why I make my prices very clear on my website.  I charge £50 per session and most people need three or four sessions to achieve lasting change.  If I think you need less than that I promise I won’t try to get you to book more.
So there you are.  I hope I’ve managed to explain away some of your fears about working with me.  If there’s anything else – anything at all – that worries you, just get in touch.

New Year – Old You?


It’s the time when we think about making New Year’s resolutions.  I don’t know about you but over the years I’ve vowed to :-

  • cut down on alcohol
  • stop eating junk food
  • reduce my sugar intake
  • exercise more
  • take up yoga
  • learn to play the piano
  • stop procrastinating.

And that’s just the things I can think of right now.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that I never kept a single on of my New Year’s resolutions.  And I’m guessing I’m not alone – or even unusual – in that.  Those well-meaning promises we make as the champagne (who am I kidding? – Prosecco) corks pop at the stroke of midnight are generally forgotten within a few days.

So why do we do it?  Why do we tell ourselves we’re going to be better people just because the number at the top of the calendar is changing?  Maybe we really believe that it’s easier to make a big change at the start of a shiny new year.  Especially if we tell our friends and family about it, and perhaps even get them to join us.

But change isn’t easy.  It takes motivation and a lot of thought.  You need to really want to make that change, not just think it sounds good as the New Year’s chimes come to an end.  Promising yourself you’re going to stop smoking isn’t going to work unless you really want to stop.  And you have to be able to achieve the change – don’t swear you’ll take up yoga if you have no idea how you’ll find the time.

I’ve decided I’m not going to make any New Year’s resolutions this year.  Rather than pressurise myself to think of a way I’m going to improve, I’m going to remind myself that change can happen at any time.  I can tackle those things about myself that I’m not happy with when I’m ready.  I can think about the benefits of change, work on my motivation, and then take action.

So maybe this time next year there’ll be a new me.  Or maybe not.


Santa Baby – Aaaarghhh

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – unless you’re scared of Santa Claus!  And that particular fear isn’t as rare as you might think.

Because while adults are all aware that the man with the bag is a kindly benevolent old soul, to a surprising number of children he’s distinctly scary.  And that’s bad news at a time when he seems to be everywhere.  So how can you help if your child is afraid of Santa?

Talk about their fears

What is it that scares your child about Santa?  Is his voice too deep?   Is it his beard?  Or do they see him as a stranger?  It’s hardly surprising that some children are afraid of Mr Claus.  We teach them to beware of strangers then we tell them an old man in red will come into their home on Christmas Eve while they’re asleep.  A sensitive child could find lots to worry about in the discrepancy here.

Once you know why your child is scared you can tackle that fear.  You can explain that Santa only comes into the house when you’re there to give him permission.  You can talk about how kind Santa is and what a lovely old man is hiding behind the beard and the deep voice.

Don’t push too hard

You might think the best way to tackle a child’s fear of Santa would be to get them to sit on his knee and see how kind he is.  But would you force someone who’s scared of heights to stand at the top of a tower?  Hopefully not.  Forcing a child to confront a fear isn’t going to help anything – it’s more likely to make matters worse.  Work with your child’s feelings if you want to change them.

Read stories about Santa

There are lots of lovely children’s stories about Santa Claus.  Sharing these with your child will help to show him as a friendly figure who loves children.  And don’t forget to talk about how kind he is to his reindeer.

Keep them away from negative images of Santa

There are , of course, comedy films that show Santa as a bad-tempered old curmudgeon.  While those of us who know the truth can laugh at these misrepresentations, children may believe them.  Only let your child see films that give an accurate picture of Santa’s personality.

Take your child’s fears seriously

You wouldn’t like to be told your fear is silly, would you?  So don’t do that to your child.  It’s very tempting to say “Don’t be silly sweetheart, Santa’s nothing to be scared of.”  But to your child that fear isn’t silly.  Take it seriously and ask how you can help.

Christmas is a special time for children.  Don’t let fear of Santa take away any of the magic.

Sleep Tight


Are you getting enough?  I mean sleep of course!

We’re told throughout our lives that everything seems better after a good night’s rest.  That might not be entirely true, but everything certainly seems worse when you’re exhausted.  So it really is important to make sure you get enough sleep.

But how much is enough?  I’m assuming most people reading this are aged between 18 and 65.  According to the Sleep Council  people in that age range function best on seven to nine hours per day.  Above that age you may be happy with a little less.   And while missing the odd hour now and again isn’t likely to cause you any great harm, long-term sleep loss can make you forgetful, moody, depressed and irritable (as well as tired).

So it’s really important that you get the right amount of good quality sleep.

Tips for better sleep
  1. Make sure your bedroom is a comfortable, welcoming place.  Keep it at a cool temperature around 16-18° C (60-65° F).  Try to get it completely dark – or wear an eye mask.  And keep technology out.  Not only does having a computer or your mobile phone in the room tempt you to use it, the blue light they emit can interfere with restful sleep.
  2. Choose the right kind of mattress for your needs.  It should be firm enough to support your spine while still moulding to the contours of your body.
  3. Try to keep to a regular routine, going to bed and getting up at the same time every day.
  4. Avoid drinking caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime.  And try not to overdo fluids at night to stop your sleep from being interrupted by trips to the loo.
  5. Try to put your daytime worries to one side when you get into bed.  Easier said than done, I know.  One trick is to imagine putting them all into a box that you can open again in the morning.
  6. While an empty groaning stomach probably won’t help you sleep, try not to eat too close to bedtime.  Struggling to digest a heavy meal is likely to keep you awake.
  7. Try to maintain a moderate level of exercise during the day, but avoid it late at night.
  8. If you’re struggling to sleep you can help yourself by relaxing your body, either by progressive muscle relaxation or breathing techniques.  I’ll explain these in another blog.
  9. If you’re not asleep after 20 minutes, it might be worth getting up for a while.  Do something non-stimulating like listening to music (not Black Sabbath!) or reading until you feel sleepy again.


After a good night’s sleep you should wake up feeling relaxed and refreshed.  You may not feel like leaping out of bed, but you’ll know that you are, in fact, ready to face the day.

Have An Imperfect Christmas!

We all have that perfect Christmas image, don’t we?  It’s probably something like this.

The Dream

Gran and Grandad snoozing in front of the fire, stomachs replete with an excellent lunch.  Mum and Dad sitting hand-in-hand watching a blockbuster movie on the TV.  Kids happily playing with their Christmas toys.  And the dog looking photogenically cute in its elf costume.

But maybe it’s more like this.

The Nightmare

You’re a single parent struggling to cope on your own.  Or you’re not, but halfway through Christmas Day you’re allowing yourself a sneaking suspicion that you might be better off if you were.  Gran and Grandad jetted off to Tenerife on Christmas Eve.  They’ve just facetimed to wish you “Feliz Navidad” and you answered through gritted teeth.  The turkey was dry, the pigs lost their blankets, and you set fire to the Christmas pud (and the curtains).  You forgot the batteries for the kids’ toys so their now alternating between fighting each other and telling you what a useless parent you are.  And the dog’s eaten its elf costume and is now looking forlornly at a pile of green sick.

The truth is probably somewhere in between.

The Reality

Some things will go right.  Others will go wrong.  And once you recognise that, it stops being such a problem.  We all put so much pressure on ourselves to make everything perfect that we end up angry, stressed and miserable.

So step back and think about what really matters.  If you’re like me, that’s enjoying a relaxing day with people you love.  It’s about a nice meal, not a gourmet feast.  It’s about smiles and laughter and not worrying if the Christmas tree looks like an accident in a bauble factory.

So decide what really matters to you about Christmas and focus on that.  If you don’t like turkey, don’t have it.  If lighting the pud always results in a call to the fire brigade just skip it, or get someone else to do it.  Concentrate on the few things you think are important, get those right, and take everything else as it comes.  And if the important things go wrong – have a laugh about it.  Turn it into one of those Christmas memories you talk about every year.

Christmas will always involve some degree of stress – unless you’re Delia Smith (and she’s probably lying).  But you can reduce it to a level you can handle by letting go of the idea of perfection.  And if you need any more help with your stress, at Christmas or any other time, you can always give me a call.

Unusual Fears


Do you think your fear is weird?  Are you worried that I might not take you seriously because the thing you’re scared of is just too strange?

Don’t be.  People really can be scared of anything.  I’m scared of peas!  Watch this video to hear me talk about it.  And there’s a whole world of unusual fears out there.  These are a few of my favourites.

  1. Lutraphobia – fear of otters.  How can something as cute as an otter scare anyone?  There are spiders and snakes out there!  But this is a genuine fear, although it doesn’t tend to come out of the blue.  Most lutraphobics have been attacked or bitten by an otter, or seen it happen to someone else.  Not so cute and cuddly after all!
  2. Chirophobia – fear of hands.  Yes, it really does happen.  And somewhat inconveniently, some people have a fear of their own hands.  This is usually brought on by some kind of trauma, like a hand injury.
  3. Globophobia – fear of balloons.  This fear can obviously make birthday parties a bit difficult.  Some people are afraid of the balloons themselves, others of the balloons being popped.  Apparently, Oprah Winfrey suffers from this fear.
  4. Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – fear of long words.  Well it just had to be, didn’t it?  This is often the result of being laughed at for struggling with long words, usually in childhood.
  5. Turaphobia – fear of cheese.  This doesn’t only affect people who remember Martine McCutcheon dying under a huge wheel of cheddar in “Midsommer Murders”.  Some people genuinely get clammy and have panic attacks just walking past the supermarket cheese counter.
  6. Alektorophobia – fear of chickens.  This may stem from a traumatic experience or from a bad dream.  Sufferers imagine chickens attacking them with their talons and beaks.  They may even picture their eyes being clawed out of their sockets.
  7. Linonophobia – fear of string.  Most of us think of string as pretty harmless, even useful.  But to a small number of people it can be terrifying.  As with most fears, this usually results from a bad experience in the past.  Sufferers may have been tied up as a childhood punishment, or seen something similar in a TV show.
  8. Decidophobia – fear of making decisions.  People with decidophobia find it almost impossible to decide on anything.  What to eat, where to work, whether or not to get married – you name it.  Fairly obviously, the real fear here is of making the wrong decision.
  9. Omphalophobia – fear of belly buttons.  People with this fear can’t bear to see or touch belly buttons, even their own.  Some sufferers even think their insides could spill out of their belly buttons.  Which is a pretty scary thought!
  10. Pupaphobia – fear of puppets.  Most children love a good puppet show but some find them seriously distressing.  This can continue into adulthood.  Glove puppets, marionettes, ventriloquist’s dummies – all of these can induce terror in pupaphobia sufferers.

So there you are – ten unusual fears, plus one of my own.  All of them might seem ridiculous to an observer, but to the sufferer they are very real. They can be mildly inconvenient, like mine, or completely incapacitating.  But they all deserve to be taken seriously.

The Fear Factor


We all have our fears.  For some it may be spiders, for others heights, and for yet others clowns can be terrifying.  Most of the time we can keep our fears under control, but sometimes they turn into phobias.  A phobia is much stronger than a fear – it can be totally paralysing.

10 Most Common Phobias

But what are the most common phobias?  The list below is provided by the website after extensive research.  Do any of them affect you?

Numbers 10 – 6

Number 10 is the fear of holes. Did you know that was known as trypophobia?  Sufferers are not only afraid of holes in the ground, but also those in coral, honeycomb and Swiss cheese for example.  They find the sight of a hole so distressing that they will take extreme measures to avoid them.

Number 9 is the more familiar fear of flying, known as aerophobia.  This affects nearly 6.5% of the world’s population, and is closely linked with fear of confined spaces and of being unable to escape.  Fairly obviously, it affects sufferers’ ability to travel but can also impact on professional life if air travel is necessary for work.  Even the thought of flying can cause nausea, panic attacks and a sense of dread in the sufferer.

Number 8 is mysophobia, the fear of germs.  This is closely related to obsessive compulsive disorder as sufferers indulge in excessive hand washing.  It can have serious effects on people’s social lives as they take increasingly extreme precautions to avoid contamination.

Number 7, claustrophobia, affects about 7% of the world’s population.  The fear of small spaces is closely linked to fear of suffocation.  Although it has been studied to a great extent by scientists, only 2% of sufferers are believed to seek treatment.

Astraphobia, the fear of thunder and lightning, is number 6.  It’s most common in children but can persist into adulthood.  Storms become a source of extreme terror.  Astraphobia can even affect wild animals.  Fortunately, at least for humans, it is very responsive to treatment.

Numbers 5 – 2

Number 5 is the fear of dogs, otherwise known as cynophobia.  To a dog-lover like myself this is inexplicable but it’s one of the most common animal phobias around the world.  It’s interesting to note that the majority of cynophobes are also afraid of cats.  It’s far more common in women than in men, and usually develops in childhood.

Agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces, is number 4.  The sufferer feels panic at the mere thought of visiting theatres, shopping malls or wide open spaces.  Eventually a vicious circle is established.  The sufferer avoids going out and his or her world decreases in size.  In severe cases, only the home feels safe.

Number 3 is the fear of heights, or acrophobia.  This is usually, but not always, associated with the fear of falling.  It can cause severe panic states which somewhat paradoxically increase the risk of falling.

Number 2 is ophidiophobia, the fear of snakes.  Indiana Jones was not alone!  It affects nearly 33% of the adult population.  To an extent, it’s a valid fear – snakes can obviously be dangerous.  But to a true ophidiophobic, a harmless grass snake is as terrifying as a cobra.  Even a picture of a snake can induce panic.

And a drumroll for number 1 …

So what is the number 1 phobia worldwide?  You’ve probably already guessed – it’s arachnophobia of course.  Fear of spiders is incredibly widespread around the world.  Again, in some countries a healthy wariness of spiders is sensible.  In the UK, however, the paralysing fear of spiders that some people experience is not helpful.

So do you suffer from any of these?  Or maybe you have a phobia that’s I haven’t listed above.  If you have a fear that is so strong it interferes with your life, don’t hesitate to get help from a hypnotherapist.