Tis the Season to be Grateful, Next Month We’re Supposed to be Jolly

Saying GraceWhat’s the difference? If you’re jolly, aren’t you grateful? According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the author of THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude can Make you Happier, while there are many things that we can be happy about, the uniqueness of gratitude is that we realize that we have received a gift that we don’t deserve. It’s “the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life” and secondly “recognizing that the source(s) of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.” We can only be grateful to others, not to ourselves, so it brings a sense of humility along with the gift (4-8).

Offering grace at the family table, Bart Simpson prayed,

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

Donald Trump stated,

“All of the women on The Apprentice have flirted with me-consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected” (148).

Gratitude is knowing, at a deep level is an appreciation that what we have received was “freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity, or love” (7). The International Encyclopedia of Ethics defines it as “the heart’s internal indicator when the tally of gifts outweighs the exchanges” (6).

Emmons’s research found that when people took the time to write in a gratitude journal, not only did they feel more appreciative about things that they normally overlooked, but they reported–exercising more, sleeping better, experiencing few physical symptoms and feeling more optimistic about their lives. They were more likely to make progress toward their personal goals and to have offered emotional support to others.

Other important healing benefits are that-

Gratitude counters our natural adaption to pleasant events.

Gratitude mitigates toxic emotions and states like envy, resentment, and regret.

Gratitude strengthens social ties.

Gratitude increases one’s sense of personal worth.

Gratitude has a direct link to cardiovascular functioning.

In his intro to the workshop that I attended at Loma Linda Medical School, Emmons described it like this-

“You feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance-you are at harmony with yourself, with others and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy vitality and flow. Your senses are enlivened—every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more texture. Surprisingly, you fell invigorated at time when you would usually have felt tired and drained. Things that usually would have irked you just don’t “get to you” as much. Your body feels regenerated-your mind, at last, clear. . . At least for a period of time, decisions become obvious as priorities clarify and inner conflict dissolves. Intuitive insight suddenly provides convenient solution to problems. . Your creativity flows freely. In this state of inner harmony and deep fulfillment, you experience a sense of greater connectedness—to other people, to a larger whole, perhaps to God, or to a higher aspect of yourself. (From Gratitude as a Way of Life: Insights from the Science of Well-Being, Emmons, 2005)

Heading into the challenges of the holiday season, let’s remember to give ourselves a “gratitude intervention.” Positive results were observed with subjects who only journaled once a day, but here’s the perspective of GK Chesterton-

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play. . . and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, and swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in ink.”

Go To Sleep To Lose Weight

With all the advice about exercising and moving more to lose weight, it seems contradictory to read advice to sleep more, but a number of studies associate short sleep times with obesity. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discusses one that was conducted at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. It found that “patients who had sleep times less than seven hours had an increased likelihood of having obesity . . . when compared to a reference group of patients sleeping eight to nine hours.” The researchers’ theories to explain this include the simple observations that people who are awake during more hours a day have more hours to eat and people that are tired tend to exercise less. They also mention the “reduced leptin and elevated ghrelin levels” that occur with sleep deprivation.

According to Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, RPSGT, a neurologist and sleep specialist at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic in California, even after one bad night’s sleep the level of the hormone leptin, which controls hunger, decreases. The level of grehlin increases. It is a hormone, produced by fat cells, that causes you to feel like you need more fat calories and increases hunger.

Stuart Quan, MD, from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, found that teens who sleep less than 9 hours have increased risk of being overweight five years later.”

“In a 2007 study published in Sleep Medicine Review, researchers from the University of Chicago found that ‘partial sleep loss may increase the risk of obesity and diabetes via multiple pathways.’ After one night of sleep deprivation, the body has an impaired ability to handle a glucose load.” (WebMD)

Sleep specialist Richard Simon, MD, quoted at the National Sleep Foundation website, states that “because the psychological manifestations of fatigue, sleep and hunger are similar, as adults, we sometimes confuse them—we tend to eat when we’re actually sleepy, because we think fatigue is a sign of hunger.”

Eve Van Cauter, PhD, terms sleep deprivation “the royal route to obesity.”

It’s no wonder that it is, given that according to John Medina in Brain Rules, “sleep loss means mind loss. Sleep loss cripples thinking, in just about every way you can measure thinking. Sleep loss hurts attention, executive function, immediate memory, working memory, mood, quantitative skills, logical reasoning ability, general math knowledge.” Eventually it even affects fine and gross motor movements.

So, of course, we are in no shape to make the best food choices, move our bodies very fast, or even to do the math to count calories or remember how much we’ve already eaten!

Why Hypnosis?

Recently a friend asked me why, with all the cutting-edge modalities available nowadays, I decided to get trained in something so old as hypnotherapy.

Well, the major reason is because it works! My starting with my undergraduate studies in psychology, I have explored and experienced many types of traditional therapy from a clinical psychologist, an MSW, a pastoral counselor, and a psychoanalyst and all of it was helpful, but my greatest, most immediate breakthroughs came from a few sessions of hypnosis. Friends and family had similar results.

Besides seeing its effectiveness in creating life changes, more information is coming out about why it works, some of it written by “cutting edge” authors. Molecular biologist Bruce Lipton, PhD, in the Biology of Belief, explains that “if an energy vibration in the environment resonates with a receptor’s antenna, it will alter the protein’s charge, causing the receptor to change shape”. . . so “biological behavior can be controlled by invisible forces, including thought, as well as it can be controlled by physical molecules, like penicillin. . .” We are not locked into our DNA, change at the core, cellular level is possible.

A study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, “. . . that energetic signaling mechanisms, such as electromagnetic frequencies are a hundred times more efficient in relaying environmental information than physical signals such as hormones, neurotransmitters, growth factors, etc.” (81)

In addition to our genetic makeup and how it is affected by the environment through energy fields, much of how we live our day to day lives is simply due to programming that was instilled in us as children. Lipton points out that young children’s brains are operating at the same low frequencies (theta and alpha) utilized in hypnosis to create deep suggestible states. So, we all have taken in, “downloaded”, thousands of messages whether they were appropriate for us or even accurate. All of that programming was absorbed without being filtered through the critical mind, which develops later.

It makes sense, then, that to release some of those old messages and patterns that keep us in a rut, returning to the deeper levels of consciousness would facilitate the change we (our higher level of consciousness) desire. He states, “The biggest impediments to realizing the success of which we dream are the limitations programmed into the subconscious. These limitations not only influence our behavior, they can also play a major role in determining our physiology and health. (xiv)” he goes on to say that “positive thoughts have a profound effect on behavior and genes, but only when they are in harmony with subconscious programming” (xxviii).  We, hypnotherapists, could actually term ourselves as “subconscious behavioral therapists.”

Lipton provides this quote of Gandhi-

Your beliefs become your thoughts
Your thoughts become your words
Your words become your actions
Your actions become your habits
Your habits become your values
Your values become your destiny.

Positive thinking can help, prayer and meditation can help, willpower can help, but for those of us who could use even more help, hypnotherapy can provide an extra lift out of the old rut, into a new direction and destiny.

Dream Yoga: Meditation for the Lazy

What if you could meditate only during the time between hitting the snooze button on your alarm clock and getting up in the morning? And what if this meditation was certain to be more powerful and deep that any of your standard “insight” meditations?

In fact, the Tibetan Buddhists have numerous practices that follow along these lines. The goal of many of these practices is to reach a state in which one can observe the “natural light” of the mind free from thoughts and attachments. The time before you have fully come into wakefulness is also a time before you have resumed all the trappings of selfhood.

One simple method is to focus on a symbol, say an “X”, as resting right on the inside of your forehead. This will help you stay half-awake and half-asleep letting you persist in a dream-like state while alert enough to observe the nature of the mind.

You can use this practice either first thing in the morning (which I recommend), during a nap, or at night when you go to bed. The result is a feeling of freedom, peace, and detatchment. One simply feels less constrained, having seen first hand a limitless and infinite space.

For more information on these techniques read How to Practice by the Dalai Lama or Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu.