Party time! Do you love it or dread it? Autosuggestions, affirmations, visualisations and self-hypnosis to overcome social anxiety, shyness and lack of confidence


It’s getting to that time of year when lots of social events, parties, business socials, lunches, kids parties, pub get-togethers and the like start to loom on the horizon. Many folks look forward to such events with glee and excitement. But a considerable number of people start to get anxious and full of dread at these prospects, feeling not so confident in social environments, tongue-tied, self-conscious, nervous, awkward, clumsy, blushing, and so on.. and quite often they can’t wait for the whole darn period to be over and done with, so that they can retreat back into their usual routines..  If you are one of the many people who suffer from social anxiety, whatever form it takes – you don’t have to despair – something can be done about it. You can develop more confidence and self-assurance, feel more at ease and relaxed around other people, and speak and act with more grace, ease and eloquence – and start to enjoy yourself!

Using techniques of visualisation, self-hypnosis, positive self-suggestions and affirmations, you can start to build new confident social circuitry in your brain, and with a little practice and persistence, you can gradually erase those old anxious habits your unconscious mind has got into.

First of all, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed for about 15 to 20 minutes. Sit down in a comfortable chair. Relax your body as much as possible. Close your eyes. Now just become aware of your breathing, noticing the in-breath and the out-breath. Allow yourself to breathe slowly and deeply. With each out-breath, imagine that all your thoughts, cares and worries are flowing out of your mind, and all tensions are flowing out of your body.

Now, think of a social situation that you might find yourself in in the near future that you might feel a little anxious about – it can be real or imagined. Picture yourself in the situation. Think of how you would like things to go – how you would like to feel, act, speak and think in that situation – everything going as well as you can possibly imagine.

Here are a few things you can visualise for yourself:

1) Imagine yourself just before the event: * Feeling positive and looking forward to the event * Looking forward to getting to know new people * Looking forward to relaxing and enjoying yourself.

2) Imagine yourself in the situation: * Feeling calm, relaxed, happy, self-assured, confident * Feeling good about yourself * Your breathing calm and relaxed * Your whole body feeling relaxed and at ease.

3) Visualise yourself in the situation: * Standing or sitting up straight, with your head up and your shoulders relaxed * Moving about in a relaxed, open, easy manner * Approaching and joining a group of people * Smiling and making eye contact with people * Asking another person questions about themselves; responding with interest; sharing information about yourself and/or your interests; focusing on the other person/people; chatting in a calm, relaxed manner.

4) Imagine the following thoughts going through you head (repeat them silently to yourself now): * I feel relaxed, confident and at ease * I feel good about myself * Everyone looks friendly here * It’s going to be fun to meet new people and find out about them * I can easily approach someone and say hello and introduce myself * It’s easy to ask someone questions about themselves and get a conversation going * I can easily approach a group, listen to what’s going on, and join in the conversation.

5) Spend a few minutes seeing yourself, in your mind’s eye, at the social event and imagining things going in the best way possible and visualising yourself feeling, acting, speaking and thinking in your ideal way. (Try to come up with words, feelings and images of your own that best suit you and your personality – and keep them positive!)

Now let the thoughts, feelings and images of that situation fade from your mind for now and just allow yourself to relax and feel calm and peaceful. Bring your awareness back to your breathing process, noticing the in-breath and the out-breath as you relax down deeply into your chair for a few moments. Now start to take some deeper breaths, bringing your awareness back to your body, to the room or surroundings where you are sitting. Imagine smiling to yourself inside and feeling calm, relaxed and confident. When you are ready, open your eyes and have a stretch before getting up and resuming your day.

Practice the above exercise a few times over the week (or two) before the next social event you are due to go to – and start to notice an increasing positive transformation in yourself and your confidence!

For further help and guidance about hypnotherapy, personal coaching, relaxation skills, emotional therapy, mindfulness techniques and cognitive-behavioural therapy (including cognitive emotional behaviour therapy) – for social anxiety or any other issues you may have – contact Amanda Jackson-Russell at AJR Hypnotherapy (see above right for contact details), based near Epsom in mid-Surrey, UK.

(P.S. Apologies – I meant to post this article a bit earlier, before Halloween – so I hope you have managed to survive intact in the meantime..)


Be Ready to Create Your New Life, Your New Way of Being, in 2015

Gradually the days begin to start earlier and a little brighter, giving us glimpses of new starts, tentative hopes of new enterprises, positive changes, moving forward into ways and projects that we have been dreaming of but have not yet got underway..  The weather still gets in the way, up and down, unpredictable, challenging our intentions and persuading us sometimes to sink back into lethargy and “hibernation”, not wanting to galvanise ourselves and get going with our plans for the future..

Christmas.. Winter.. Short days, long nights, gloomy dark mornings, oppressive early evenings, cold and clammy weather, defrosting the car, walking in the sleet and rain, standing in the freezing cold for a bus..

For Nature, Winter is a time to rest, take stock, regenerate, nurture the tiny seeds that hold the promise of new growth, conserve and consolidate energy, nurture the inner living spark, readying the ever-present potential to move forward, spring into action, grow and shine, when the time is right..  And we can learn and heed many lessons from Nature’s wisdom – taking time to nurture our inner selves, be patient, pace ourselves, reflect on the times just past, appreciate our achievements (and simply our being-ness and our survival..), dream and plot and plan for what we envisage or wish to be ahead of us.. Then gradually..  finally..  as the energies become stronger..  we start to notice the mornings are becoming lighter, the days longer, the weather (more or less..!) becoming a little more forgiving, a little less harsh..

And, before you know it, you wonder where the days and weeks have gone..!  And, believe it or not, we are now in the rapid run up to the Spring Equinox – well okay, there is still a little way to go yet..  And there have been so many jobs to do and stuff to attend to after the brief respite (or not!) of the so-called Festive Season, that all of a sudden, weeks have gone by and we are well into 2015..!!  Can you believe it?  Already nearly 2 months into the New Year..  and more than that, 15 years into the New Millennium!?  Well, isn’t it about time we started to get our act together to get going on co-creating the New World, New Earth, that many of us have dreamed of and planned for?  It may be a grand cooperative vision of a new harmonious, supportive and blissful all-encompassing Community on Earth.  Or is may be a personal vision of self-respect, self-expression, self-love and self-appreciation, and expressing our own, individual, unique, beautiful, creative way of being, giving, functioning and living.  Or perhaps, and maybe more likely, it is somewhere on the myriad of states and stages in between..

What is in your dreams, intentions and inner visions, urging you to set in motion?  The impending Spring Equinox could be seen as a beckoning for you, and each and all of us..  an encouragement to start to see and have trust in new beginnings, new (and old) hopes, new projects, renewed motivation..  More and more, you start to see the signs that Nature provides, here and there..  and as you look, consciously, searching out, noticing, paying attention… the signs are there more and more..  Snow drops and crocuses pushing through the damp and barren soil, birds starting to sing earlier and earlier in the day, blue skies starting to appear more frequently, the temperature outside not requiring quite so many layers of clothes or gloves, the pale sun gradually becoming stronger with each day, maybe even signs of baby birds emerging from their nests, tiny blossoms daring to push through on the branches of trees and hedges..

The Seasons and Nature are great reminders of the cycle of life, providing us with their example of the natural course of things..  and, if we pay attention, giving us the teachings, the lessons, of how to let go of the past, the dead, worn out and gone.. and to consolidate and conserve our energies and resources..  rest and regenerate..  self-heal..  nurture..  and then, once again, when the time and conditions (opportunity) are right, to spring forth into action into our renewed lives, with new energy, trust, strength, hope, courage, faith, vision, inspiration, creativity and renewed momentum..!

Are you struggling to make the changes you want or need to make?  Can you see a glimmer or slight prospect of new beginnings, new ways of being, new hopes, new dreams, feelings of peace and fulfilment, thoughts of accomplishment, balance, cooperation, harmonious relationships, self-respect, uncovering and giving light to your talents and gifts, greater health and wellbeing, expressing your creativity and inner truth..?  But you can’t quite figure which way to go, what steps to take, how to shake off your fears, doubts, insecurities, feelings of inferiority, fatigue, inertia, muddled vision..?

If you are struggling with any of these issues or others, do give me a call or send me an email, and just maybe we can work together to find a new way forward for you.  See above right for contact details.

Amanda Jackson-Russell, BSc, PhD (Neuroscience), Hypnotherapist (MNCH (Reg.)), Emotional Therapist/EFT Practitioner, Relaxation & Meditation/Mindfulness Instructor (BWY Dip), Spiritual Healing Facilitator & Counsellor (MNFSH), Reiki Master Practitioner & Teacher (Usui Shiki Ryoho System of Natural Healing).

Stressed? Anxious? Meditation and mindfulness may improve the way the brain handles stress


Daniel Monti and co-researchers, at Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, investigated methods of reducing stress in patients with a diagnosis of breast cancer. 18 patients who were not currently in active treatment were assigned to one of two groups: 1) those to take part in a mindfulness-based art therapy course; and 2) those to take part in an education programme (serving as an “active control” group). Those patients in group 1) underwent an 8-week mindfulness course that combined meditation exercises that stressed awareness of breathing and emotions with expressive art exercises to provide opportunities for self-expression. Patients in both groups were assessed before and after the programmes according to a symptom checklist. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was also used to assess cerebral blood flow before and after the study programs.

The researchers found that the patients who underwent the mindfulness programme had significantly increased blood flow to areas of the brain associated with controlling emotions and regulating stress. In addition, these increases in cerebral blood flow correlated significantly with reduced stress and anxiety as indicated by the symptom checklist. The findings suggested that the brains of those patients who underwent the mindfulness programme worked in a different way to those patients in the education programme control group. The former patients also reported feeling better.

The researchers speculated that methods that change the way the brain handles stress could help improve the quality of life for cancer patients. In addition, it is fairly widely accepted that most people could benefit from lowering their stress and anxiety levels. The findings of this study suggest that a programme of mindfulness could help do this by changing the way the brain deals with stress.

The conclusions drawn from this study obviously cannot be extrapolated to a great degree, as this was a small study, using a specific intervention of mindfulness, meditation and art therapy, versus an education programme (“active”) control group. Nevertheless, the findings showed that a programme that incorporated mindfulness was able to alter the brain and, correspondingly, improved the way in which a group of potentially high-stress patients handled stress.

For information on how hypnotherapy, meditation, mindfulness, relaxation skills, self-hypnosis, EFT and/or cognitive therapy can help manage and reduce stress and anxiety, contact AJR Hypnotherapy Surrey. See above top right for contact details.

Monti, DA, Kash KM, Kunkel EJS, et al (2012). Changes in cerebral blood flow and anxiety associated with an 8-week mindfulness programme in women with breast cancer. Stress and Health, 28 (5), 397–407.

A Happy New Emotional You in 2013! You Have The Power..!

People of all cultures and all walks of life have their share of difficulties and challenges, big, medium or small. What one person sees as a huge obstacle, another person might view as a minor problem to be solved fairly easily with a bit of ingenuity and common sense. Similarly, what one person takes in their stride, another might find too much to bear – the “last straw that breaks the camel’s back”, as it were. How we deal with so-called challenges depends on many factors – our own recent or distant life history, stress levels, general health, learned coping strategies (or lack of), cultural, family and social attitudes, our day-to-day lives and responsibilities, work-loads, previous traumas, self-confidence, belief systems, social support systems, and so on.. You may or may not consider yourself to be an “emotional person” – some people wear their hearts on their sleeves, others believe in “putting their best foot forward” and not wallowing in their feelings, others might like to express their feelings but don’t really know how, others feel it is “weak” to show their emotions, and still others can’t understand what the problem is all about and favour calm, patience, logic and systematic analysis of the problem to get to the root of an issue. And there are many others in between – our greatest gift, as well as our greatest challenge!, is our individuality..

So… What has all this to do with a happy new emotional you in 2013? Well, whether we recognise/ believe/ accept it or not, it is our emotions that in the end determine the quality of our lives and the joy and satisfaction we gain from life. Whatever we do, say, think, achieve, worry about, care about, busy ourselves with – in the final analysis, it is our FEELINGS about it all that determine whether we are happy, contented and fulfilled, or unhappy, frustrated, angry, disillusioned, resentful, guilty, etc, about our lot in life.

But, before you take this on board and decide that you are at the mercy of your emotions and do not have the ability or the POWER to change your feelings.. THINK again.. That is one of the keys (our ACTIONS – rather than reactions – are another). You have more POWER than you realise. A phrase that has been circulating in the spiritual/ holistic communities over the last few years is that ENERGY FOLLOWS THOUGHT – and is increasingly being recognised as a potent aspect of reality. However, another truth, for everyone to take on board, is that EMOTIONS FOLLOW THOUGHT.. (think about it..) (Note: ENERGY and EMOTION have a special relationship – but that is for another discussion at another time and place..)

So, at the start of a New Year, still at the near beginning of this New Millennium, are you coming to the conclusion that you want to make changes – to improve your lot in life, your general happiness and satisfaction, your outlook on life and your general wellbeing? Have you decided it is long time that you took back your POWER and CONTROL over your life, your destiny, your future? Well, whether you want to change self-defeating habits, focus on your goals, overcome fears and anxieties, strengthen your self-confidence, become more assertive and learn to stand up for your personal rights, learn relaxation skills, reduce stress levels, learn how to enjoy the present moment and be more contented in your current life, develop greater problem-solving skills, learn or improve your performance at work, in a hobby or in giving presentations.. in fact, anything that helps you reach for and accomplish more of your own unique, individual, wonderful potential.. YOU HAVE THE POWER..!!

If you want to discover, develop and reap the benefits of YOUR OWN PERSONAL POWER, lying as yet untapped in the recesses of your mind, your subconscious, your brain, your intuitive self, your energy body, your unfathomable and infinite self.. then I would love to have the opportunity (given a comprehensive assessment of needs and suitability) to help you achieve your GOALS!

So, if you think you might benefit from the insights and applications of clinical and
cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy, please contact me at AJR Hypnotherapy Surrey. You can either give me a call on 01372 279841, or, ideally, send me an email on giving me a brief outline of your present circumstances and the issues you would like to address (contact information is also given at the top right of this page) – and I look forward to us working together for a Positive Emotional New You in 2013! Amanda Jackson-Russell, Clinical & Cognitive-Behavioural Hypnotherapist, BSc (Hons), PhD (Neuroscience), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) Practitioner, Reiki Master Practitioner & Teacher, British Wheel of Yoga-qualified Yoga Instructor (including Relaxation, Meditation & Mindfulness), Healer Member of the National Federation of Spiritual Healers (MNFSH), Medical Writer & Editor. AJR Hypnotherapy Surrey & Energessence Hypnotherapy, Wellbeing & Stress Management.