What is affirmational havening?

The past few years have created feelings of unease and stress for many of us. Life was turned upside down almost overnight and, despite the uncertainty, many people focused their attention on their mental health – specifically, mental health at home. With a very simple strategy, one so easy that children can do it too, people were finding that they could calm themselves and wash away anxiety. How were people doing this? Through a soothing technique, that you can do anywhere, called havening.

When my husband experiences stress, he can often be found rubbing his face with his hands. I asked him why he does this, and his reply was simple; “It calms me down.” Therefore, without myself or him realising, he has been using a havening technique for years and reaping the benefits. Perhaps you have been too?

What is havening?

The havening technique can transport you back to a time when you felt a positive emotion and experience that you wish to experience again, through the power of distraction, touch, and eye movement. The goal of havening is to reduce anxiety and distress associated with negative memories. 

The creators of the technique, Dr Steven Ruden and Dr Ronald Ruden, believe that the use of therapeutic touch can help treat mental health symptoms by changing pathways in the brain linked to emotional distress. The palms of our hands have special nerve endings, which, when you put pressure onto them, generate delta waves in our brains.

Delta waves are known as calming brainwaves, which typically occur during sleep, helping to soothe anxious feelings. The healing powers of touch have also been linked to increased levels of serotonin, a hormone that helps bring about relaxation and aids our detachment from upsetting memories or experiences. 

Just as hypnosis involves a client experiencing a sleep-like state thanks to the release of delta waves, self-havening techniques can also help to create a haven, where you can heal and make positive changes. 

The most common havening touch techniques include:

  1. Rubbing the palms of your hands together in a circular motion – just like you would when washing your hands.
  2. Giving yourself a hug – by placing the palms of your hands on your opposite shoulders and then rubbing your hands down your arms to your elbows. 
  3. ‘Washing’ your face – by placing your fingertips up high on your forehead (within your hairline) to then let your fingers fall down your face to your chin – this is the technique that my husband has been doing all these years!

You may find that you already do one or all the above when you find yourself in a distressing and stressful situation.

Affirmational havening

Alongside the process of havening, a new phenomenon called ‘affirmational havening’ has evolved. Affirmational havening is a new psycho-sensory technique that quickly and effectively helps to produce states of calm, confidence, and resiliency by combining affirmations with havening techniques. Incorporating a havening technique alongside affirmations helps to put those positive thoughts into the brain’s memory centre, the hippocampus. The havening technique helps store positive affirmations as operational memories so that the individual can operationalise these positive, powerful aspirational thoughts whenever they wish.

Affirmations are something that we use all the time, and they can be positive or negative – these positive or negative affirmations create our inner self-talk. Clients I work with are typically very aware of their inner dialogue and, often, it is how they talk to themselves that has brought them to therapy. An activity that I encourage my clients to do (and now I encourage you to do) involves spending time becoming more aware of your inner self-dialogue. Find space and time to notice how positive or negative your inner self-dialogue is in the context of your tone of voice – noticing any statements that you make about yourself, the people, and the world around you.

And we’re all likely to have a mixture of both positive and negative affirmations going on inside our minds. For example, are you someone who tells themselves in an encouraging tone, positive affirmations such as, ‘I can do this’, ‘go for it’, ‘I am lucky’ and ‘I am strong’? Do you create visions of yourself succeeding and remaining positive? Or perhaps, more often than you’d like, you notice negative affirmations such as, ‘I can’t do this’, ‘don’t bother, you will fail’, ‘I am stupid’ and ‘I know my luck will run out…’ alongside visions of things going wrong and failing?

How can affirmational havening help me?

Focusing and reinforcing positive affirmations to ourselves can have a dramatic effect on our lives and alter how we feel, think, and behave. By focusing on positive affirmations, we are giving ourselves the best chance at succeeding and enjoying life.

Did you know that affirmations are within our control? You are in complete control of how you talk to yourself and from this moment forward you can take control. Speaking to yourself positively will alter the way you visualise and imagine yourself to be – ultimately improving the quality of your life. Creating the best version of yourself starts from within, and speaking positively to yourself influences your behaviour, which then ends up acting as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Simply put, if you tell yourself that you can do it and that you won’t give up, you are more likely to succeed and remain motivated to achieve a task or goal.

To help you make a positive change today, affirmational havening is a wonderful practice that centres your attention. Havening techniques can be taught through a trained havening practitioner, embedded into hypnosis scripts by your hypnotherapist or simply through self-havening, wherever you may be. 

Self-havening has become very popular during recent years, sparking interest from therapists and mental health practitioners to explore how havening techniques can help treat mental health problems. 

Combining affirmations with a havening technique allows an individual to explore, generate and begin to ease in their chosen affirmational ideas. When an individual wants to change ‘I can’t’ to ‘I can’, combining the affirmational change with a havening touch technique strengthens the change and makes it even more effective. Remember, touch helps increase those soothing delta waves within our brain, allowing negative thoughts or beliefs to be replaced with more positive ones. 

A self-havening technique to try

Here’s a little affirmational self-havening technique for you to try at home:

  1. Activate the specific emotional state you wish to optimise. For example, if you want to increase your self-esteem, imagine or remember what that feeling has looked like and felt like in the past.
  2. Then begin self-havening by applying a havening touch technique to either your face, arms, or palms in repetitive circular motions.
  3. Focus on the positive healing emotional state and repeat the words that describe how you feel. For example, ‘I am beautiful’ or ‘I am good enough’.
  4. Enjoy the moment and use your imagination to expand and amplify that feeling within you. For example, imagine yourself at a social event feeling confident or imagine yourself presenting in front of your work colleagues.
  5. Finally, express the words that come to mind, anchoring the emotional state. For example, ‘I’ve got this’, ‘I can do anything’ or ‘this feels amazing’ and ‘I feel good’.

Havening is a new technique, so there isn’t a great amount of research on the topic. However, early studies do suggest that havening can be a useful technique when addressing symptoms of anxiety, trauma, and other mental health issues.

It will be exciting to see how havening techniques evolve and where they get adopted within the treatment of mental health issues. For now, though, why not give aspirational havening a try? Go away and see whether the power of touch along with positive affirmations enhances your life. 

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Written by Cat Randall

Cat Randall is a freelance writer and newly qualified hypnotherapist.

Written by Cat Randall

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