Just as being present matters in hypnotherapy, so does gratitude. Gratitude is the simple act of actively considering all the things going on in your life that you can be grateful for. It might sound inconsequential, but I'm going to explain to you exactly why gratitude matters in hypnotherapy.
Fight Or Flight: A Primitive Instinct Within Us All
In our day to day lives, as a survival requirement, the brain will automatically be scanning for danger. In primitive times, these dangers would have been seen as perceived threats to our survival, and the body was and is, finely tuned to respond. These responses would have been surges in stress chemicals in anticipation of either flight or fright. When this happens, the digestion closes down; glucose is pumped into the bloodstream ready to supply the cells of the muscles; the heart rate would increase, and the body would be psyched to respond, the mental faculties sharp, vigilant and alert. This response is the exact opposite of the body at rest, where the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged with slow steady breathing, calm, rest, repair, lack of focus, digestion, healing and restoration of equilibrium.
It is acknowledged that our ancestors had perhaps a more physical and more challenging life than we have now. However, the connections within the teamwork of the tribes, the sharing, cooking food, and the balance of rest and recuperation, meant there was more downtime between the extremes of activity. That despite many dangers, primitive man and woman felt part of a connected process which had benefits to him/her both socially, physically and mentally. In turn, this would encourage a steady flow of serotonin which would have enabled him/her to cope better, be happier and be more tolerant of pain.
So, where does gratitude come into all this?
In our lives now we have a lot more incoming data to process. Indeed, we may end up feeling that we cannot process or do tasks fast enough to keep up with demand. As we screen our surroundings and take on more and more tasks, sometimes trying to do a few at once, we become increasingly stressed and anxious.
A sense of overwhelm or even panic can be evoked because the sympathetic nervous system is being geared up for 'flight or fight' for longer and more extended periods of time, putting us under a continual state of arousal to 'perceived' threats. As such, we cannot switch off. We may become agitated, looking for more things to resolve. We may start to pace the floor, get nervous habits like wringing our hands or chewing gum or grinding our teeth, be irritable or have angry outbursts. This is because the excess energy created by the body for running away or engaging in a physical fight is not released from the body but stored, a bit like a firmly compressed spring. This nervous energy will then start to seep from the body in behavioural signs, such a tapping the feet, loss of appetite, inability to sleep and even IBS type symptoms.
Taking the first step Towards Gratitude
Perhaps the first step is noticing to differentiate between what is a real danger, and what is a perceived threat. Gratitude helps with this process. One cannot be highly strung and deeply grateful at the same time. Part of looking at “what’s good?” is to switch off the “what’s bad?”
In starting to notice “what’s been good?” in your day to day life, you can begin to regain a state of calm and perspective. During our solution focused hypnotherapy sessions, this practice will be encouraged. Gratitude is a habit which can have profound effects on stress and its accumulative negative behaviours.
How to Practice Gratitude
Practising gratitude involves getting a notebook and a pen and every evening before sleep taking 5 minutes to write down all the things you noticed that were good that day. At first, this can seem challenging as it can seem 'trivial' to start writing about a nice carrot you ate when you may be facing illness, redundancy or had an argument. However, this is why gratitude matters. In noticing the delicious carrot, you may then also notice the bird song, and then you may even notice the softness of your jumper and the lovely smell of your toast.
As this list grows, you are effectively noticing all the ways in which your life is a blessing right now, and this place of gratitude calms the system down and allows you to shift perspective. In this way, your problems may seem smaller and more manageable, you may feel happy and content despite challenges, and this skill will start to permeate your day to day life. So, rather than feeling stressed when the coffee machine at work is broken, instead, as you walk to buy a cup locally you notice that that the blossoms are out on the trees.
Gratitude gives us the option to find 'what's been good' within challenging situations and this builds emotional resilience and calmness which will enable us to sleep well, eat well, feel focused in our decision making and peaceful with others. That is why gratitude matters in hypnotherapy. If you'd like to find out more or to book a session with me, please contact me today.
Do take a look at my YouTube channel for a 10-minute relaxation video for inner stability.