Neuroplasticity and hypnotherapy
Neuroplasticity is a word used to describe how the brain can rewire itself. This is essential knowledge when we look into the efficacy of hypnotherapy because, through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), scientists are able to verify that the neural pathways in the brain are able to change. In simple terms, new nerve endings can be formed which then reconnect with other neurons in the brain, so that new circuits are made or strengthened. This is how we get better at doing things when we repeat them over and over again.
In the past, it was thought that after the influential period of childhood, adults were hard-wired into their habits and behaviours and that brains stayed pretty much the same or, as the old adage goes, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”. Now it appears that we can learn and adapt to new stimuli and experiences.
This is good news for people who may have suffered a stroke, brain injury, or are affected by conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, or addictions for example, because with focused intention we can change the way our brains work.
Research suggests that the way we feel about the things we do, is the key to unlocking the essential neurochemicals that trigger these changes in the brain. We need to feel dynamic, interested and engaged – motivated in our learning or in that which we want to achieve. Imagine being in control of a switch in your head – if you are disinterested, distracted or otherwise lacking concentration, then this switch will stay in the off position.
In hypnotherapy, the subconscious mind is accessed through the power of words and internal visualisation. This inner focus fully absorbs the deeper levels of the brain and assists in making change happen. We know that we don’t actually have to do something physically in order to get the benefit from it. An example might be, that if you regularly imagined practising playing piano chords without sitting at a keyboard, when you next sit at a real piano your playing would have improved. This technique is known as mental rehearsal and is often used by sports people to improve their abilities in their chosen fields and a person with limited mobility may encourage change by consistently imagining the movements that they want to improve. However, the implications of this are far-reaching.
To know that we can change and that we don’t have to be stuck in our negative thinking patterns, addictions and habits, or in a life of ever-decreasing circles, gives us a tremendous power and hope for the future. As a hypnotherapist, I see change occur regularly and look forward to the continuing brain research that helps us understand the amazing complexity and resilience of our minds.
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About Vicky Tunaley
Vicky is a solution-focused hypnotherapist specialising in anxiety disorders and depression, although she also works with a wide variety of other conditions, such as stopping smoking, addictions, confidence issues etc. The solution-focused approach combines positive psychology with hypnosis to create a strong environment for change.