Two questions you can ask yourself to help improve your life

As we all know, the internet is full of people telling us that our lives are too busy and stressful, and offering suggestions or solutions to help us feel better.

This is all very well, and many of the options out there can indeed be helpful. However, there is often one major obstacle to overcome before we can start to make any kind of changes, or to feel better – recognising that we’re not actually okay!

It might seem obvious as you sit and read this; we know we have a millions things to get done so we feel stressed and if we’re lucky we know some strategies to lower that stress, right? But more often than not, this isn’t what happens. What actually occurs, as we go about our lives, is that we are so entrenched in what is required of us minute to minute, that we don’t consciously notice how we’re feeling. We often don’t notice the feelings of stress or anxiety or frustration or (insert negative emotion here!) because we simply don’t have time for it. We don’t have time for it that is, until it has built and built and built – until it becomes so strong that our conscious minds can’t possibly ignore it any longer. This is when we either let it out into the world (possibly misdirecting it at those around us) or decide to ‘push it down’, allowing it to do us further harm.

So how do we get from a state where unconscious stressors are building and harming us, to one where we can start to deal with them effectively? The answer is that we make a choice to stay a little more aware of what’s going on inside us, by asking ourselves two questions:

How am I feeling?

What do I need?

Asking ourselves these questions  a few times a day acts as a way to self- regulate. When we intermittently  ‘check-in’ with our internal selves this way, we are ensuring that whatever’s going on inside us can be addressed as needed. So ask yourself ‘How am I feeling?’ and see what comes back to you. It could be something straightforward like ‘tired’or ‘hungry’, or it could be far more complicated. Answers to this question could be long and multi-faceted – ‘I’m stressed out, overwhelmed, exhausted, confused, irritated and angry without knowing who I’m angry at!’.

No matter what the answer to this first question, by asking it, you develop a new awareness of what’s going on for you. This is the first step to doing something about it and therefore avoiding the negative and harmful build up I mentioned earlier.

Once you have some kind of answer, it’s time to ask question two. So ask yourself ‘What do I need?’ Again this answer might be straight forward; ‘I need a rest’ or ‘I need some food and drink’. It could be something a little more complex ‘I need some reassurance about ……’ or it could of course be very complicated ‘I need help dealing with….. and a way to manage my feeling of……….’

In these cases it’s important to think about who or what you have around you that might be able to help and support you. But of course if what is going on for you feels just too challenging, then it might be worth seeing if a professional therapist could help you (if you are in the South Wales area you can contact me on 07792621569 to talk about the possibility of a therapy appointment).

But no matter how big or small the stressors in your life, if you develop this new positive habit of regularly asking yourself these two questions, and following through on the answers  you get, you can start to gain a new sense of control of yourself. This can then extend out into multiple areas of your life, allowing it to truly start to feel better.

 

 

Confidence or Extroversion?

Recently, I was talking to a client about what she would like to change about herself. Like a huge number of people I see, she answered “Be more confident”.

“So what would that look like for you?” I asked. Again, like many people she said she wasn’t really sure, so I suggested she think about the qualities in others she associated with confidence and to describe those. Not surprisingly, she described a person who was loud, enjoyed being the centre of attention and was able to speak easily in front of large groups of people. “So is this what you would like to be like?” I asked, and she replied “Not really”, as she appeared to be puzzled once again.

The problem here is that she was confusing feelings of internal confidence with external extravert-like behaviour. Many people who are seeking an increase in confidence believe that to have this, one must be able to feel comfortable acting in a loud, outgoing way. This is not the case!

Being loud or “outgoing” does not necessarily equal feeling confident on the inside, nor does society’s perception of an individual as “quiet” necessarily indicate a lack of internal confidence or self-worth.  In fact there are many people in the world whose behaviours contradict their feelings, for what seem to them to be a perfectly valid reason – they act loud and extraverted precisely because they don’t feel confident on the inside.

Returning to my client for a moment; once I pointed out this concept, it seemed obvious to her straight away. So, as a person who has a naturally more introverted personality type, what should confidence look like to her?

How can one be a confident introvert?

Again, this may sound like a contradiction in terms – it’s not. Being confident is actually all about how you feel about yourself and your abilities on the inside. If you imagine yourself in any particular situation and experience the thought of “yes, I can do that” or “that would be okay for me”, that is confidence. For those with a quieter disposition, this does not have to be an internal ticker-tape parade, there is no need for giant “Yay Me!” voices going off in one’s head – just a calm, solid internal voice that says “that’s okay. I’m okay. I can do this.”

Calm, steady confidence.

So, if you, like my client want to grow you confidence, take comfort in the knowledge that your version of confidence doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s. Your confidence can be about a quiet strength and stability. An inner self-assuredness that is just for you. You only have to share it with others if you want to.

And if you would like to know how to achieve this level of confidence, why not get in touch with me at New Steps Therapy on 07792621569, or keep your eye out for my Self-Confidence hypnosis download on the website and appearing soon on itunes.

Relaxation Exercises for Children

Relaxation exercises help children to manage stress, anxiety and worries. They can help distract the child from the concerning thoughts they are experiencing and allow physical tension to be released, enabling the child to feel mentally and physically calmer. Four important relaxation exercises are deep breathing, muscle relaxation, self-talk and guided visualisation.

Deep Breathing
Long, slow deep breaths help children control their breathing, sending messages to their brain that it is safe to relax. Ratio breathing is a great way to help children learn how to relax effectively. Ask your child to breathe in through their nose while you count slowly to 3, followed by breathing out through their mouth for a count of 6. The length of the breaths can vary depending on their age and ability, but the basic idea is that the breath in should be half the length of the breath out. So you could ask the child to breathe in for 2 and out for 4, in for 3 and out for 6, or in for 4 and out for 8. To be truly effective, help your child to breathe deeply down into their tummy, so that they can see their belly move in and out. For younger children, try asking them to lie down, place a soft toy on their tummy and ask them to breathe in and out so that they can see the toy moving up and down.

Muscle Relaxation
One of the best ways to get the muscles of the body to relax is to tense them first. So starting at the top of the body, ask your child to scrunch up their eyes and face and then let them go as loose and floppy as they can. Ask them to repeat this process for their shoulders and arms and hands, tummy and legs and feet. It can be helpful to demonstrate this process to your child first, so that they understand what a relaxed body looks like. For younger children you can demonstrate using soft toy that is naturally floppy, such as a Beany Baby or Angelina Balerina.

Self-Talk
A helpful way of interrupting the intrusive worries and anxious thoughts going round a child’s head is to give them something calming to say to themselves. Children often find it easiest if this is something simple and direct. So for example you could ask them to say silently in their head the phrase “I’m calm and relaxed” in a slow, calm internal voice. This will help on the positive feelings they want to achieve, rather than the anxiety.

Guided Visualisation
Finally, work together to help them imagine a calm, happy scene. Ask them to close their eyes and use a soothing voice to ask them details about what they are thinking about. Ask questions about what they can, hear, feel and smell – the more sensory information you can include in the visualisation, the more effective it will be.

Hypnotherapy for Children on the Autistic Spectrum

Many children on the Autistic Spectrum often display very rigid or black and white thinking patterns and seem to lack the ability to engage in imaginary play or imagination-based thought processes.

Hypnosis on the other hand, often involves engaging ones imagination to visualise scenarios that are of therapeutic benefit. At first glance then, one might be forgiven for assuming that those individuals on the spectrum would not be able to benefit from hypnotherapy.
However, this is not the case.

Since a lot of the techniques utilised in hypnotherapy are designed to increase feelings of calm and relaxation, it can, in fact, be extremely helpful in managing the anxiety that often goes hand in hand with ASD. Strategies such as learning to breathe deeply, or to relax ones muscles, give the child the opportunity to focus on one particular sensation. This allows them to “turn down” or even shut out some of the other external sources of stimulation that may constant bombard these children.

A skilled therapist will be able to utilise information given to them regarding any specific sources of over stimulation, that could be exacerbated by being asked to focus on the wrong area. For example, a child may not be asked to concentrate on relaxing the muscles in their feet if they are often distressed by sensory input from the seams in their socks or tightness of shoes.

For those on the spectrum, the hypnosis process can be adjusted to compensate for a difficulty in thinking about “pretend” scenarios by using a technique known as the Rewind. Here, the child’s memories and past experiences, rather that imagined scenarios, are used as the basis for therapeutic intervention. This allows these individuals to utilise a more concrete thought process to facilitate emotional change.

For example, the child who is anxious about being in situations with many other people might be asked to remember a specific time when they felt this way, whilst focussing on feeling calm and happy. The hypnotic state allows for a shift in the emotional memory of the experience, and the therapist will then be able to facilitate the process of generalisation, allowing similar, future situations to be accompanied by the same new, positive feelings.

In addition, if the child has any particular fascinations or obsessions, the therapist can use this to help engage with the child on their level and to facilitate the therapeutic process. So if the child has a fascination with, say, sports cars, and they are having trouble eating certain foods; the therapist will use a variety of techniques to build a link in the child’s mind suggesting that the feared foods are, in fact, as fantastic as their favourite sports car.
This is just a brief overview of how hypnotherapy can be utilised to help children on the Autistic Spectrum, so if you are wondering if it may benefit your child, contact a hypnotherapist in your local area. If you are based in South Wales or surrounding areas contact me at ask@cardiff-therapy.co.uk.

Have a look at this published article on fear of surgery I was asked to contribute to as an expert in dealing with anxiety:

“Having surgery is never a pleasant experience whether it’s for medical or aesthetic purposes. It’s common for a sterile and unfamiliar hospital environment to induce stress in patients, however, there is a difference between nervousness and a fear of surgery becoming a psychological issue. If your fear of surgery is causing extreme anxiety there are a few things you can do about it. We asked three therapists to give insight into the physical and mental effects of stress, and way to treat anxiety.

What are the symptoms of extreme fear of surgery? How do I know if I am just nervous or if I’m suffering from anxiety?

“It needs to be understood that anxiety and nerves are normal, we are supposed to be anxious or nervous in some situations and that is healthy. It’s when that anxiety crosses the line of becoming an irrational fear or phobia.”
Alan Piper, Wise Blue Owl Therapy Centre

“Patients who are more relaxed prior to anaesthesia are shown to have fewer complications during surgery, and subsequent recovery. In this context, strong anxiety, as an emotion isn’t particularly useful.
Anxious thoughts are usually nothing more than ruminations about the future; a time that neither exists nor is relevant; when little or no influence is available. And it is perhaps that lack of ‘control’ which causes most anxiety. The ‘what if’s?’
If we must engage with ‘what if’s’, be sure to include “what if it turns out okay?”
Fear, on the other hand, is present moment emotion and is primarily involved with the reality of a clear and present ‘threat’ to our wellbeing. Now, arguably, depending on what has been discussed with your surgical team, there may be a threat to be considered. Be sure that the answers to questions you have asked before surgery are exactly what has been said! This means repeating back any ambiguity you may have.”
Bob Brotchie, Anglia Counselling

“The difference between feeling nervous or anxious is determined by:
a) How strongly you physically feel the fear
b) The thought patterns associated with the fear
c) The behaviours this creates

Perhaps, when thinking about your upcoming surgery, you have a mildly increased heart rate and butterflies in your stomach, you start thinking ‘this feels a bit scary but it will be ok’ and you cautiously proceed through the pre-op process. If you’re exhibiting these feelings you’re probably nervous.
If on the other hand, you feel dizzy, hot and cold and are about to vomit/need the toilet, then this is anxiety. Possible thought patterns may be ‘What if something bad happens? I can’t do this!’ and resulting behaviour pattern might include exhibiting resistance to the surgery by finding excuses not to do it.
If you are experiencing a level of anxiety that is causing you distress it may be worth seeking help for this through therapeutic interventions.”
Gemma Greenland, New Steps Therapy

Where does fear of surgery come from? What are patients’ most common fears?

“Most phobia is due to some kind of past bad experience or learning. Either from what someone has said in the negative sense or what a person has experienced in a negative sense. That is what starts the irrational fear or phobia off.”
Alan Piper, Wise Blue Owl Therapy Centre

“Less clear causes are often rooted in childhood. As children, we absorb information about the world around us and try to make sense of it the best we can. However, children don’t always get this right; sometimes we create internal beliefs that may not be factually accurate. For example, perhaps, as a child, you might have known an elderly relative who had surgery to try and prolong their life, which was unsuccessful. The child’s brain processes this to mean: ‘They had surgery and then they died, therefore surgery equals death.’ This message gets internalised and so even as we grow up and can logically assess this as inaccurate, there is still an emotion-led belief that this is the case.

Many other subtle experiences can lead to incorrect subconscious beliefs that result in fear. Maybe your mother experienced the difficult birth (C-section) of a younger sibling, and you lived through the strain at home that this can put on a family? Perhaps you had a friend at school who had an operation resulting in them being away from their friends for a long time, which you internalised as a negative experience? The possibilities are varied and numerous. The good news is that all of this can be resolved via therapy.“
Gemma Greenland, New Steps Therapy

What can I do as a patient to relax before surgery?

“In order to cope with reasonable fear it is helpful to acknowledge this emotion when it is present. The old adage is: ‘Name it to tame it.’
I am frightened … yes … it is true… and I can choose to find acceptance for this, for now.
With any and all these emotions, the challenge is learning to find new perspectives in order to relinquish our false sense of control – and trust in the outcome. This isn’t just a nice thing to do, as I mentioned earlier, it can actually influence the surgical procedure itself!”
Bob Brotchie, Anglia Counselling

“There are many techniques available to help you relax. Here are my top four:
1. Deep breathing Inhale through your nose, hold the breath, then exhale through your mouth. It can help to add a count to the breaths, for example, 4-4-4 breathing means to breathe in for a slow count of 4, hold it for 4 and breathe out for 4.
2. Muscle relaxation exercises Starting at the top of your head, focus on releasing and relaxing the muscles throughout your head and face, followed by neck and shoulders, then chest and arms, and so on, all the way down through your body, to the tips of your toes. A good way practice this is to relax a new muscle group each time you exhale during your deep breathing.
3. Positive self-talk Positive self-talk is a way of reassuring yourself, allowing you to feel safer and calmer. Choose a sentence or two that you can say to yourself, silently in your head that you would help you feel better, if you heard it from someone you trust. Perhaps it’s “I’m safe, everything’s okay”, or maybe “I’m calm, relaxed and safe”.
4. Visualisation Finally, picture in your head a place that makes you feel happy, relaxed and safe. Many people choose tropical beaches or cosy rooms with roaring fires. Pick what is right for you and imagine yourself there.
Techniques one and two relax your body, three and four calm the mind. When used together they work effectively to ease anxiety.”
Gemma Greenland, New Steps Therapy

How is fear of surgery treated with therapy?

“When a client and therapist collaborate, they can explore and understand what makes this situation overwhelming for the patient. Depending on the patient, and the skill and scope of practice of the therapist, one or more therapies may be employed for optimal results. These are likely to include exploration of the client’s past, how resilient they are ‘emotionally’, teaching relaxation techniques, and strategies for managing the thoughts associated with fears.
Ultimately, I want the patient to feel empowered over what they currently fear. That they feel (rightly so) they have a choice, and with all the information required available, they can safely choose surgery, and all that is associated with the process for recovery from whatever has brought them to this place in time.”
Bob Brotchie, Anglia Counselling

“Hypnosis is used to address the underlying subconscious fear. Here, the client is taught to relax body and mind, before listening to hypnotic suggestions designed to eliminate the fear. Often the client is asked to imagine themselves undergoing surgery whilst experiencing a strong feeling of safety and calm. From this, the subconscious mind is able to associate surgery with new, positive feelings, therefore removing the old fear response.
The client is also taught to identify their unique anxiety reactions and, based on these, shown how to use the relaxation techniques discussed above, and a number of others, in a way that is quickly effective.
Psycho-education and counselling are used to teach the client what anxiety actually is, and that it is nothing to be afraid of in itself, to allay any specific concerns through talking about them and to address any past incidents or connections that may have triggered the fear in the first place.
Through this powerful combination of therapeutic methods, the fear is removed on both a conscious and subconscious level, leaving the client feeling safe, relaxed, willing and able to undergo their surgery.”
Gemma Greenland, New Steps Therapy

Gemma Greenland
She is a therapist at New Steps Therapy in Cardiff (www.cardiff- therapy.co.uk). Her qualifications include an Honours Degree in Psychology, a Diploma in Hypnotherapy, a Diploma in Psychotherapeutic Counselling and a Masters Degree in Play Therapy.

You can view the original article at https://www.junomedical.com/en/how-to-deal-with-fear-of-surgery

How Hypnotherapy can help you this Stoptober

This #Stoptober, if you feel that you are ready to become a healthy non-smoker, hypnotherapy can allow you to achieve this in just two sessions!

In the first session your therapist will help you identify the reasons you want to stop smoking as well as any practical or psychological barriers that might be standing in your way. They will then help you focus on the positive changes you will see and deal with whatever might need to be overcome.
For example, do you want to stop smoking but feel that you would be losing that regular 5 minute break away from the stresses of work or family? Don’t worry! This first session is designed to help you find ways of maintaining the good things that smoking used to give you, whilst eliminating the unhealthy and damaging habit.

Once you have worked together with your therapist to focus on the positives and find new alternatives, you will be truly ready to make this permanent change for the better. So the next step will be deciding when to have that very last cigarette, before your second session. You will be asked to make it a very conscious and deliberate act, telling yourself this is your last one, before destroying any last remaining cigarettes and paraphernalia, in an almost ceremonial way.

Then you will be ready to have your stop smoking hypnosis session (yes, it only takes one!). During the session you will be encouraged to relax your body and imagine yourself in calm, happy surroundings in order to achieve the desired state of relaxation that is hypnosis. Then your therapist will give you hypnotic suggestions designed to tap into what motivates you most as an individual to stop smoking. This second session only takes around 30 minutes and after this you will no longer be a smoker.

One last thing to note – during these sessions you may not ever hear the words “stop” or “quit” smoking. This is because a key motivator in the process is helping you feel that you’re not losing something,  or having something taken away. You are gaining something. You are gaining the money you will be saving by not having to buy cigarettes, and of course, most importantly, you are gaining your health and that of those closest to you. So instead of hearing “quit” or “give up”, you’ll hear things like “you’re becoming a healthy, wealthy non-smoker”.

Don’t tell me to calm down!

We all know that when someone close to us is showing signs of stress, anger or frustration our first instinct is often to suggest they “calm down”.  Usually this is done partially for altruistic reasons – because we want the person to feel better and partially because their behaviours are beginning to cause us distress, and we want this to stop.

The problem with this, as most of us also know from our own experience, is that hearing someone say this to us tends to have the opposite effect. Why is this? Well, when we experience stress, anger and frustration, these feelings are both accompanied and exacerbated by the sensation of a lack of control; either over the situation, ourselves, or both. When we feel this lack of control and someone tells us to calm down, this is often experienced as the person talking to us trying to take away or trivialise our emotions, leading to an ever-more distressing lack of control. This is why we may answer (in our heads if not aloud!) “I’ll be angry if I want to be angry!”

So what’s the alternative? First of all it is almost always helpful to reflect the person’s feelings back to them verbally, for example “that looks like it’s really frustrating for you”. This allows the individual to retain ownership of their feelings and the control this brings.

Another useful tactic is to try and think of someone or something that has a calm nature or disposition that the individual in question relates to, and suggest that they attempt to emulate that person. This strategy works particularly well with children. Let me give you an example from my own experience – my son is currently very into Doctor Who, so I asked him which Doctor did he this was the most calm? Once he had decided which one that was for him (the 5th Doctor), we came up with the strategy that every time we could see him getting worked up we would not tell him to calm down, but instead ask “What would the 5th Doctor do?” This gave him the all-important time and space to take a step back and think, both about how he felt and his behaviour, which allowed him to start the process of calming down. We could actually visibly see it happening as he would start to say “Well if it was x then he might do y etc. etc. By the time he’d thought it through he had almost completely calmed down.

So next time your child, or someone close to you is struggling with stress or explosive feelings, try suggesting this technique and see what you and they get out of it.

How to Overcome a Phobia of Dogs

Recently I have been seeing a number of clients who are struggling with a phobia of dogs. Hypnotherapy can be a very effective way of overcoming this fear, as you (or your child) are enabled to visualise a safe, happy dog, whilst experiencing the feelings of calm and control we go through during hypnosis. By feeling these positive emotions at the same time as visualising the thing that had previously created a fear response, the brain learns to remove the old negative associations and replace them with new, positive ones. In other words, the brain connects the presence of dogs with feelings of calm, control, safety and even happiness!
In addition to hypnosis there are other techniques you can do for yourself to help banish this fear. What you are aiming to do with all techniques is teach your brain that there is no danger when you see a dog. When the brain understands this, it will no longer switch the body into emergency “fight or flight” mode and you will stop experiencing the unpleasant physical effects that can occur in this mode, such as fast heart rate, shaking or feeling hot and cold (to name a few) . One of the simplest techniques I teach clients, in order to accomplish this is:
Every time you see a dog and nothing bad happens, count it…..
To start with of course, you may feel that those uncomfortable feeling of fear you experience are a bad thing. But what we are talking about here is genuine danger. Imagine this scenario – you are entering the park and you can see a small dog nearby, perhaps on a lead, perhaps not. You feel that initial rush of fear as you notice it and it walks closer. Maybe you move away from it a little, but sooner or later it walks past you and is soon gone. Ask yourself “did anything bad happen? No” “Did I get hurt? No” “So, was I in danger just then? No. So that’s one. One dog today, where nothing bad happened”.
If you continue to do this, every time you are anywhere near a dog, then each and every time you count a number, you are showing your brain that it does not need to process this situation as danger. As the brain begins to accept this change, the fear reaction will gradually weaken, until it disappears completely!
This process can work wonderfully for children too. Explain to the child that right now, it’s like there is a big red “DANGER” button in their brain that gets pressed every time they see a dog. But by counting every dog they see, where nothing bad happened and they didn’t get hurt, they can teach their brain not to press the button when they see a dog. Then they will stay feeling safe and happy around dogs.
The caveat here is of course that this should be taught alongside good dog safety. For example that the child should not attempt to stroke an unfamiliar dog without checking with the owner if it is okay to do so first.
Often a combination of hypnotherapy and cognitive techniques can be the most effective at dealing with fears such as this, so check out my website for details, and, in the mean time, if you, or your child are frightened of dogs – try counting them!

Managing Your Angry or Aggressive Child – ACT

Parenting a child who is struggling to control their behaviour can be one of the most challenging experiences one can face. The frustration, upset and confusion this causes for everyone in the family is often accompanied by a feeling of helplessness and lack of control for both parents and child. This can be because parents and children often feel they are being controlled and even held hostage by the child’s feeling. Younger children can also become frightened by the strength of their feelings and this in turn intensifies the resulting aggressive behaviour.
Because these children feel overwhelmed (and then of course so do the parents!) a clear structure of how to bring themselves “back down” can be invaluable to all. One such structure is called ACT.
ACT is a 3 step model that allows the child to feel they have been understood before being given appropriate boundaries and alternatives. ACT stands for:
A –acknowledge feelings
C – communicate limits
T – target acceptable alternatives
Start by verbalising that you understand the child’s feelings or wants. This allows the child to feel they have been heard and that their feelings, even the difficult ones, are important to you. Doing this in a calm, empathetic voice often helps bring down the intensity of the child’s feelings and therefore behaviour.
Next, set a very clear limit that is specific to the situation in front of you. When a limit is set there should be no doubt in the child’s mind of what is and what is not allowed in this situation. This clarity allows the child to take responsibility for their next action, which gives them a much needed feeling of control over themselves.
Finally, the child may not actually know different ways to express their feelings, so offering more appropriate alternative behaviours. Doing this each and every time helps the child learn and then remember how to express what they feel in a way that is better and safer for everyone.
An example of how this works may present as follows:
Billy wants to watch his favourite tv programme but it’s his sister’s turn to watch. You remind him of this and he immediately starts screaming at you and trying to kick you and his sister. Your response might be “You’re really angry at me and your sister and you want to kick us, but we are not for kicking. You can go into your room and hit your pillows instead”.
A note of caution – sometimes it may be necessary to alter the order of the first two steps. If a child is performing violent or aggressive acts the first priority may be to ensure the safety of all involved by setting the clear limit, followed then by the acknowledgement of feelings.

Creating a Positive Inner Voice

So, once you’ve worked on externalising your inner critic (see previous post), it’s time to start replacing those harmful, negative messages with helpful, positive ones. The first step in doing this is acknowledging that you do indeed have the capacity to create and notice positive things about yourself – that you do have a positive inner voice. So, decide on a name for this voice – perhaps “my helpful voice” or “my positive voice”. Whatever you chose, it’s important that you begin the name with the word “my”. Why is this? Well, using the word “my” will carry with it the internal message that this voice is indeed yours, it is part of you. This in turn will strengthen the idea in your mind that you are a worthwhile person, who is made up of many positive attributes. It also avoids externalising the positive voice, which of course, since this voice is a good thing, you want to avoid.

Once you have labelled your positive inner voice, it’s time to start putting it to work. The most obvious time to do this is straight after you have quietened the inner critic. So for example, say your inner critic had just given you the message “You’re not good enough at that”, firstly you externalise this by telling yourself “that message wasn’t me, that was the inner critic and it’s wrong”. The next stage is the use of the critical word “because” – you say to yourself “it was wrong BECAUSE and then finish that sentence. So, if the message had been “you’re not good enough at writing blog posts” the counter message from your positive voice might be “Inner critic, you are wrong because I am using all the skills and tools I have to create the best blog post I am capable of, and because I’m doing that, it is good enough”.

Notice how the reply focussed on the achievement of the goal? That’s because this is the first stepping stone of this process. As you practice this and it becomes gradually more natural and comfortable, you can start to extend this idea – to bring out the big guns, so to speak. This second stage involves working on linking the achievement of targets to an understanding of your own self-worth, in and of itself. Put another way, working toward the belief that you are “good enough” just because you are you. That being you is enough.
To achieve this, one needs to extend the positive message to include this idea. So in the above example the full message might sound something like this “Inner critic, you are wrong because I am using all the skills and tools I have to create the best blog post I am capable of, and because I’m doing that, it is good enough, and THEREFORE I AM GOOD ENOUGH”.

Doing this will take time and is, like most changes we make to ourselves, a process. To start with it will probably feel weird and uncomfortable, but persistence is the key here! The more you use your positive inner voice, the quicker it will start to feel less awkward, followed by acceptable and eventually comfortable and normal!