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Heidi Hardy Hypnotherapist North Devon

HPD DHP SFBT Sup (Hyp) MAfSFH 01598 752799 / 077121 82787


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The Importance of a Good Night's Sleep...

Posted on February 13, 2018 at 6:40 AM

So many times we are told that sleep is SO important for us, and those old clichés ‘It’ll be alright in the morning’ or ‘Sleep on it’ are all too familiar. But what is actually going on during this mysterious phase of our day which requires us to place so much emphasis on a ‘good night’s sleep?’

An important part of my role as a Hypnotherapist is to help my clients get their sleep pattern back on track - falling asleep relatively quickly and staying asleep throughout the night enabling them to get up at the desired time the next day. But why? Why is it so important that we sleep well from a mental wellbeing perspective?

Over the course of a night, our brain fluctuates from periods of relative inactivity to working with an almost ‘turbo charged energy’. This ‘turbo’ phase, known as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – dreaming by any other name, is crucial for our mental health and well being. REM sleep makes up about 20% of our sleep cycle and first occurs about 70 to 90 minutes after we fall asleep. Because our sleep cycle is repetitive we enter REM sleep several times during the night.

It is now widely understood that during REM sleep we process the mental ‘baggage’ from the day. This allows us to wake in the morning refreshed, and with a sense of resolution to that ‘troublesome’ issue of the day before. If we have insufficient sleep we have limited capacity for REM and reduced ability to resolve and rectify any stresses and strains from the previous day, or come up with creative new solutions to move forward. We also understand that sleep deprivation leads to reduction in decision making ability, learning, memory, problem solving, and emotional control. Over a sustained period, sleep deprivation has been linked to higher rates of depression, anxiety, risk-taking behaviour, and suicide.

Hypnosis has been referred to as the creation of an artificially induced REM state allowing new patterns of thought to be rehearsed. Perhaps it is no surprise then that many of my clients come round from trance reporting they feel much brighter, clearer, and able to think straight!

Christmas? How do you see it?

Posted on December 15, 2017 at 12:50 AM

I was recently talking to another hypnotherapist about the rapidly approaching holiday season and we realised it's meaning and value varied tremendously . There are those who think that unless family are around it's just not Christmas; others see it as a time to chill out; some want to have a fun filled time; others want to give something back and volunteer to help those less fortunate; as well as those celebrating the religious festival itself.

And it is just that - isn't it? 'How we see it' - is why it means different things to different people. And we can make it anything we'd like it to be depending on how we decide to think about it.

It can be very helpful to identify 'how you would like your Christmas to be' - so you can take action...

• Want to have more fun? Why not put a call out and arrange a gathering or contact a really good friend for a get together.

• Want less stress cooking the dinner? Who can help?

• Do you have to do what you've always done? What would help you enjoy it more?

• Want more time to yourself? Put 'you' in your diary!

• Snuggle down with a good film or a book and switch that phone off?

• Want to spend more time with family but they live too far away? Maybe arrange a Skype session or two.

Whatever you choose – I wish you a wonder festive time!


What causes us to Repeat Unhelpful Habits and Thoughts?

Posted on August 14, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Imagine … You are taking an enjoyable walk in the woods – the sun is shining, the sky is blue, it’s a beautiful day. Then suddenly you come across a rather large rock in your path with an adder curling around it. You freeze, your heart pounds, your palms begin to sweat – you experience a quick, automatic sequence of physical reactions. This reaction is fear. If you were to take that same walk again and you come across that same rock, a match may be made in the brain and the rock may elicit the fear response, even though the adder itself is nowhere to be found.

‘Pattern Matching’ is the formation of a template (behavioural pattern) in the brain when an event and aspects surrounding it are seen as having ‘life threatening’ potential. Whenever there is a match or potential match (the rock or even imagining snake) the Amygdala fires off an alarm reaction. Because this happens at a subconscious level the experience is often an incomprehensible state of alarm.

Through either repetition or a strong enough single event these patterns become locked into the ‘Primitive’ mind. Because you have survived, literally that you are still alive, your subconscious can see these patterns as successful and will keep them going. It won’t be very willing to change them, which is why people can repeat what seem to be destructive behaviour patterns.

In modern life, when our stress levels are high, due to excessive worrying, many people experience ‘fear states’ brought on by things, signposts or signals that stand for harm rather than things that are truly harmful – they are then encouraged to repeat sometimes inappropriate behavioural patterns/symptoms.

Solution Focussed Hypnotherapy helps to lower stress levels so the ‘Primitive’ mind opts out and we can choose how to deal with situations rather than react repeatedly in a manner which proves stressful to us.

You get what you Focus on...

Posted on January 31, 2017 at 5:35 AM

In light of the fact that many people will have made and stuck to (or not!) New Year resolutions, this article concerns itself with looking at what ‘we want’ in lives rather than what ‘we don’t want’.

There is a remarkable process that goes on in our brain called the Reticular Activating System (RAS). It works a bit like this… Let’s say you have decided you would like a new car, let’s say you have decided you would like a sliver Audi, it is highly likely that you will notice more silver Audis on the road than you noticed before. Your RAS is homing in on what you want. It will home in on (match to) what is in your line of focus, in other words what you are paying attention to.

How we see or what we focus on encourages the RAS to find things that are congruent (match) with that focus. We can use this to our advantage or disadvantage. It makes sense then, doesn’t it, to focus on what you DO WANT rather than what you DON’T WANT.

When you focus on what you want or how you would like things to be you are better able to fulfil your aims because your RAS will be helping you in this way. But what if you don’t know exactly what you want? A position I was in myself many years ago. This is the list I wrote:

I want more time for myself

I want more flexibility with my time

I want to make a difference to other peoples’ lives

And I want to live somewhere pretty

At the time, I had a nine to five job, five days a week, in marketing, in a corporate environment; and living in a less that salubrious part of a town.

I didn't know about the RAS back then however, every single one of the things I allowed myself to focus on and wrote down came to fruition gradually over a few short years. You may like to give it a go yourself – it’s important to write down what you would like without concerning yourself with ‘how’ it can happen. 

So, What is Happiness?

Posted on August 11, 2016 at 5:40 AM

This article concentrates on 'happiness' or rather our perception of it. The idea came from watching a video by Gen Kelsang Nyema - ‘Happiness is all in the mind’ - in essence the relevance of being in control of our own happiness rather than relying on outside influences.

The RAT RACERS’ illusion is reaching some future destination that will bring lasting happiness, and not recognising the significance of the journey - A SLAVE TO THE FUTURE

For example Rat Racer ‘Tina’ is unconcerned with the future until she goes to school at age 6, and her career as a rat racer begins. She learns that the purpose of going to school is to get good grades so she can secure a good job/future – not that she should be happy in school and learning can and ought to be fun. She feels stressed and anxious, afraid of performing badly. Looks forward to the end of each class/day; sustained by the thought of up coming holidays when she’ll no longer think about grades and work. By now she is disliking learning/school seeing grades as a measure of success - praised for these successes.

She has learned to internalise the formula of success: sacrifice present enjoyment in order to be happy in the future – no pain, no gain. Rat racers are unable to enjoy what they are doing in their persistent belief that once they reach a certain destination they will be happy. Our culture reinforces this behaviour/belief – we are not rewarded for enjoying the journey itself but for the successful completion of the journey – rewarded for results, not processes; arrivals, not journeys. Upon arriving at our goal we can mistake happiness for the relief we feel (relief is real, but it is not happiness). A person who is relieved of a splitting headache will feel happy that she is free of pain but because this ‘happiness’ was preceded by suffering, the absence of pain is a momentary relief from an essentially negative (and temporary) experience.

The HEDONISTS’ illusion is that ONLY the journey is important, A SLAVE TO THE MOMENT

A HEDONIST focusing only on the present; seeks pleasure and avoids pain, equating pleasure with happiness and effort with pain. He will do things that are potentially detrimental if they afford him immediate gratification. If drugs produce a pleasant experience he takes them; if he finds work difficult he avoids it. Without a long-term purpose, devoid of challenge, life ceases to feel meaningful to us.

The NIHILISTS’ illusion is to give up on both the destination and the journey, disillusioned with life – A SLAVE TO THE PAST

The NIHILISTS’ ILLUSION is the state of being ‘chained to the past’. Resigned to present unhappiness, expectation same sort of life in the future; believing they have no control over their lives.

LASTING HAPPINESS requires that we enjoy the journey on our way to a destination WE DEEM VALUABLE. Happiness is not about making it to the peak of the mountain nor is it about climbing aimlessly around the mountain – IT IS THE EXPERIENCE OF CLIMBING TOWARDS THE PEAK.

Instead of looking at life decisions in terms of “shall I be happy now or in the future?” ie: a job opportunity that will ‘get us where we want to be/set us up’ when we might enjoy another job more; the question is “How can I be happy now and in the future?” While present and future benefit may sometimes conflict - because some situations demand we forego one for the other – it is possible to enjoy both for much of the time. For example, students who really love learning derive present benefit from the pleasure in discovering new ideas and future benefit from the ways in which those ideas will prepare them for their careers. In romantic relationships, some couples enjoy their time together and help each other grow and develop. Those who work at something they love – business, medicine, art – can progress in their career while enjoying the journey.

The expectation of constant happiness is to set ourselves up for failure and disappointment. Not everything we do can provide us with both present and future benefit. It is sometimes worthwhile to forgo present benefit for greater future gain, and in every life some mundane work is unavoidable. Studying for exams, saving for the future or working long hours is often unpleasant but can help us to attain long-term happiness. The key to keep in mind, even as one forgoes some present gain for the sake of larger future gain, is the objective to spend as much time as possible engaged in activities that provide both present and future benefit.

(Reference: ‘Happier’ Tal Ben-Shahar PhD)


So what is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy?

Posted on June 13, 2016 at 10:40 AM

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a modern talking therapy designed primarily by a man called David Newton. David began his career as an analytical hypnotherapist before realising that he could help more people by using more modern methods of talking therapy. Over his 30,000+ clinical hours, David developed a new form of talking therapy taking the very best tools and ideas from other models and combining them with his own. The resulting approach takes lessons learnt from positive psychology, neuroscience, Solution Focused Brief Therapy, NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), and of course it also utilises the power of hypnosis.

What Happens in a Typical Solution Focused Hypnotherapy Session?

Following an Initial Consultation, a Solution Focused Hypnotherapy practitioner will usually start each new session by encouraging a client to identify what has been good in the previous week or so. This sounds like simple exercise and it is simple, although it’s not necessarily easy. In my experience if you ask someone who is NOT struggling from anxiety or depression to find something that’s been good, or something that they are pleased has happened in the last week, they may well struggle. Add anxiety, depression, grief, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or any other of the myriad of anxiety related (or exacerbated) conditions out there and things get harder. Include in the mix the expectation that at least ten good things will be found and the challenge really does ramp up!

 The interesting thing is that this exercise alone can be enormously powerful in improving someone’s mood as one good thing begins to roll out after another. Naturally, with a bit of practice over a number of weeks this simple exercise becomes just exactly that, even for those that have been given a diagnosis of depression by their GP.

Following this, a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist will want to make sure their client is reminded of how the brain works. They might want to remind their clients about the different areas of the brain, and/or the primitive opt out clauses of anxiety, depression and anger, and the other characteristics of the primitive mind that can cause so much discomfort. They might go on to explain the ‘stress bucket’ (a metaphor for accumulated stress) and its implications for problem creation/focus, as well as discussing the importance of sleep. Finally, they may want to reiterate the importance of the holy grail of skills: Positive Thinking, Positive Action and Positive Interaction.

A Solution Focused Hypnotherapist will not typically advise a client on what they should or should not do, on the basis that the only expert of the client’s life is the client. However, they are particularly adept at helping the client identify for themselves what next small step they can take in order to help themselves empty the ‘stress bucket’’. And this is the next step in the process - identifying what small step, or steps, can be taken to move the client towards where they want to be. We know when the ‘stress bucket’ is emptied we can cope so much better with life, and this in turn helps people to cope better so problems appear, become less intrusive and eventually disappear.

Finally, a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist will want to move the client into a wonderful state of relaxed awareness. They will usually create the state of hypnosis through the use of positive visualisations. The feeling of this kind of hypnosis is unique to the individual. Some people describe the feeling as similar to lying on their bed and getting absorbed in their favourite music, others report a deep state of relaxation - heaviness of limbs etc. What we do know is that hypnosis is an enormously powerful tool and can be extremely useful, especially when used following the previously described steps, in creating change in the way people think of the world around them and of themselves. 

Aim for Better Sleep...

Posted on February 9, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture... so it is no wonder that when we experience chronic insomnia we can suffer in some way.


Modern living can see our stress levels build up quite quickly. With our increasingly busy and hectic lifestyles, finding ourselves constantly juggling work schedules, finances and family life it’s easy to find ourselves feeling too stressed to get regular good nights’ sleep.


As human beings we have a wonderful way of lowering our stress levels and that’s by sleeping well. When we go to sleep at night the brain reduces our stress levels through the process of Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM). REM is limited to 20% of our sleep pattern, with the other 80% given over to repairing and rejuvenating our physical bodies (slow wave sleep). When we experience sustained stress this pattern becomes disrupted and as a result people can find their sleep is wakeful and they can struggle to go back to sleep again.


Solution Focused Hypnotherapy helps people to relax and lower their stress levels by helping them to focus on the positive aspects of their lives - this contributes towards lessening unhealthy negative thinking and excessive worrying that only serves to exacerbate stress - and to find solutions to pertinent issues, as well as using safe hypnotic techniques to further reduce stress. Through this process, in the comfort of my consulting room, I find that my clients can feel more relaxed and then, over a relatively short period of time (and in some cases straight away!), experience a good night’s sleep.


“Heidi introduced me to positive thinking and relaxation. I had not slept well for months and on the first night of using her CD I fell asleep quickly, before the end. I started to feel the benefit immediately. I was less tired, more upbeat and happier. I noticed a significant change in me; I was more positive and started to take actions to achieve goals.”


Anxiety, Fears and Panic Disorders...

Posted on August 16, 2015 at 8:45 AM

Hypnotherapy can help with Anxiety, Fears and Panic Disorders

Anxiety is something we all experience from time to time. Most people can relate to feeling tense, uncertain and, perhaps, fearful at the thought of: going into hospital, attending an interview, starting a new job or sitting an exam. This natural short term response can be useful, heightening our awareness and spurring us into action; feeling nervous before an exam can contribute to alertness and enhanced performance. However, if feelings of anxiety are long lasting and overwhelming then we can become less able to cope in everyday situations.

Anxiety triggers the release of adrenalin and cortisol in our bodies instigating the ‘fight or flight’ response, producing symptoms: fast heartbeat, rapid breathing, sweating and nausea. If we experience sustained stress over a long period of time we can find it difficult to deal with everyday life and this can exacerbate our anxiety levels, possibly resulting in feelings of powerlessness and loss of control, and in some cases panic attacks. A panic attack is an exaggeration of the body’s normal response to fear or stress; it is the rapid build-up of these overwhelming sensations. Some people who experience this fear that they are going mad or having a heart attack.

There are several types of anxiety and panic disorders because people respond to anxiety in different ways. Some of the more common ones are outlined below.

Phobias - A phobia is an irrational fear triggered by very specific situations or objects such as: spiders, heights, flying, small spaces etc., even when there is no real danger.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder - (GAD) is the experience of feeling fearful and anxious but not about anything in particular. The strength of the symptoms can vary.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - (OCD) Obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviour are typical of this disorder. Obsessive thoughts about being contaminated with germs for instance or repeating particular tasks a certain number of times such as hand washing etc.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - (PTSD) flashbacks and/or dreams about a past traumatic event, these are likely to trigger strong feelings of anxiety similar to those experienced during the original event.

Panic Disorder - Sometimes panic attacks may appear to occur for no reason, this unpredictability can cause fear of having another panic attack with the feelings becoming so intense as to trigger another panic attack.

Hypnotherapy can have a dramatic impact on lowering anxiety in turn alleviating symptoms.

How Hypnotherapy can help with Pain...

Posted on August 4, 2015 at 5:25 AM

Hypnotherapy can have a dramatic impact on helping you deal with pain by encouraging you to relax and to take back control of your thinking and your life, in turn alleviating some of your symptoms so that you can lead a more fulfilling life. Some of the key ways Hypnotherapy can help to reduce pain…  

• Encourages you to focus on the positives in life, thereby reducing stress and anxiety

 • Improves your immune system function by reducing cortisol levels

 • Aids better sleep by reducing your ‘stress bucket’ (where we store our negative thoughts)

 • Relaxes tense, tired muscles through use of a relaxation CD resulting in a positive impact on the nervous system

 • Helps you to focus on what you ARE ABLE TO DO rather than what you ARE NOT ABLE TO DO

 • Promotes your ability to live in the moment rather than constantly looking back or trying to predict the future

Stopping Smoking, a Few Facts...

Posted on May 3, 2015 at 9:50 AM
Stopping Smoking, a Few Facts...

Smoking is not addictive Scientists recognise that only10% of the smoking habit relates to the addictive elements of nicotine, 90% is psychological.

"Smoking helps me to relax or de-stress" No it doesn't! None of the 4000+ chemicals in cigarettes are relaxants or reduce stress in any way. These chemicals are stimulants and make you more stressed.

A smoker will become more and more stressed and anxious as they get older Research says that a smoker is 80% more likely to suffer from clinical depression or serious anxiety in middle to old age as a direct result of smoking.

A part of the brain responsible for encouraging you to smoke can be quite childish When it comes to smoking, like a child, it learns when to throw a tantrum (craving), and it also learns when there's no point. It knows when you're in a situation where you can't smoke or you've decided not to smoke – so it doesn't stand a cat in hells chance of getting its own way. But as soon as you’ve stepped off that airplane, got into your car, taken your first sip of coffee … your childish brain knows it can now get its way and has a tantrum (craving).

There is also a part of the brain that is more adult, rational in its thinking It knows that smoking is:

  • Expensive
  • Smelly - clothes, hair, skin, breath, our home
  • Effects circulation
  • Premature aging of the skin
  • Ruins teeth and gums
  • Can cause infertility
  • Contributes towards impotency
  • Lung, throat & mouth cancer
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (of respiratory tract ie; emphysema)
  • Lowers life expectancy
  • Slow and PAINFUL death

Stopping smoking is easy for a lot of people A total of approximately quarter of a million people a year in this country stop smoking. However, if the adult v childish parts of the brain fight, with the childish part coming out on top most of the time then we need a little help.

This is just one of the things hypnotherapy does – it helps the adult part to ‘put its foot down’ permanently so that you can choose to STOP SMOKING FOREVER!

And, there’s another thing… when people stop smoking they generally go on to take great strides in their lives.