Friday, 22 March 2019

Sheep tracks and neuroplasticity


In NLP and the Lightning Process we talk a lot about how our brains and bodies works. It’s interesting that the inner processes that get us into trouble, are often also exactly what we need to get us back on track, living our lives well. One of these is the brain’s ability to change in response to how we use it. This is technically known as “neuroplasticity”.

My clients know that I often tell this story about sheep tracks as a way of describing neuroplasticity. Maybe it’s because I so enjoyed my chances to work with sheep on farms in my early 20s! Then one of my Lightning Process clients who is a farmer, Maria Greaves, sent me this photo which reminded her of my story. So I promised I would write a blog about it. Thanks Maria, I have finally written it!



Sheep tracks

If you are feeding sheep in a field every day, you might find that the path and the feeding place become muddy and churned up. So you decide to put up a fence to stop the sheep from going onto the muddy area, and feed them somewhere drier and more suitable instead. To begin with, the sheep won’t know where to go to find their food, but sheep are pretty clever when it comes to food and they will work it out pretty quickly! But there won’t be a track yet going to that new place, so to begin with they will be pushing their way through grass and heather. However, when you consistently give them food in this new place, it won’t take many days before there is a clear sheep track that goes there.

And the old muddy track? When it is no longer used it is surprising how quickly the grass will grow and the track will naturally disappear. Just as the mud of Glastonbury Festival returns to grassy fields again every year!

Neuroplasticity

Our brains work in just the same way. Our nerve cells connect with each other to form neural pathways, and when we use a pathway it gets stronger, easier to go down, and more automatic. But when we stop going down those pathways they fade away. Your body doesn’t like anything to be wasted, so the materials are reused to build new pathways. (You can see new neural pathways growing in brain scans.) So you can retrain your brain as quickly and easily as those sheep tracks change, by “feeding your sheep” where you want them to go.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Our blueprint for health and happiness



I saw my osteopath recently, and we talked about the osteopathic idea that there is a blueprint for life in our bodies; that we are all born with the ability to be healthy and happy. This includes the ability to restore the balance when it goes out of kilter. Things get in the way of that knowledge, but underneath our body know how exactly how to do it. We just need to learn how to remind our body of what it already knows! This is an idea that also underlies the Lightning Process (because Phil Parker first trained as an osteopath).

I have started to play with this idea of a blueprint in my imagination, knowing the power of our thoughts to influence our bodies. I imagine myself getting very small and travelling into my body, carrying this “blueprint for life” (like a map or plan for health and happiness). In my imagination I go to each cell in my body and give it the blueprint, then watch as it remembers what its role is in the big plan, and transforms.

Here I get very creative! Sometimes I imagine that for each cell it is as if the sun has come out and it is relaxing into the warmth, glowing with calm energy. I see the cell communicating well with other cells in the body, all working together to create health and happiness. Sometimes I choose specific cells: for example, I might want to bring calm to any cells involved in the fight or flight response, if there is no real emergency going on; or pour energy into cells that need that. It is all about coming back into balance, which our body has a natural ability to do.

Sometimes I see the genes on the chromosomes in each cell switching on or off so that they can respond in a healthy way (the science of epigenetics has proved that this happens). Anything that needs repairing gets repaired. A housekeeping team goes through and decides what needs clearing out (toxins, dead cells, cells with mistakes that don’t fit the blueprint, viruses…..) and takes them off to be composted and transformed into something useful. My imaginary story changes every time.
My compost bin!

If you decide to have a go yourself, have fun with it! Remember there is a lot of evidence that our body responds to every thought we think. If we think about lunch our stomach rumbles. And our brain lights up in the same way on a scan whether we are looking at an apple, or imagining an apple. So your body will be responding to these imaginary thoughts too. We do housework in our homes and repair things that have gone wrong, why not do the same for our bodies? And it’s a good way to take a break, or something to do while you are drifting off to sleep …..

If you are curious and want more information about using the power of your thoughts, I recommend David Hamilton’s work, especially his book “How your mind can heal your body”.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Being good enough


Do you recognise this set of events?

1.       You write a long list of things to do in your day,
2.       Postpone things you enjoy or really want to do for yourself, because you haven’t finished your list,
3.       Beat yourself up at the end of the day for not getting it all done,
4.       And feel overwhelmed.

This is a sign of perfectionism. A common misunderstanding about perfectionism is that it is about doing things really well; which sounds like quite a good thing to aim for, doesn’t it? However, it is actually about setting yourself an impossible target, and then beating yourself up when you don’t achieve it. It tends to have one of two results: you end up pushing and exhausting yourself trying to achieve the impossible, or you don’t even begin to do something, because it all looks too overwhelming.

Perfectionist patterns vary from person to person: for example trying to be the perfect parent, trying to meet everyone else’s needs and requests (now THAT’S an impossible task to set yourself!), wanting everything you write to be perfect.

Society encourages this pattern. What is expected of you at work can be completely unrealistic. Schools reward getting things right, and working hard. Social media gives the impression that you need to have the “perfect” life or body. Interestingly, I reckon that about 70-80% of clients that come to see me run this pattern somewhere in their lives, which shows how common it is.

But what gets lost in all of this? You! The things you love doing, space and time for yourself, living your life fully, and enjoying the present moment. So to make room for these vitally important things, you need to get really good at:
·         Knowing what is really important in your life and prioritising that.
·         Being kind to yourself.
·         Making mistakes and that being OK (after all, do we really like it if our friends are perfect?!).
·         And being good enough.

I know about this because I used to have plenty of perfectionist patterns. I have made huge changes with these since I did the Lightning Process, but from time to time I still notice and change unrealistic expectations that I have of myself, other people, and the world. The other week I was enjoying a walk on my own and having a chat with myself (as I like to do from time to time!) and I started playing round with putting “good enough” after anything that crossed my mind. For example;
                “My life is good enough”
                “The world is good enough”
                “My family and friends are good enough”
                “My body is good enough”
                And, of course, most importantly, “I am good enough!”

I felt quite different about all sorts of things as I did this. And it must have had a powerful effect, because that night I woke up with a poem in my head (not something that has ever happened to me before!):

             Nowhere to go,
Nothing to do,
I’m good enough
And the world is too.

               

Friday, 6 April 2018

The science behind ME / Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Ever wondered how it is possible for the body to get stuck in a long term illness such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or ME? Here is an infographic from Phil Parker which explains some of the science which lies behind this. Similar things happen with a range of other physical illnesses.


Saturday, 10 March 2018

How to live life the easy way



There is an easy way and a hard way to live life; and interestingly, the difference between these two has surprisingly little to do with external circumstances.

So often we assume that we need to change the external situation to be happy. We think “If only I had a better job, different government, more sun….. THEN I would be happy” If being happy involves changing the government, our job, other people, or the weather, we are setting ourselves some very big obstacles to getting there! And then one of two things tends to happen. We either put loads of energy into trying to change something that is very difficult to change; or, we give up and assume we can never be happy.

The key to living life the easy way is to identify what it is we can change, and what we can’t. And then direct our energy into the things we CAN change.

When you want something to be different in your life, try asking yourself:
“Can I actually change this?”
If not, “What DO I have influence over?”

Generally we have most influence over ourselves, our choices and actions, and our state of mind. We have very little influence over other people, and trying to change other people tends not to work out too well! And as our influence over the government, world events etc tends to be small, we will get further in changing things if we focus on what WE can do rather than worrying about what others are not doing.

You might think you don’t have influence over your state of mind, but you do! Here are two simple ways of discovering this.
·         Move, do some exercise, go for a walk, do something fun; and check out how differently you feel afterwards.
·         Think about someone you are fed up with, and look for 3 good things about them. How does that change how you feel about them?

There are many things in life we have no control over, but we ALWAYS have control over how we respond to them.



Friday, 9 March 2018

Insights into changing pain

There is a revolution going on in our understanding of how chronic pain works, and therefore how we can retrain our brains to resolve it. In this video Professor Lorimer Moseley gives us fascinating insights into this breakthrough.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oji2mfcjisk

What you focus on matters


This video and article both show how choosing what we focus on helps us to shape our lives.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCnfAzAIhVw Reticular Activating System

http://www.heysigmund.com/why-what-you-focus-on-is-what-becomes-powerful-why-your-thoughts-and-feelings-matter/