Posted tagged ‘thoughts’

Mindful or Mind Full?

February 12, 2014

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The everyday stress, the challenges at work and the problems we are going through can all cause burnout, which in turn affects our mental health. And as you may well know, in times like this, it is very hard to concentrate and perform at your best.

Instead of being mindful, you tend to be “mind full”.

Whenever your head feels so heavy because a lot of ideas and thoughts go in and out, consider following these steps. They will not only help to clear your mind but also give you relief from stress, and help you regain some focus.

Write it down.

The best approach is not to get away from the problem, but face it courageously. Writing is a proven way to organise our thoughts. Adopt the habit of clearing your mind through writing. The more you try to ignore them, the more these thoughts will bug you. First off, get a pen and paper and go to a quiet place. Write down the thoughts that are bugging you – good or bad.

Don’t restrict yourself and don’t feel ashamed. Sometimes, we just can’t tell our brain what it should or should not think about. Create three columns and label them: “to be done”, “not now”, and “delete”. Sort your thoughts. Be honest and try to place each thought to the right column. You will realise that most of your thoughts can be deleted or can be put aside for now.

Sketch it.

Can’t write? Why not draw a picture? You probably have thoughts that can’t be described by words. You need not be an artist to draw. After all, your output is something you just have to keep for yourself. Just let your emotions and thoughts flow. You can create images, graphs or charts – whatever that best describes your thoughts. You don’t need to ask permission. Draw simple pictures of what’s on your mind.

Take deep breaths.

Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that is a great strategy for regaining your mental clarity. Deep breathing increases the oxygen levels in your body, which in turn benefits your brain.

Find someone to talk to.

Sometimes, we simply need a friend to clear our mind. You are probably confused of what decision to make, or unsure about a certain project or task you’re doing. That’s where a good friend comes in.

He or she can help you organise your thoughts effectively, and clear those unwanted thoughts. Sometimes, to clear our mind, we just need someone who will listen – someone who will listen to your hopes, fears, and questions without judgement.

Hang out with your furry friend.

There’s no scientific evidence showing that having a pet can help clear your mind. But there’s vast evidence suggesting that it can make your life better in many ways.

It eases your depression, lowers your blood pressure, boosts your mood, and helps you deal with stress better. If you are happier and healthier, you are in a better position to organise your thoughts easier.

Remind yourself of what’s more important to you.

Sometimes, our minds become flooded with lots of thoughts that are not really important. In times when your mind is full, it’s really helpful to try looking back on things that matter more to you. They may be your children, family, friends or loved ones, perhaps your job or even your goals in life.

Self Hypnosis / Meditation.

Mental clarity can be one simple step away. Consider making this mental practice a part of your daily routine. Afford yourself just 15 minutes or so, close your eyes and begin to focus on the following. Firstly pay attention to your breathing – try to slow it down. Now in your mind, visit a place you enjoy going to and make it all as real as possible.

Try to imagine the sights, the sounds, the smells, any tastes or sensations of touch. Give yourself a few moments to let all of these fantastic sensations soak into you. Take a few extra deep, slow breaths to lock in all of these sensations.

Now it’s time to return back to real-time and bring with you all of those good feelings ans sensations. Simply count yourself back to being fully awake by counting up the numbers from 1 to 5 and opening your eyes on number 5.

This exercise might be challenging at first but it gets easier and easier the more you do it. Go on, give it a try. Let me know how you get on.

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist
http://www.greymatterz.co.uk

@RichGreymatterz

facebook.com/greymatterzhypnotherapy

Are we really in ‘The Matrix’?

February 16, 2013

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Being rational beings, it is our nature to make interpretations out of many thingssurrounding us, from the events that are happening, to the situations we’re into, and the emotions we feel. Sometimes, such interpretations are correct. Many times though, they’re wrong.

The way we interpret things around us may help us see the truth behind every event or situation we experience. Or, it could also distort the reality and make us believe negative things that have never existed at all!

There are many ways by which we distort reality. Here are some of them:

All-or-Nothing Thinking

Some people see things in extreme. This means a small, unnoticeable error in the project they are working on means it’s a complete trash; if someone doesn’t love them, it means that person already hates them; if they didn’t get it right the first time, they can never ever get it right no matter how they try. In short, they are the ‘all or nothing’ people. They often miss the reality that often, some things aren’t always one way or the other way around. They ignore that fact that there’s always ‘shades of grey’.

Conclusive Thinking

There are people who are fond of generalising things. Unknowingly, they are actually distorting the reality because they tend to look only at one angle of their life and make a conclusion out of it. For instance, if they fail in a business, their tendency is to stop and never try again – thinking that ‘once a failure, always a failure’.

Fortune-Telling

No one can ever predict what’s going to happen in the future as we can’t tell exactly what’s going to happen tomorrow or in the next few hours. Still, there are people who act as if they are fortune-tellers – predicting the future with strong conviction as if they were realities of the past. You’ll often hear them saying ‘I won’t ever make it’, ‘I will never find true love’, ‘I will be depressed for the rest of my life’, ‘I’ll never become rich’, etc.

Emotional Reasoning

Sometimes, our emotions can be deceiving because they often rule out our rational judgement. But basing on emotions alone is not enough to establish reality. For instance, a person who feels he is a failure doesn’t mean he is indeed a failure in reality. It is normal to experience emotional ups and downs. Assessing your emotions and their real cause is the key towards determining whether it speaks of reality or not.

Mind-Reading

Just because your friend ignored you the other day doesn’t mean she is mad at you or she doesn’t care about you anymore. Maybe, she just didn’t see that you were there, or she was thinking of something else that she didn’t notice your presence. Just because your spouse didn’t greet you a ‘Happy Valentine’s Day’ doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t love you anymore. It’s possible that they’re into a surprise dinner date, or so caught up with problems at work. Being judgemental towards other people’s behaviour can certainly ruin one’s personal and social relationships.

Taking the Blame

Some people tend to distort reality by being too paranoid, thinking that every negative accusation, remark or criticism is directed towards them. This way of thinking can greatly affect your wellbeing and stress you out because you tend to feel guilty and responsible for things you haven’t done!

Mythical Thinking

Conventional views can ruin your judgement and distort the way you perceive reality. For instance, if you see a couple who don’t seem to mind each other – one is browsing on his mobile phone and the other is very absorbed in her reading, it’s easy to conclude that they not the ‘sweet type’ or they don’t care about each other. But that scene which only took few moments is not enough to interpret their relationship correctly. Above all, keeping in mind that your interpretation of things around you may be faulty or incomplete will prevent you from making hurtful and distressing judgments.

Positive Thinking to Restore Reality

All the ways mentioned above usually spring from negative thinking. They all can bring you pain, discomfort, and distress. When your mind is full of negative thoughts, you will never feel at peace.

To correct the habits that tend to distort your view of reality, you should learn how to think and respond positively. Opening your mind to possibilities without going away from the facts is healthy. But if you always make interpretations from a negative point of view, you are simply exposing yourself to things that will make you anxious, and later on, depressed.

If you need some help to change your own thoughts, contact me, I’ll be happy to help you.
Happy Thoughts,

Richard Scott
Clinical Hypnotherapist
www.greymatterz.co.uk
Part of the Core Health Centre
www.corehealthcentre.co.uk

How your mind can make you sick.

November 13, 2009

The Science of Voodoo:

How Your Mind Can Make You Sick

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By Helen Pilcher/ Source: New Scientist

Late one night in a small Alabama cemetery, Vance Vanders had a run-in with the local witch doctor, who wafted a bottle of unpleasant-smelling liquid in front of his face, and told him he was about to die and that no one could save him.

Back home, Vanders took to his bed and began to deteriorate. Some weeks later, emaciated and near death, he was admitted to the local hospital, where doctors were unable to find a cause for his symptoms or slow his decline. Only then did his wife tell one of the doctors, Drayton Doherty, of the hex.

Doherty thought long and hard. The next morning, he called Vanders’s family to his bedside. He told them that the previous night he had lured the witch doctor back to the cemetery, where he had choked him against a tree until he explained how the curse worked. The medicine man had, he said, rubbed lizard eggs into Vanders’s stomach, which had hatched inside his body. One reptile remained, which was eating Vanders from the inside out.

Doherty then summoned a nurse who had, by prior arrangement, filled a large syringe with a powerful emetic. With great ceremony, he inspected the instrument and injected its contents into Vanders’ arm. A few minutes later, Vanders began to gag and vomit uncontrollably. In the midst of it all, unnoticed by everyone in the room, Doherty produced his pièce de résistance – a green lizard he had stashed in his black bag. “Look what has come out of you Vance,” he cried. “The voodoo curse is lifted.”

Vanders did a double take, lurched backwards to the head of the bed, then drifted into a deep sleep. When he woke next day he was alert and ravenous. He quickly regained his strength and was discharged a week later.

The facts of this case from 80 years ago were corroborated by four medical professionals. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about it is that Vanders survived. There are numerous documented instances from many parts of the globe of people dying after being cursed.

With no medical records and no autopsy results, there’s no way to be sure exactly how these people met their end. The common thread in these cases, however, is that a respected figure puts a curse on someone, perhaps by chanting or pointing a bone at them. Soon afterwards, the victim dies, apparently of natural causes.

Voodoo nouveau

You might think this sort of thing is increasingly rare, and limited to remote tribes. But according to Clifton Meador, a doctor at Vanderbilt School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, who has documented cases like Vanders, the curse has taken on a new form.

Take Sam Shoeman, who was diagnosed with end-stage liver cancer in the 1970s and given just months to live. Shoeman duly died in the allotted time frame – yet the autopsy revealed that his doctors had got it wrong. The tumour was tiny and had not spread. “He didn’t die from cancer, but from believing he was dying of cancer,” says Meador. “If everyone treats you as if you are dying, you buy into it. Everything in your whole being becomes about dying.”

Cases such as Shoeman’s may be extreme examples of a far more widespread phenomenon. Many patients who suffer harmful side effects, for instance, may do so only because they have been told to expect them. What’s more, people who believe they have a high risk of certain diseases are more likely to get them than people with the same risk factors who believe they have a low risk. It seems modern witch doctors wear white coats and carry stethoscopes.

The nocebo effect

The idea that believing you are ill can make you ill may seem far-fetched, yet rigorous trials have established beyond doubt that the converse is true – that the power of suggestion can improve health. This is the well-known placebo effect. Placebos cannot produce miracles, but they do produce measurable physical effects.

The placebo effect has an evil twin: the nocebo effect, in which dummy pills and negative expectations can produce harmful effects. The term “nocebo”, which means “I will harm”, was not coined until the 1960s, and the phenomenon has been far less studied than the placebo effect. It’s not easy, after all, to get ethical approval for studies designed to make people feel worse.

What we do know suggests the impact of nocebo is far-reaching. “Voodoo death, if it exists, may represent an extreme form of the nocebo phenomenon,” says anthropologist Robert Hahn of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, who has studied the nocebo effect.

Life threatening

In clinical trials, around a quarter of patients in control groups – those given supposedly inert therapies – experience negative side effects. The severity of these side effects sometimes matches those associated with real drugs. A retrospective study of 15 trials involving thousands of patients prescribed either beta blockers or a control showed that both groups reported comparable levels of side effects, including fatigue, depressive symptoms and sexual dysfunction. A similar number had to withdraw from the studies because of them.

Occasionally, the effects can be life-threatening (see “The overdose”). “Beliefs and expectations are not only conscious, logical phenomena, they also have physical consequences,” says Hahn.

Nocebo effects are also seen in normal medical practice. Around 60 per cent of patients undergoing chemotherapy start feeling sick before their treatment. “It can happen days before, or on the journey on the way in,” says clinical psychologist Guy Montgomery from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Sometimes the mere thought of treatment or the doctor’s voice is enough to make patients feel unwell. This “anticipatory nausea” may be partly due to conditioning – when patients subconsciously link some part of their experience with nausea – and partly due to expectation.

The Nocebo “Virus”

Alarmingly, the nocebo effect can even be catching. Cases where symptoms without an identifiable cause spread through groups of people have been around for centuries, a phenomenon known as mass psychogenic illness. One outbreak (see “It’s catching”) inspired a recent study by psychologists Irving Kirsch and Giuliana Mazzoni of the University of Hull in the UK.

They asked some of a group of students to inhale a sample of normal air, which all participants were told contained “a suspected environmental toxin” linked to headache, nausea, itchy skin and drowsiness. Half of the participants also watched a woman inhale the sample and apparently develop these symptoms. Students who inhaled were more likely to report these symptoms than those who did not. Symptoms were also more pronounced in women, particularly those who had seen another apparently become ill – a bias also seen in mass psychogenic illness.

The study shows that if you hear of or observe a possible side effect, you are more likely to develop it yourself. That puts doctors in a tricky situation. “On the one hand people have the right to be informed about what to expect, but this makes it more likely they will experience these effects,” says Mazzoni.

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Hypnosis Might Help

This means doctors need to choose their words carefully so as to minimise negative expectations, says Montgomery. “It’s all about how you say it.”

Hypnosis might also help. “Hypnosis changes expectancies, which decreases anxiety and stress, which improves the outcome,” Montgomery says. “I think hypnosis could be applied to a wide variety of symptoms where expectancy plays a role.”

Is the scale of the nocebo problem serious enough to justify such countermeasures? We just don’t know, because so many questions remain unanswered. In what circumstances do nocebo effects occur? And how long do the symptoms last?

It appears that, as with the placebo response, nocebo effects vary widely, and may depend heavily on context. Placebo effects in clinical settings are often much more potent than those induced in the laboratory, says Paul Enck, a psychologist at the University Hospital in Tübingen, Germany, which suggests the nocebo problem may have profound effects in the real world. For obvious reasons, though, lab experiments are designed to induce only mild and temporary nocebo symptoms.

Real consequences

It is also unclear who is susceptible. A person’s optimism or pessimism may play a role, but there are no consistent personality predictors. Both sexes can succumb to mass psychogenic illness, though women report more symptoms than men. Enck has shown that in men, expectancy rather than conditioning is more likely to influence nocebo symptoms. For women, the opposite is true. “Women tend to operate more on past experiences, whereas men seem more reluctant to take history into a situation,” he says.

What is becoming clear is that these apparently psychological phenomena have very real consequences in the brain. Using PET scans to peer into the brains of people given a placebo or nocebo, Jon-Kar Zubieta of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, showed last year that nocebo effects were linked with a decrease in dopamine and opioid activity. This would explain how nocebos can increase pain. Placebos, unsurprisingly, produced the opposite response.

Meanwhile, Fabrizio Benedetti of the University of Turin Medical School in Italy has found that nocebo-induced pain can be suppressed by a drug called proglumide, which blocks receptors for a hormone called cholecystokinin (CCK). Normally, expectations of pain induce anxiety, which activates CCK receptors, enhancing pain.

The Ultimate Cause is Belief

The ultimate cause of the nocebo effect, however, is not neurochemistry but belief. According to Hahn, surgeons are often wary of operating on people who think they will die – because such patients often do. And the mere belief that one is susceptible to a heart attack is itself a risk factor. One study found that women who believed they are particularly prone to heart attack are nearly four times as likely to die from coronary conditions than other women with the same risk factors.

Despite the growing evidence that the nocebo effect is all too real, it is hard in this rational age to accept that people’s beliefs can kill them. After all, most of us would laugh if a strangely attired man leapt about waving a bone and told us we were going to die. But imagine how you would feel if you were told the same thing by a smartly dressed doctor with a wallful of medical degrees and a computerful of your scans and test results. The social and cultural background is crucial, says Enck.

Meador argues that Shoeman’s misdiagnosis and subsequent death shares many of the crucial elements found in hex death. A powerful doctor pronounces a death sentence, which is accepted unquestioningly by the “victim” and his family, who then start to act upon that belief. Shoeman, his family and his doctors all believed he was dying from cancer. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Nothing mystical

“Bad news promotes bad physiology. I think you can persuade people that they’re going to die and have it happen,” Meador says. “I don’t think there’s anything mystical about it. We’re uncomfortable with the idea that words or symbolic actions can cause death because it challenges our biomolecular model of the world.”

Perhaps when the biomedical basis of voodoo death is revealed in detail we will find it easier to accept that it is real – and that it can affect any one of us.