Breathing technique to aid anxiety or stress.

I’m a supervisor to other hypnotherapists and was talking with one of my supervisees earlier this week. We were discussing a very powerful technique called 7 / 11 Breathing which comes from the Human Givens approach. It’s a great technique to help alleviate stress, or when you’re anxious. It also helps to reduce bloodpressure.

As luck would have it, today, there was a blog post on the Human Given website ( explaining the technique. It  not only an explains the how, but also the why. I though it would be a good resource to post here for those that haven’t come across it before.

The only thing I would add to the technique is the idea of getting the client to go into peripheral vision, as a way of ‘fooling’ the brain into thinking it’s not in a stressful situation. Naturally when in flight or fight, our vision is very focused. Doing the opposite has to help alleviate the stress.

Here it is…

How does deep breathing make you feel more relaxed?

With mindfulness now all the rage, many online articles are now advocating breathing techniques as a way to lessen anxiety and control stress levels.

We have noticed that several articles (including this Daily Mail one: Breathe easy to combat anxiety: The mind tricks that can alleviate symptoms) fail to explain how such breathing can lower emotional arousal. The answer is very simple, and once grasped, provides an extra layer of understanding which might encourage more of us to try this simple and effective tool to control our anxiety levels. Breathing techniques are not just ‘mind tricks’, they produce a bodily response that lowers your anxiety in a very physical way.

Deep breathing techniques all have one thing in common, they work by stimulating what is known as the Parasympathetic Nervous System. You may have heard of the ‘fight or flight’ response, the Parasympathetic Nervous System is simply the opposite of that (‘fight or flight’ is the term for the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System) – instead of getting you ready for action, deep breathing activates a natural bodily response that can be described as ‘rest and digest’. Out-breaths decrease your blood pressure, dilate your pupils and slow your heart rate – lowering emotional arousal in the process. Practising a breathing technique a few times a day will lower your overall stress levels in the long term.

It’s important to realise that it’s the out-breaths that stimulate the response, so it stands to reason that a breathing technique with longer out-breaths than in-breaths will be more effective at lowering emotional arousal.

Breathing techniques in which the out-breath is the same length as the in-breath, or during which you focus on your anxious thoughts (as advocated in the above Daily Mail article) are generally less effective at quickly lowering the physical symptoms of anxiety, despite being a good way of being mindful or entering into a relaxed state.

Which breathing technique should I use?

On our Human Givens College training courses, we teach a technique called ‘7-11’ breathing because it’s the most powerful technique we know.

Here is how you do it, and it is as easy as it sounds:

1 – breathe in for a count of 7.

2 – then breathe out for a count of 11.

Make sure that when you are breathing in, you are doing deep ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ (your diaphragm moves down and pushes your stomach out as you take in a breath) rather than shallower higher lung breathing. If you find that it’s difficult to lengthen your breaths to a count of 11 or 7, then reduce the count to breathing in for 3 and out to 5, or whatever suits you best, as long as the out-breath is longer than the in-breath.

Continue in this way for 5-10 minutes or longer if you have time – and enjoy the calming effect it will have on your mind and body. An added bonus of 7 / 11 breathing is that the very act of counting to 7 or 11 is a distraction technique, taking your mind off your immediate concerns.

This 7 / 11 breathing technique for relaxing quickly is the most powerful we know and has been used for thousands of years throughout the world.

Top 5 Regrets of the dying

Bronnie Ware is a nurse. She is Australian and spent several years working with patients who were terminally ill, giving them palliative care.

Over her time working in this field and literally working with people on their death beds, she recorded the top five regrets that they had. It wasn’t necessarily the things they had done, but the things that they hadn’t done during their lifetime.

And it’s not necessarily the things you might expect. Wouldn’t it be amazing if, by knowing this, we can make sure we don’t have any of these regrets when we get to that moment of our lives, looking back.

This is what Bronnie observed as the top five regrets of the dying:

No 1 – ‘I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me’.

Living your life the way others think you should is unlikely to make you happy or feel fulfilled. I’m reminded of the Gestalt ‘prayer’ or statement, which whilst having no direct religious link, sums this up beautifully:

I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I,
and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.

No 2 – ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.

This has much to do with life and work balance, I suspect. Spending time with friends and family, being with their children as they grow. All the money in the world won’t get that time back. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

No 3 – “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings”.

When we are able to express our feelings, the positive knock-on effect is often very tangible. It can feel good to get things off our chests, can’t it? If we can always have a healthy and honouring way of expressing how we feel, we are more likely to have stronger relationships with those we love. Suppressing feeling in order to keep the peace with others, is unlikely to bring peace to you.

At the end of the day, what’s to be scared of? Think about the Gestalt prayer above, and how it too, relates to this.

No 4 – “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends”.

This is an easy one to let happen, isn’t it. Life has a habit of getting in the way. We let petty arguments or disagreements ruin a good friendship. Sometimes it’s just that we don’t realise what we’ve got until it’s gone.

We have to make time for people who are important in our lives. We never know when they won’t be there anymore and picking up the phone is no longer an option. Do it now, while it’s not too late.

No 5 – “I wish that I had let myself be happier”.

So many people don’t realise that being happy is something that you can choose. Change you thinking. Get out of those old habits and patterns. Change what no longer suits you.

It’s not necessarily easy, but it is possible. I work with people all the time to do just that, so if you don’t know how to do it by yourself, find someone who can guide you. Let yourself be happier. After all, you don’t want to be looking back at your life with these same regrets, do you?

Confident Childbirth & hypnobirthing

If you are pregnant, I have no doubt that you will have already experienced, or will at some point in the near future, have some well meaning person tell you of all the childbirth horror stories they have ever heard. These people are trying to help, really they are! They do actually mean well – trying to prepare you for what’s to come, but it doesn’t really help, does it, because it just gets you worrying all the more about the unknown!

However, all the pre-conceived notions of childbirth (if you’ll excuse the pun) that you have about labour and childbirth, should be put to one side. Over the years, I’ve helped many pregnant ladies, using hypnobirthing, to help themselves prepare for a really positive birth experience. By combining self-hypnosis, coaching and imagery, they can manage any difficulties that they may experience as their labour is progressing. That way, when it’s all over, and they look back on the experience, they can be pleased at just how well they coped – not at all like they may have been lead to believe by those well meaning friends, neighbours and relatives – bless them!

I have two children of my own and I really wish I’d had access to some sort of hypnobirthing when I was pregnant. Unfortunately, that was some time ago for me, and I had no idea that anything like that might have been available. I think it would have really helped me to cope with the anxiousness I had about the birth.

As well as running a successful general hypnotherapy practice in London and Langley, Berkshire, I have completed further training that allows me to specialise in hypnobirthing as a Confident Childbirth Practitioner, so that this invaluable and much needed service can be offered to women from the surrounding areas.

There have been numerous studies into the benefits of hypnotherapy during pregnancy undertaken. One five-year medical study was carried out in Wales. It compared the labour and childbirth experience of two groups of ladies. The first group had a number of pre-labour hypnotherapy sessions, whilst the second control group was given only the usual pre-natal support. The study reported that the time for first stage of labour was generally reduced by an average of several hours for the hypnotherapy group when compared to that of the control group. It also said that the hypnotherapy group needed significantly less chemical pain relief. Other studies have noted that having pre-labour hypnosis tends to mean that ladies need less medical intervention (forceps/caesarean etc) and that their babies have a higher AGPAR score. This is all good news, at a time when midwives in the NHS are under more and more work load pressure due to staff shortages.

I find it really sad that mention the word ‘childbirth’ to most people and one of the first things they think is ‘pain’. It doesn’t have to be this way – just because we seem to have expectation in this country that childbirth will hurt! Perhaps it will, but you can learn to manage that in the best way possible for you.

I’d really like to help you have a great experience giving birth to your baby, so why don’t you give me a call and find out more. Or click here to take you to my Confident Childbirth page

Hypnotension comes to Berkshire to help hypertension

I’ve been doing some training recently, as I do,  and I just completed the exam for – ‘passed with flying colours’ apparently, which is nice!

It’s an exciting thing, because passing the exam means I’m the first Hypnotension Practitioner in Berkshire.

So what?

Good question. Well, it means that I have had extra training to help people to naturally lower their hypertension high blood pressure, or hypertension, using hypnosis, NLP and various other psychotherapy ‘tools’.

Did you know that around 90% of hypertension has unknown medical causes. It’s possibly due to emotional stresses, maybe from childhood, perhaps because of beliefs about identity – ‘my mum had high blood pressure, so I’m going to get it too’ – that sort of thing.

The trouble is that GP’s don’t tend to have the time to help with anything but the physical symptoms. They want to get your blood pressure down if it’s too high, and quickly, but they don’t have the time or resources to look into the emotional stresses that may be underlying the problem.

I do. And together I’m helping clients to take back the control around their hypertension. And who knows, that may be the difference that makes the difference. It may be that in a short time from now, they go into their GP’s surgery, and their BP is consistently lower than it’s been in a long time. It may be that in time, their GP is happy to think about reducing their medication. Because that’s the GP’s job, not mine, and we always work complementary to the medical professionals, not instead of.

Anyway, if you’re interested, or know someone who’s hypertension might benefit from a the Hypnotension Programme, get in touch for a chat. I’d be happy to talk about it with you.

Or you can look at my page on hypertension, by clicking here.

Can you trick your ageing body to feel younger?

This was on the BBC website today about how your mind can be tricked into helping you feel younger. I find this stuff really interesting as it helps to confirm what we already know about the mind/body connection and how what we think affects the way we feel. It has much potential in the work that I do with clients, to help them to view themselves differently in many areas of their lives, not just about how they can feel younger. Read on to find out more…

Actress Liz Smith in 1975 garb
Liz Smith – Nana in The Royle Family – found she could walk all but unaided

If elderly people dress, live and talk as they did in their heyday, does this help them feel younger and fitter? Michael Mosley explains how he tested this theory on six faces from the past.

What’s your brain age?

Ugly Mugs game to test mental agility
Is slowing down with age all in the mind?

 To find out, I recruited six celebrities aged between 76 and 88 to live in my science lab – a country house decked out like a 1970s time capsule. The project was designed as a follow-up to an experiment first done by Professor Ellen Langer of Harvard University.

In 1979, Ellen was investigating the extent to which ageing is a product of our state of mind. To find out, she and her students devised a study they called the “counter-clockwise study”.

It involved taking a group of elderly men and putting them into the world of 1959. The question she wanted to answer was, if we took their minds back 20 years, would their bodies reflect this change?

Our experiment had similar ambitions; to take a group of people and make them feel younger by recreating the world they had left behind 35 years ago.

Michael Mosley

There were shag pile carpets to trip over, door ridges to step over and lots of slippery linoleum”

End Quote Michael Mosley on the physical challenges

Our volunteers were actors Liz Smith (88), Sylvia Syms (76) and Lionel Blair (78), cricket umpire Dickie Bird (77), newsreader Kenneth Kendall (86) and former Daily Mirror editor Derek Jameson (80).

They agreed to live in our time capsule house for a week, during which they dressed in 1970s clothes, slept in replicas of their very own 70s bedrooms, watched television from that era, and talked about 1975 in the present tense.

It proved to be a fascinating but draining experience – for both experimenters and experimentees.

From the beginning we made it clear to our volunteers that they would be expected to look after themselves. Research in nursing homes shows clearly that giving residents control over their own lives and their own choices has a hugely beneficial impact on health and happiness.

In one study, residents who were allowed to choose a plant to care for, and when and where to receive visitors, were found 18 months later to be significantly more cheerful, active and alert. They were also far more likely to be still alive.

Another thing about our 1970s house was that it was full of physical challenges. There were shag pile carpets to trip over, door ridges to step over and lots of slippery linoleum. Research on mice has shown that those who live in a challenging environment live nearly 30% longer than those who in a secure but boring environment.

In this spirit, on their arrival, our volunteers were asked to carry their bags up a flight of stairs to their bedrooms. It was the first time they’d been forced into such physical activity in many years, and they were not happy.

But they rose to the challenge. When they started at the bottom of the stairs, a couple were adamant it would be impossible to make it to the top. Watching from a laboratory close by, it was hard to resist going to their aid.

Slowly, step by step, they succeeded. We had made them question whether, perhaps, they were more physically capable than they had given themselves credit for.

Dickie Bird in the 1970s, and right, dressed up in 1975 garb
Dickie Bird’s memory and stamina improved

It was a tough initiation, but a core element of Ellen’s original experiment was the idea that our prior beliefs play a huge part in how we perceive the world, and how we perceive ourselves. By immersing our volunteers in a 1970s world, we were hoping to make them think of themselves as younger, fitter and healthier.

For many of them, the 70s had been a golden decade, a highlight of their careers.

We took Dickie Bird back to Lords to relive the atmosphere. As he walked through the tunnel, onto the grounds, he blossomed before our eyes. Dickie had had a stroke, suffered 18 months of illness, lost confidence and come to think of himself as old. By the end of the week, his confidence was back and he showed remarkable improvement across a range of tests, including memory and stamina.

Professor Ellen Langer, who did original experiment

It’s too easy to have everybody take care of us. But you can be helped to death”

End Quote Professor Ellen Langer Harvard University

  • Tips for carers

Over the week we gave all the celebrities tasks to do, but we also left them to fend for themselves. For up to 12 hours a day, we observed them through our surveillance cameras and, just as Ellen had discovered all those years before, we saw great changes.

Half way through the week, Liz Smith took 148 steps with the aid of just one stick. For someone who had not walked without both sticks since her stroke – and who often relied on a wheelchair – it was a real breakthrough. She was no longer willing to be limited by the physical constraints she had imposed on herself.

At the end of the week we put our guinea pigs through the same rigorous battery of physical and psychological tests we had at the beginning. Memory, mood, flexibility, stamina and even eye sight had improved in almost all of them.

The results were not uniform, but in some cases they shed up to 20 years in their apparent biological age.

It made a compelling case for Ellen Langer’s argument that opening our minds to what’s possible can lead to better health, whatever our age.

Wounds ‘take longer to heal when you are anxious or stressed’

In my approach of Cognitive Hypnotherapy, we have long used it for helping the body healing itself. This article explains a link with stress and anxiety and the body taking longer in the healing process. It would stand to reason then, that being able to deal with stress and anxiety in a positive way, would be condusive to better healing. Read on and let me know what you think…

by That’s Fit Staff (Subscribe to That’s Fit Staff’s posts)
Jun 10th 2010

Categories: Mind and body


Woman putting on plasterScientists have discovered that stress and anxiety can make it harder for wounds to heal.

Researchers inflicted small ‘punch’ wounds on healthy volunteers whose levels of life stress were gauged using a standard questionnaire. The wounds of the least anxious participants were found to heal twice as fast as those of the most stressed, and changes in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol reflected the difference in healing speed.

Professor John Weinman, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, has previously shown that healing can be enhanced by psychological help aimed at easing emotional stress.

He says: “These studies focus specifically on how the life stresses people experience can impact on their ability to recover from different types of wound, such as those caused by surgical procedures and by different medical conditions, including venous leg ulcers.

“I hope that these findings can now be used to identify psychological interventions to help speed up the recovery and healing process.”


This quote was shared with me, by a friend – thought I’d do the same…

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future. ”
Lewis B. Smedes

And it made me think. We don’t forgive for the benefit of the person being forgiven, but more for our own benefit. Holding on to a negative emotion about someone, is like taking poison yourself, and hoping that it will do away with the other person. It won’t work, and only serves to limit your own life and it’s possibilities.

Hypothetically, if I were to think about someone who has hurt me deeply in the past, and that person hurt me so much that I no longer have them in my life. I might consider them my enemy, and go over the things they did that hurt me so much in the first place. Every time I go over this same old stuff in my head, I’m re-igniting those old feelings of hurt and anger. It’s almost as if I am re-living the experience each time I think about it – as if it is happening again, every single day. Meanwhile, the chances are, the other person has moved on with their life, and you hardly come to their mind. They probably don’t revisit any of the old events as you do, and might even be secretly pleased (if they really are your enemy) that they were able to have that amount of control over you.

How much better would it be if I could forgive them? Certainly it won’t change my relationship with them if they are no longer in my life, but it will change my relationship with myself. It would allow me to be who I can really be, without the limits that anger and hurt can often put on us.

Imagine what your life could be like, if you could forgive someone for your benefit, not theirs, and get in touch if you would like to know how I could help you achieve that.

Common to ‘underestimate how many calories they are eating’ when dieting

This article from The Telegraph ( re-iterates what I say to people that come to see me for weightloss. Dieting doesn’t really work, because if we don’t address the relationship that we have with food first, once we stop dieting, and start eating ‘normally’ again, the weight will start to pile on again.

I aim to help people get a better relationship with food, and then they don’t tend to need to overeat anymore, and their weight naturally stabilises over time. It’s great to be able to do this and know that you will never need to be on a diet again. Read below to find out what the article says…

Most dieters vastly underestimate how many calories they are eating, according to a survey of GPs.

Published: 7:30AM BST 17 May 2010

Data from 10,000 slimmers and 200 doctors found 87 per cent of GPs believe dieters are in the dark about how much they actually eat.

Meanwhile, more than nine out of 10 people (92 per cent) see their dieting attempts end in failure, with 18% ending up weighing more than when they started.

Only around one in three (32 per cent people take up more exercise when they are trying to lose weight, while only 23 per cent check food labels before buying.

Most (91 per cent) never weigh out food or control their portion size.

Overall, 90 per cent of GPs said people needed to change their eating habits to lose weight and that losing excess pounds can be as difficult as quitting smoking.

Two thirds (66 per cent) regard overeating as a form of addiction, while 73% of GPs said fad diets do not work, despite 51 per cent of Britons having tried them.

Nutritionist Dr Chris Fenn said: ”People need to adopt a personalised approach to weight loss tailored to their own situation, challenges and strengths.

”They need to understand the causes of their weight gain and the barriers to weight loss, including their relationship with food.

”People are often ill-prepared to lose weight and underestimate what is required.”

The survey was commissioned by Shape. Smart, which makes diet products.

Locus of Control

I have had a number of discussions recently with clients and their difficulties around taking responsibility for their own behaviours/decisions etc. It stems around where their locus of control is, either externally or internally.

At the moment there is a great trend towards letting the Universe provide – ask, and it shall be given you. The trouble with this way of doing things is that the locus of control is external, ie it lies outside of you.

I prefer to think that the Universe may provide things – and it may not, but I don’t have to sit and wait for it to happen. I can be doing much to help things happen for me in all areas of my life. This gives me an internal locus of control – I’m in charge.

Now, I’m not saying the things always go the way I would like them to. I’m a fellow struggler through life, the same as everyone. So, of course, there is a downside to having an internal locus of control – who can we blame if it doesn’t go the way I want?

Well here’s the thing. I could try and blame others for my faults and failings, couldn’t I? Afterall, it then gives me every reason to continue making mistakes and not taking any responsibility. It’s someone else’s fault then.

However, I choose to take responsibility for both my mistakes, and my successes – they are mine too. And that’s the up-side, isn’t it.

But I also choose to see mistakes, not as failings, but as learnings. As far as I’m concerned the only mistakes are the ones we don’t learn from. And I intend for my whole life to be a chance for me to learn whatever there is for me to learn, that means I progress.

So, where are you going to put your locus of control? Is it outside, giving someone else the power over you? Or are you going to take responsibility, have an internal locus of control that gives you the power over your own path?

The Universe might provide, but you could be a long time waiting if it doesn’t.