Combat stress; think happy thoughts!

As Mental Health Awareness Week is approaching at the end of the month (21 - 28 May 2012), I thought I would write a post to highlight how hypnotherapy can help you cope with stress by generating positive images of the future.

A recent survey shows that 3 million people in the UK suffer with an anxiety disorder. The good news is that recent research into the relationship between what we think and how we feel could help you think yourself happier.

It seems that worrying thoughts and imagining unpleasant situations can produce physical stress in the body. A study in 2007 found that performing guided imagery of moderately unpleasant situations results in physical responses such as accelerated heart rate, faster breathing and sweating.(1) It seems that imagining unpleasant events can activate the brain’s fear network and result in an activation of the sympathetic nervous system.(2)

If we ever needed proof that worrying is not good for us, well here it is! Just by imagining these unpleasant situations, it triggers the "fight or flight" response as if it were actually happening to you at that precise moment, resulting in all those unpleasant physical sensations which are associated with anxiety. The good news is that the converse also seems to be true; imagining positive events can make us feel better.

A large part of my role as a hypnotherapist is helping clients imagine their preferred future, how they want things to be rather than how they don't want them to be, which as well as helping them feel happier, also enables them to make the changes necessary to make that future become a reality.

The validity of this approach would seem to be supported by research which demonstrates that the benefit of generating images about positive future outcomes may not be limited to mood but extend to subsequent behaviour.(3)

I use Solution Focused techniques in combination with hypnotherapy to help my clients replace unhelpful, negative thinking patterns with more beneficial thought processes. By thinking more positively, their anxiety levels reduce enabling them to cope better with life’s challenges.

So there you have it! To combat stress; think happy thoughts!


(1) Sebastiani L, D’Alessandro L, Menicucci D, Ghelarducci B & Santarcangelo E L (2007), Role of relaxation and specific suggestions in hypnotic emotional numbing, International journal of psychophysiology, Vol.63 pp.125-132

(2) Kosslyn S M, Ganis G & Thompson W L (2001), Neural foundations of imagery, Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, Vol.2 pp.635-642

(3) Pictet A, Coughtrey A E, Matthews A, Holmes E A (2011), Fishing for happiness: The effects of generating positive imagery on mood and behaviour, Behaviour research and therapy, Vol.49 issue 12 pp.885-891