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What makes you stronger when you break it?


baby with toothbrushA bad habit!

Ever wondered why, despite your best efforts, you just can’t rid yourself of the habits you want to change?

What are habits? They’re behaviours that you’ve repeated so many times that they happen automatically, without your conscious effort. You might realise half way through or after the behaviour has taken place that you’ve done it again!

And this is by no means necessarily a bad thing. How useful is it that a part of your brain will simply take care of the action, freeing the conscious part of your brain up for more interesting, important or amusing thoughts!

We call it a trance when you do stuff without thinking. Some are useful and healthy and some are less helpful or downright dangerous.

Ever suddenly realised that you’re halfway through another drink you don’t remember pouring? Or a cigarette you don’t remember lighting? Or got out of the car, realising you don’t remember driving at least part of the journey?

Do you have to concentrate on how you clean your teeth or does it get done the same way each time? How about vacuuming? Do you have to think carefully how to do it, or do you move around in an absent-minded trance, and somehow the job gets done?

cobwebBrain cells that fire together wire together. The more you ‘practise’ an action, whether it’s deliberately executing a hill-start in the car or whether it’s reacting to a repeated trigger (the kids not tidying their bedrooms for example), the more likely it is that you will automatically ‘go there’ again the next time.

When people ask about Cognitive Hypnotherapy, I tell them that, far from ‘putting them in a trance’ my job is to wake them up from the trance that’s supporting the habit they want to change.

So why is it so difficult to change a habit on your own then?

It’s because, physiologically, we’re still pretty much the same as we were 10 000 years ago when we lived in caves! Our DNA has changed very little during this time. Our brains are the brains of cave-dwellers!

Let me clarify that!

Certain aspects of our brains have indeed continued to develop.

A bit.

But each of us has within our brains, an inner-caveman! Let’s call him or her Ugga. Hell! Why not! And Ugga is on the lookout for instant feel-good fixes, especially as an antidote to stress.

Nicotine, alcohol, caffeine are a good start. Sitting around, doing nothing and avoiding effort all help too!

Ugga is so needy that he/she usually manages to override any attempt to move out of that comfort-zone.

Something else to bear in mind is how extraordinarily ineffective will-power usually is. It’s as though you have a finite amount of the stuff – the more you use, the less you have. Soon you simply run out!

So what are we to do?

For starters, you can make it far easier to do the new thing than the old thing you’re trying to change, by changing your environment. For example, get rid of the junk food and fill your fridge with healthy snacks, so that when you’re hungry and reach out for the first thing that will fill the gap – it turns out to be something you won’t regret later.

windowAnd instead of trying to make big changes by taking the ‘massive action’ associated with the likes of self-help guru, Anthony Robbins, how about working with your caveman? Because, let’s face it, making big changes is uncomfortable, difficult and stressful, and before long, Ugga will refuse to budge.

And we know it too, don’t we? How many of us have made New Year’s promises? Big ones. And failed to keep them? For the most part, they don’t work. It’s too much like hard work.

Instead of making big promises to yourself, tiny, incremental changes, that are so easy that they’re a no-brainer, is recommended these days, following neuroscience’s better understanding of how we work best.

Ugga will barely notice, and certainly won’t bother to put up a fight. Baby steps are the order of the day.

And if you want some help to install those changes, automatically, I have some great news about Cognitive Hypnotherapy.

Following years of properly executed and documented clinical trials, the paper submitted to the Mental Health Review Journal has been recommended for publication.

This means that it has been clinically proven to work – the first time that hypnotherapy has shown to be effective for anxiety and depression.

And, as Pollyanna would say, you can be glad about that!

Contact me

Article created / last edited: 5 March 2015

Are your teenagers feeling nervous about impending exams?



It’s understandable and perfectly natural to experience some anxiety about exams, and unpleasant as it feels, it can serve as a motivator, to get you to do your revision! However, it seems some young people cope better with exam nerves than others, and so it might be worthwhile having a look to see the sort of things that you can do to help them lessen their stress.

Avoid too much caffeine

That includes coffee, tea and fizzy drinks. Caffeine stimulates adrenaline, so too much encourages the flight and fight response – in other words anxiety and stress. When we’re anxious, we can’t think straight. And that’s not going to help anyone do their best in their exam!


Exercise uses up the extra adrenaline produced by anxiety. And if you think about it, that’s what it is there for – to galvanise you into taking urgent action in the face of mortal danger. Exercising regularly in the lead up to their exams, boosts their energy and helps them clear their mind. No need to go mad though! You can reassure them that walking quickly for 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week will do very nicely.


Sleeping is very important to the memory consolidation process, and good quality sleep is also important for keeping you feeling alert and well, and able to tackle anything. So make sure that your children stop revising at least an hour before they go to bed, and instead do something relaxing. Don’t let them make the mistake of working late into the night and getting up late the next morning. That messes with their circadian rhythms and they’ll feel horrible and unable to concentrate next day.

Be well-organised

Suggest, if they need it, they ask for help and advice from tutors, fellow students and online forums, rather than sit and stew on their own. Tell them to break each subject down into manageable chunks, and get them to create a timetable and mark out what they will revise and when. Encourage them to decide in advance how long their revision session will be and remind them to take breaks, maybe 5 minutes every half an hour. A quick stretch wouldn't go amiss!

Practise practice papers

Encourage them to make time for practice questions and past papers, and to find out as much as they can about the format of the exams, and also how much time they've got to answer each question. Teachers and lecturers should be able to help them with this, if it's not already been covered.

Testing testing

Get them to test themselves, or perhaps help them check that they still know what they've learnt previously. They will need to do this on a regular basis and according to the learning cycle. Watch my free training video about how to revise and how to retain the information you've learnt. I tailored it for professionals taking financial services exams, but don’t worry, the information still applies to them and will be easy to understand. Maybe you could watch it with them? http://www.genius-material.com/freevideo/


Keep things in perspective. The exams are important, but not so important that they have to worry themselves to death over them. Make sure you tell them that, and that the most important thing is that they do their best.

Research has shown that praising a child's efforts, is the best way to help them develop confidence, self-esteem and an, “I'll have a go”, attitude. If they really find themselves panicking and unable to concentrate, you might consider having them take a short break – maybe a couple of days – to do something else entirely, and then return to their revision with purpose and determination.


Teach them to breathe deeply from the diaphragm, and also use relaxation techniques to get them into a calm and positive frame of mind. Help yourself to my 10 Minute Guided Relaxation track http://www.soundspositive.com/free-stuff/ – and see for yourself how easy it is to feel composed and peaceful.

studentCan’t be bothered?

Look out for procrastination and lack of interest, which are classic signs of an attempt to avoid stress and anxiety. If you never get started in the first place, to some extent, stalling helps you to avoid facing the demon! For some people, putting things off becomes a habit.

Where can you get help?

There is a certain young man in Lower Shiplake whose mum was very concerned that he didn't seem to be knuckling down to revising for his exams. I'm sure he's not the only one! While he'd always done well in the past, his teachers were now less confident of his success and were predicting lower grades. This upset his mum, who knew very well that something must have changed for him, and understandably, she wanted to do whatever she could to help him. We spent one session transforming his lack of motivation into a desire to succeed; and a second session on the nuts and bolts of effective revision technique, with special attention placed on his preferred learning style. In other words, how his brain already naturally and brilliantly processes, stores and retrieves information. 

Last time I saw his mum, she was very excited to say his teachers were delighted that he was choosing to spend his leisure time, head down, revising!

If you want to find out more about how you can help your child survive the pressures at school and college, give me a shout, by going to: http://www.soundspositive.com/contact or ringing 0118 940 6226

Article created / last edited: 6 March 2015