Deborah Pearce Hypnotherapy Deborah Pearce

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy in and around East Devon

07939 840 788

Welcome to my blog

News and thoughts about hypnotherapy, neuroscience and the power of the subconscious


3 surprising ways hypnotherapy can help you manage your weight

(And it doesn’t involve putting you off eating chocolate).


There are plenty of misconceptions about hypnotherapy.  Some people fear they are handing control to the therapist.  Others worry that they’ll end up squawking like a chicken.


And people often misunderstand how modern hypnotherapy works with weight management.  They mistakenly believe that the therapist can magic away their weight without them making any effort.


Sadly, that’s not how it works.  Success with weight management, or any change you want to make, depends on your commitment to the process.


But the good news is, if you really want to change your habits around food, hypnotherapy can be hugely helpful.


Here are 3 surprising ways hypnotherapy can help you:


Hypnotherapy is highly effective at reducing anxiety and stress


It turns out that there is a direct link between long-term stress and obesity.  For some people, high levels of the stress hormone cortisol contribute to them becoming obese.


Stress and anxiety are the most common reason people seek help from hypnotherapy.  By helping clients change their response to stressful situations and develop a calmer approach to life, cortisol levels fall, making it easier for the client to lose weight.


In fact I’ve had some clients who sought help for general anxiety and ended up losing a few pounds after a few sessions, even though they hadn’t flagged weight up as an issue.  They hadn’t consciously made any changes to their diet, but because they were less stressed they had lowered their cortisol levels and they lost weight.


Hypnotherapy can improve the quality of your sleep


What’s that got to do with your weight?  Well, it turns out that there are various hormones that have a direct influence on how hungry you are, how much you need to eat before you feel full, and whether you are drawn to unhealthy snacks.


The levels of these hormones vary depending on how much sleep you have.  If you have too little sleep, the hormones conspire to make you want to eat more.


If you’re getting less than 7 to 8 hours sleep, you are going to have to work harder to overcome the urge to eat more than is good for you.


By improving the quality of your sleep, hypnotherapy can help you have a more helpful balance of these hormones. 


And of course, lack of sleep is a major factor in developing anxiety and stress.  So, by improving your sleep, you stress hormone levels are lowered.


Hypnotherapy can help you change unhelpful habits


We all develop rituals and routines that don’t necessarily serve us well. 

      • It may be that you have developed a habit of buying a chocolate bar or bag of crisps when you fill up with petrol. 

      • You may have a glass of wine with every evening meal, even though you are barely aware of drinking it.

      • You may fill your cereal or soup bowl to with half an inch of the brim, even though modern bowls are often two or three times the size that they were 20 or 30 years ago.

Hypnotherapy can help you identify small changes that you can make to adjust your eating habits.  We do this by helping you to imagine what you would prefer to be doing.  It may be that you want to reduce your portions, or avoid snacks, or prepare your work lunch the night before.

We help you make these changes one small step at a time.  Habits are created through repetition, so by practising a new routine over and over, it becomes your new habit.

And of course, because your stress levels are lower and/or your sleep has improved, you are in a better head space to make the changes stick.

Reconnecting with what’s important

One of the best things any therapist can hear from their client is ‘I’ve got the old me back’.


It means the client has cleared away recent, unhelpful thinking habits.  Because ultimately, who we are and how we experience life is down to the thoughts we allow to occupy our heads.


There’s a strange feature of our behaviour that means that we can get stuck with redundant responses.  It may be that, at some time in the past, we needed to be on the alert due to a bullying boss or an undermining partner.  We would have adapted our behaviour to meet the challenge.


If the situation continues, the new behaviour becomes the norm.  We then respond automatically in the same way, long after the initial stressor has gone.


Another strange quirk is that we can take a recent negative period in our lives and imagine that it has always been this way.  An example would be taking a phone call from an irate customer just before leaving work for the day.  The call leaves you feeling upset or anxious.  When you get home you tell your partner you’ve had an awful day.  You judge the whole day based on the last 10 minutes.


It’s the same in life and we can forget that we used to be happy, carefree, optimistic souls. 


So, our job as Solution Focused therapists is to help our clients draw a line under how they are, or how things have been.  Instead we encourage them to think about how they want things to be.


That can be a bit difficult at first.  After all, they’ve been in the habit of dwelling on how difficult things are.  So we use Solution Focused techniques to help them picture what life would be like if it was better.  Their preferred future.


And then the magic starts to happen. 


They may say things like ‘I’d be laughing more’, ‘I’d be doing things I enjoy’ or ‘I’d be immersed the moment’.


And that’s just great, because pretty soon they’ll be able to say ‘I’ve got the old me back’.


Headspace and opportunities

I’ve just glanced back at the blog post I wrote at the beginning of the year.  I finished it by saying:

So, what’s in store for us in 2020?  I am a big fan of Professor Richard Wiseman’s, and often quote his research about luck and opportunities: we make our own luck by being in a good head space, to be able to see opportunities when they present themselves.

As Richard Wiseman’s work shows, life is what we make it. And so much of that is down to how we respond to the events in our lives.  Wishing you all the best for a fun-filled, eventful and successful 2020, full of opportunities.


Well, of course, it’s a little more challenging than usual to be in a good head space right now, but there are steps we can all take to lift our spirits and identify those opportunities.

Here are my current strategies for keeping a clear head:

    1. Limiting exposure to negative reporting in the media, including social media.  Catching up with just enough news to find out what the latest advice is and then switching off, works a treat.  This is soooo important, and many of my clients have said they find this a very useful approach. 

    2. Keeping in touch with friends and family.  It’s great that we live in an age where technology enables us to see one another as well as simply phoning.  During the last month my much older sister up has got to grips with second-hand smart phone and access to WhatsApp, the neighbours and family members have set up groups on WhatsApp to share funny stories, mind-bending quizzes and general fun stuff, and we’ve introduced the mum-in-law to Zoom.  Awesome stuff.
    3. Getting things done.  When the lockdown started, I joked with clients that the nation will have the tidiest gardens and garages ever. Sure enough, that’s happening.  I’ve even cleared out all my email accounts and the home ‘office’ is the tidiest it’s been in years.  Mighty satisfying.  How about you?

All of these activities have helped to keep me in a good head space (for most of the time, anyway).

So what about those opportunities I was so optimistic about?  Well, they are still there, of course.

    1. Many employers have switched their staff to online working and finding that it’s going surprisingly well.  I saw yesterday that even Barclays is questioning the need to occupy huge office blocks in the future.  That means less commuting and less pollution. And more time at home for the workers, as they are not having to travel. Wow!

    2. For anyone with more time on their hands, it’s an opportunity to do those projects they have been putting off for years.  Sorting through your photo collection, or taking cuttings of your favourite plants.  Personally, I have taken the plunge and ordered some fabric to make a dress.  Been meaning to do that for yonks. 

    3. It could even be an opportunity to start a new business venture, if that’s been on your wish list.  There’s plenty of time to do research online and prepare the groundwork for a launch post-lockdown, or even during lockdown.

    4. Maybe you want to learn a new skill.  The internet is awash with Youtube videos and online courses, about everything from learning a new language to growing Bonzai trees.  Now is a great time to exercise your brain cells.  In fact, learning a new skill has been proven to delay the onset of some degenerative brain diseases.

    5. This is a great opportunity to take time out for rest, relaxation and valuable reflection.  Allowing yourself time to smell the flowers and listen to the birds.  Maybe even do some meditation.  Thinking about what’s really important in life and planning what steps you can take to create your ideal life.

However you are adapting to the current situation, remember that it’s OK to be not OK, and it’s OK to be OK.  Most of us are swinging between the two, and that’s OK too.

Why everyone is so anxious right now

It's obvious, of course.  There are the very real hazards of becoming ill, penniless or running out of daily essentials.  These are stressful times, so it’s no wonder our brains are ramping up the fight or flight response, resulting in symptoms of anxiety.


But there’s more going on here.  For a start, our brains do not like uncertainty.  A 2016 study into the relationship between levels of uncertainty and our stress response, demonstrated that all measures of stress (sweat production, pupil dilation, cortisol levels) were at their peak when the uncertainty was highest.


In fact, uncertainty is worse than knowing something bad is going to happen.  If your train has been cancelled and you know you are definitely going to miss an important interview, that’s actually less stressful than if the train is running late and there is a chance you may just make it in time.  If you fear you are about to be made redundant, the chances are your stress levels are higher than your laid-off colleagues’.  Being made redundant removes the uncertainty. 


So, one of the factors in our current situation is the lack of certainty.  No one knows whether they will succumb to the virus, how long the social and workplace restrictions will remain in place, and what the world will be like in 6 months’ time.  It’s no wonder anxiety levels are high.


And then there’s the social aspect.  As stated in a 2013 paper from the Economic and Social Research Council:


Social isolation has long been known as a key trigger for mental illness, while supportive relationships with friends, family and neighbours are beneficial to the mental health of individuals and the population. Other forms of social interaction such as volunteering are also known to boost wellbeing.


Of course, the other major factor in our current situation is the limits placed on face to face contact.


So, what’s to be done?


Well, there are a number of steps we can all take to protect our mental wellbeing:


1.  Recognise that this situation is not going to last forever.  We will get on top of the virus, businesses will re-open and we will be able to get on with our lives. That much is certain.


2. Recognise that dwelling on problems makes them seem much worse. So endeavour to limit the amount of time you spend talking about, reading about or viewing negative aspects of our current situation. Focusing on them is not going to change the outcome, it will just make you unhappy.  Limit your exposure to finding out what you need to know and then get on with doing something more enjoyable.


3. Use technology to keep in touch with friends and family.  This is so important.  If you are not technically savvy, there is always the phone, but if you have access to Skype or Facetime, now is the time to arrange virtual get-togethers.  As well as informal chats, sign up to group activities.  The internet is awash with novel ways to be sociable, from online pub quizzes to board games, remote relaxation classes to dance lessons.


4. Take action.  Get things done.  It could be something as simple as tidying the airing cupboard, shredding old receipts or sorting through your DVD collection. You will be rewarded with feel-good hormones that will lift your spirits.


5. Feed your brain with positive inputs.  If there’s nothing that appeals on TV, then listen to some podcasts or watch some TED talks.  Choose your subject well to make sure it’s nicely uplifting.  With thousands of topics, there is bound to be something you enjoy.


Above all, remember, things will get better.



Looking inside the human brain

Have you ever wondered how scientists know what goes on inside the human brain?  Of course, it’s a very complex organ and there is still so much to find out, but modern technology is allowing us to see inside working brains.


We’re all aware that different parts of our brain tend to govern different functions, eg sight, hearing, muscle movement, speech.


In the past, the main ways scientists could tell what part of the brain affected which functions, was either to conduct awful experiments on animals, or to study people who had brain injuries or brain-affecting illnesses such as strokes. They could observe the effect of the brain damage and, after the person died, they could see which areas of the brain had been affected.


There are a number of famous cases of this, notably Phineas Gage, a US railway foreman who was badly injured in an accident.  He was tamping down some explosives into a hole with an iron rod, when the explosives ignited, blowing the rod through the front of his skull. Miraculously he survived, but his personality completely changed, leading early neuroscientists to the discovery that the frontal lobe of the brain is linked with personality.

In the early 50s, in an attempt to cure a Henry Molaison of debilitating epilepsy, a neurosurgeon removed areas of the patient’s brain, including hippocampi and amygdalae.  The surgery worked to the extent that the epilepsy stopped, but Henry’s memory was severely impaired.  Devastatingly, was totally unable to form new memories.  He lived the rest of his life in an institution and was studied for the after-effects of the operation. Although he could not form new factual memories, it seems he was able to improve his skill in certain tasks.  This tragic case contributed to scientists understand the link between brain function, learning and memory.  

Another famous case demonstrated the brain’s amazing ability to rewire itself after being damaged. 65 year old poet and scholar, Pedro Bach-y-Rita, had a disabling stroke in the late 50s, which paralysed half his body and left him unable to speak. His son George took care of him after his initial rehabilitation in hospital. At first his father was pretty helpless, but George instinctively began to teach his father basic skills, as if he were a baby, first getting him to crawl, then playing childish games to improve co-ordination and dexterity. Eventually Pedro made a full recovery and a year later he returned to teaching full time.  He died of a heart attack hiking on a mountain at an altitude of 9,000ft, seven years after his disabling stroke.


George’s brother Paul, a renowned neuroscientist, arranged for a post-mortem on his father.  The findings were amazing, 97% of the nerves that join the cortex to the spine were destroyed, hence Pedro’s paralysis. The work that George had done rehabilitating his father had caused his brain to rewire itself to compensate for the devastating destruction. Incredible!


These days neuroscientists don’t have to wait for people to die to see which part of the brain does what.  Scanning and imaging techniques have enabled them to observe a working brain in action.


Electroencephalography - EEG

The earliest scanner was an EEG which measures electrical brain activity, sometimes referred to as ‘brainwaves’,  close to the surface of the brain. EEGs are often used to observe patterns of sleep and to diagnose epilepsy and other conditions.


Positron Emission Tomography (PET)

PET scans measure glucose (sugar) levels in the brain, showing the extent of nerve-cell activity in different regions. A special dye containing radioactive tracers is introduced into the blood stream.  When different areas of the brain or body are active they use more fuel, oxygen and glucose, which can be detected by the scanners.  A video image of the brain shows which areas are using more fuel.  PET scans are useful in identifying general areas of activity and are sometimes used in detecting Alzheimer’s.


Computed Tomography (CT or CAT)

CT scans use special X-rays to take a series of images from different angles which are then combined to form a 3-dimensional image of the brain.


Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

MRI uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to create detailed images of the brain. The magnets affect the nuclei of certain atoms in the brain (usually hydrogen atoms). They do this by disturbing the direction of rotation of the nuclei.  As the rotation returns to its original position, a radio signal is emitted.  The radio signals are used to produce detailed static images of the brain’s structure.

fMRI is a series of MRI images taken less than 1 second apart that are subsequently analysed.  fMRIs show what happens in the brain when we perform certain tasks. 


We are so fortunate to live in an age where it is possible to unlock the mysteries of the brain in action. fMRIs in particular have transformed our understanding and are used to determine what happens in the brain moment-by-moment when we perform certain tasks.