Monday, November 30, 2009

Paul Nguyen, Certified Placebo Practitioner

These days, more and more people are looking for natural ways to take care of everyday problems, from the common cold, to obesity, to arthritic pain, and beyond. Yet, many people are still looking for the "hard data" that proves that these natural remedies really work, because we are a statistics-obsessed culture that needs to see graphs and hear what the sample size is and what the standard deviation is, and so on and so forth. And we need to know exactly WHY a certain cure does what it does. According to this recent health article in MSNBC, the only reason you need to know for why most alternative methods are effective is a simple one: We believe in them.

It's the good ol' placebo effect, people, and we've known about it for a long, long time. When people simply expect that they are receiving a treatment, they tend to get better. According to scientists, the placebo effect accounts for about a third of the benefits of any treatment, and that includes the rigorously tested medicines produced by the pharmaceutical industry.

Fortunately for me as a hypnotherapist, I'm able to make an entire career out of the placebo effect, and not only do I have no shame about that, but it is the exact reason why people come to see me. The placebo effect accounts for ALL of the benefit a person receives from hypnosis. Here's how: By the time a client has dialed my number, they are already aware that the problem is in their mind, and, therefore, so is the solution. If a client believes wholeheartedly that they will succeed with the help of hypnosis, then my job is bascially already done, and a successful outcome for that client is all but assured. And as a session concludes, if a person truly believes that the problem in their subconscious mind has been eliminated, then, in fact, it has been. Thank you very much, you may pay with cash, check, or credit card, and make all checks payable to either Moodstreams, or Paul Nguyen, Certified Consulting Hypnotist.

Is that a bad thing? I, of course, would say it's not. A client is paying for a solution to a problem, and I give them that. Money tendered for services rendered. Yet there are a few people out there who might still see themselves as being "cheated" if whatever benefit they were receiving from a treatment - whether it be acupuncture, a prescribed pill, an herb, or hypnosis - was actually coming simply from their own positive expectation. They'd like to know that those needles poking into their feet were ACTUALLY doing something, and that the bitter decoction of herbs that they have to drink daily was ACTUALLY rearranging their body chemistry somehow.

Well, the reality of it is, an element of belief exists in the effectiveness of EVERY therapy since the dawn of mankind (and maybe the dawn of animalkind), regardless of what form it takes, or how that therapy is advertised to work. I would say that hypnosis is at one extreme of that, while pharmaceutical drugs are at the other extreme. See, hypnosis deals with the human perception of things, which everyone can admit is entirely subjective, and consequently so is the therapy. And drugs tend to treat more measurable characteristics like cholesterol or pain, but also treat subjective conditions like pain or anxiety. Drugs have also happened to be the most rigorously tested of all the treatments on this continuum over the years, and here is where people started to acknowledge the power of human belief, as in many of these tests, people given dummy pills frequently experienced the same effects as people given the real drug, as long as everyone was told what benefits to expect. The article goes into greater detail about how this might work.

So, if even "hard science" has shown that human expectation plays a role in recovery regardless of what the treatment is, isn't it time we all started to embrace Placebo Power? And isn't it time we started to measure the total effectiveness of a remedy (which includes the power of belief), instead of measuring the effect of the remedy versus the placebo?

In the end, who really cares how you're getting better, as long as you do get better, right?

If you think about it in those terms, that actually makes hypnosis the most honest profession of all! We tell you the benefit is all in your head, and that's exactly what you get. No need to wonder if it's the pills, the needles, the herbs, or your mind that's doing all the work. So with that in mind, who's next in line to have a big fat dose of nothing?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Let Nature Nurture You

This is the news we've (I've) been waiting for: Researchers (who may even have actual PhDs) have shown in a series of experiments that living in a natural environment "makes us nicer"! An article in MSNBC summarizes the findings.

While none of this is actual "news" to most of us, some folks wouldn't believe it unless some chunk of our tax dollars had been dedicated to proving this simple point. Just like that study that showed that abused children tended to do worse in school. Duh!

Previous studies already showed that incorporating elements of nature into our lives improved mental performance, vitality, physical healing, and reduced stress. The present studies extend beyond that and demonstrate that nature "brings out more social feelings, more value for community and close relationships. People are more caring when they’re around nature."

In one study, participants were shown a computer screen with either city images or natural landscapes. In another study, participants were allowed to work in a room either with or without houseplants. In all of these cases, the people who were exposed to natural elements rated relationships and community as more important than they had prior to the beginning of the experiments. And people who were exposed to artificial elements were more likely to value selfish goals such as money and prestige.

Researchers say that the difference lies not in being surrounded by natural elements in our lives, but in actually paying attention to them.

So there you have it: Evidence that listening to Moodstreams soundtracks can actually make you a better person. So download away. Download away.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sorta like meditation, but not really... but yes it's meditation...maybe

The author of this article I came across calls it "a basic exercise that will help you learn about the process of thinking". It's a technique whereby you simply be aware of your thoughts for ten minutes, becoming a passive observer of your own mental processes. To me, it sounds a lot like meditation, but nowhere in the text does the author mention the M word. I thought I'd share the link with you, because it sounds like it fits in with what I suggest to all my clients.

I am a big proponent of incorporating awareness and relaxation techniques into your day, no matter how busy you may think you are. Often times people get busy, they get overwhelmed, they feel miserable, they get irritated by everything, they hate their lives, and only THEN do they decide that it's time to pull back a bit and find a way to relax. By then, they've long since forgotten what it feels like to be relaxed, and so they fall back into their same old self-destructive ruts of allowing themselves to be overwhelemed. It feels normal, it feels right, it brings sympathy from others, and it seems "noble" to be be busy all the time, because they're making "sacrifices".

If this sounds like you, then the time to break the cycle is now. See, people all too often try to relax reactively, meaning they wait until they feel ovewhelmed before they put in any effort to slow their lives down. I suggest something different and decidedly un-American: Relax and reflect proactively. In other words, don't wait until it's too late; relax early and often, before things start to build up in your life.

The idea here is that you prepare for what happens in your life, so that you don't have to escape from it. Make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way, knowing how you will handle every single situation, and then nothing will throw you off-kilter.

Do this: Start every single day with 20 minutes of quiet reflection, relaxation and/or meditation. Take the time to go over the various scenarios you will encounter and some that you may or may not encounter. Tell yourself you will handle every situation that may arise in a calm and confident manner. Use your imagination to see yourself calmly dealing with the various situations as they play in front of your mind's eye like a movie. Decide exactly how you would like to perform in each scenario, and rehearse it that way. Plan for your life, and then live the plan.

You'll find that your life becomes easier, simply because your perception of it is different. You enter your life in a relaxed, prepared, and confident manner, so all situations are dealt with sensibly and efficiently. You never have to reduce your stress, because you never feel stressed in the first place!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moodstreams is Going Green!

If you've been by moodstreams.com recently, you've noticed that some changes are afoot - Moodstreams is going green! All of the audio products, starting Oct 1, 2009, will only be available as MP3 downloads, and the store will no longer be carrying CD inventory. In fact, we've already been able to let the CD inventory run out for the vast majority of our products.

It's a decision I've wanted to make for a long time, since I've always been big into minimizing impact on the lovely natural world that has been such a big part of my life experience (and many of yours, too, I'd guess). With MP3 products, no waste is generated because there are no raw materials and no packaging/shipping materials. And since our MP3s are encoded at the highest bit rate, there is no loss of audio quality compared with CDs, so no one has to compromise.

So in a time when MP3s are taking over as the standard format for consumer audio, it made sense for us to ride, and maybe even help to drive, this wave of change. And you wonderful listeners and customers have made the decision easy. Over the last year that the website has been up and running, MP3 downloads have been outselling CDs by such a wide margin - due mostly to cost difference, customers' listening preference, and the immediate gratification that digital goods provide - that it became entirely impractical to continue to produce and stock CDs. And quite honestly, the other reason I'm happy is that MP3 downloads create a lot less work to do after the purchase, because there's no packing and shipping.

So, thank you listeners for encouraging this transition. It genuinely feels like a weight has been lifted off my back now that I can run my web business in a more environmentally-friendly way.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Floss Your Way to Better Memory

I found this interesting article on how to boost your memory by treating your brain right. Surprisingly, the first piece of advice is to FLOSS! Hold on, before you press the BACK button on your browser, hear me out: neglecting to floss leads to a build up of plaque on the teeth, causing an immune reaction that attacks the arteries that deliver nutrients to your brain!

My cat's vet tells me that the plaque on his (my cat's) teeth could lead to kidney disease. I wonder if it's also affecting kitty's memory. He can never seem to remember where his toy mice are. Maybe I should brush his teeth.

Back to the article: It also mentions some other important ways to preserve memory (including proper diet and exercise), and breaks down the advice by decade, i.e. what to do in your 30s, 40s, and 50s. I guess if you're 60 and you have poor memory, you're a lost cause.

One of my favorites for 50 somethings: Use chopsticks: "Studies show that engaging the concentrated areas of nerve cells in your fingertips directly stimulates your brain," says Maoshing Ni, Ph.D., author of "Second Spring: Dr. Mao's Hundreds of Natural Secrets for Women to Revitalize and Regenerate at Any Age." Truth is, any fingertip activity--using chopsticks, knitting, or even rolling a pen or pencil between your fingers--also helps your brain by boosting your circulation. And good circulation helps eliminate waste products that can prevent nutrients from reaching your brain.

Video games, here I come!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nighttime Grub Puts On The Chub

Now that summer is officially wrapped up and the cooler weather is rolling in, we can take the focus off of such summer-related themes as mosquito control and put it back on to another one of America's most pressing concerns regardless of season: eating.

In my hypnosis practice, I see plenty of clients for issues concerning weight and overeating. In fact, it's my number one business (yes, I finally found a way to avoid saying that it's my biggest business, so I don't have to pull the ol' "no pun intended" bit which is getting corny and trite). Most people who have weight problems invariably are snackers, and more often than not, they are nighttime snackers, meaning they are snacking an hour or two after dinner, or just before bedtime. My clients often don't realize how big (there it is again) of a factor night snacking is with regards to weight gain. Yet when they do a session with me and are able to eliminate night snacking from their daily life, they suddenly lose 2-4 pounds (and sometimes more) the very first week! This is so often the case, that I can now guarantee that eliminating night snacking is the quickest way to start losing weight naturally; more so than eliminating daytime snacking, more so than portion control at meal times, and more so than exercise.

And so of course I love it when a study comes along that scientifically validates my own very unscientific observations. We live in a society wants to see proof before believing anything. So here's the proof: An article I came across in WebMD details the correlation between eating at the wrong time of the day and putting on weight. One study was done in mice (which I don't condone, but it proves my point nonetheless) which were divided into two groups. Both groups were fed the same diet, but one group was fed during the normal waking time, and the other group was fed at the time when mice should be sleeping. The mice who ate at the wrong time gained more than twice as much weight as the mice who were fed at the right time.

A second study was done on humans. 94 people, 29 of whom were night eaters and 65 of whom were not, were followed for 3.5 years. The night eaters gained 13.6 lbs, and the non-night eaters gained only 3.7 pounds. What a difference!

The researchers wouldn't say for sure why the mice (or the people) who ate at the wrong time gained so much weight, because that would require another study. Considering the pace of medical research, I'd check back on that in, oh, two or three years for an answer.

But in the meantime, allow me to speculate: During the time of day when a creature - any creature whether it be a human, mouse, armadillo or hippopotamus - is supposed to be sleeping, the metabolism slows way down. Eating at those times means that the calories from food will not be metabolized, but will instead need to be stored. And storage of calories occurs by producing fat. So for us, eating at night goes against our natural circadian rhythm and results in our bodies not knowing what to do with those calories other than storing them by putting fat on our bodies, which results in undesirable weight gain. Not bad for an unscientific yet logical explanation, no?

Or perhaps you need to hear it from an actual scientist with a PhD from an accredited institution. Arlene D. Salbe, PhD, a senior research fellow at the Kronos Longevity Research Institute says very elegantly, "Eating too much late at night is not good."

And so there you have it. A scientific principle is born. It's good to know that our tax dollars and donations go towards those types of profound conclusions, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Down the River

Meditation Getaways - Down the River -

This guided meditation is the 8th in the series, and concludes the first series of Meditation Getaways. In the near future, the first series will be re-released as a retail download available from moodstreams.com. The retail download will include a couple of new meditations that have never been released, along with newly re-recorded versions of the other 8 meditations in this series without the news, announcements or promotion of the Moodstreams products or website before and after each meditation. In other words, just the meditations, and no idle chatter from Paul! Much more concise. And the audio quality of the retail download will be higher than the podcasts. Like all Moodstreams digital downloads, they will be encoded in the highest bitrate MP3 format for superior audio quality. But enough news...

In this meditation, we imagine taking a canoe trip down a river in the cool, crisp, and pristine Northern wilderness. Our boat starts at the foot of a majestic waterfall, and floats downstream, wandering through a system of connected ponds and lakes, and finally emerging in a sheltered bay. As we journey down, we go deeper into our own minds, creating unprecedented levels of detail and achieving profound relaxation. We create images of wildlife and incredible landscapes, and find peace and healing in the uncorrupted wilderness.

This guided meditation features segments from the "Alaska Rivers" album of nature sounds from Moodstreams.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Calling all mosquito magnets!

Two posts ago, I told you about my life-long (and still ongoing) search for the ideal mosquito repellent. Over the years, I had come to realize that mosquitoes preferred to bite me rather than other people, and that made me everyone's favorite outdoor companion. After all, who wouldn't want to bring a fully portable mosquito decoy with them into the deep woods of New England? Most people were quite content to put up with my constant slapping and cursing for the chance to laugh at my polkadotted pattern of quarter-sized welts when the day was over. And all these years, I never knew what made me so.... yummy.

Well, a few days ago, I came across this long overdue article about what makes mosquitoes prefer some people over others. While it doesn't help me to pinpoint what exactly it is about me that is so tasty to skeeters, the article does describe numerous factors related to genetics and body chemistry that contribute to a person's palatability.

Astoundingly, 85% of a person's susceptibility is genetic! Also, certain bodily compounds, when found in high concentrations on the skin, attract mosquitoes. These include cholesterol and steroid hormones, and acids such as uric acid. It has also been found that mosquitoes love people who release more carbon dioxide, so that makes larger people and pregnant women (because they produce higher-than-average levels of carbon dioxide) more susceptible. So slim down, or hurry up and have that baby... or just hold your breath in the woods! Also, movement and heat are attractive to mosquitoes. So sit still and take your lumps like a man/woman!

According to the article, if you're going to be outside, it's best to be a lazy loaf, because if you are exerting yourself, you will draw mosquitoes to yourself in numerous ways: Your movement; the increased carbon dioxide you release from the heavier breathing that accompanies activity; and the lactic acid that comes from your sweat glands.

So how do you protect yourself? The article goes over a few types of repellents you can try. I personally opt for the mesh "bug armor" these days. Dorky, but effective. When I'm out in the woods making recordings I'm generally there for a long time, so I don't want to be reapplying repellent all the time. And I'm still scared of that DEET stuff. I remember from my youth that it would melt plastic on contact.

I also recall reading in several outdoor magazines as a kid that you could make yourself smell worse to mosquitoes by eating raw garlic or a yeast cake! And your own body odor just might turn you into everyone's least favorite outdoor companion.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Relief for Teeth-Grinding

I will spare you the pain of reading yet another blog post summarizing the latest breathing article that I read. And God knows, there are plenty of those to choose from every week. You'd think by the number of articles that have been written recently on breathing that it was the "hot" new thing to do or something, like those "lose weight by obeying the one simple rule" ads that have been popping up in our e-mail account ad sidebars every day for the last month.

Today I will mention an article on the link between stress and teeth-grinding, or bruxism. There is, of course, a correlation, and the article mentions various ways to alleviate the pressure on your teeth through the use of mouth guards and similar apparati, but, according to Dr. Nancy Rosen, "because stress causes most of all grinding, the only real way to cure it is to reduce the stress in your life". Rosen suggests exercise and meditation, and forms of therapy that are centered around relaxation (please keep your local humble hypnotist in mind). Dr. Harold Menschel of the TMJ and Facial Pain institute "also recommends relaxation therapy and even hypnosis". Even hypnosis? Does anyone else, non-hypnotists included, sense a little bit of condescension in that? Even hypnosis indeed.

Anyway, as a hypnotist myself (or even a hypnotist, I should say), one method that I recommend is to spend more time being aware of the tension and tightness in your jaw area that leads to teeth-grinding or clenching, and to deliberately relax those areas regularly. This can be done by visualizing or directing relaxation to the area during meditation or deep breathing, or by reciting an affirmation or self-suggestion like, "My jaws are loose and relaxed, and my teeth are separated" while in a state of self-hypnosis. Do this before bed, so you can go to sleep without carrying any tension in your jaws that would cause nightly teeth-grinding. And also do it first thing in the morning, and at various times in the day when you would feel stress, whether it's while sitting in traffic, or at your desk at work, or dinner with your mother-in-law. The idea behind this is to pinpoint the stressful moments of your life and deliberately replace the tension with relaxation.

One article that I'd like to read but haven't come across yet is one that explains why so many people do carry stress in their jaws as opposed to other parts of the body. I mean, does anyone out there clench their fists as a stress response? Or tighten their kneecaps? Not so much, right?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Don't kill yourself over a few mosquitoes

Thanks to my career in nature recording, I am outside A LOT, especially during the warmer months. I've always been very enthusiastic about being outdoors, going back to my childhood. What that means is that, over the years living in New England, I've probably been bitten by over a million mosquitoes. And I pride myself in being everyone's favorite hiking buddy, because mosquitoes seem to prefer the taste of my blood over anyone else's. I can't explain why, I just know that it is an indisputable truth. I can tell you about mosquitoes whose bites hurt like crazy but the welts only last an hour, and I can tell you about mosquitoes whose bites are stealthy and hardly noticeable, but the welts last a whole week. And I can tell you where to find each of these various types of skeeters.

Over the years, I've tried all the different kinds of repellents: The 100% DEET stuff that works well but melts plastic on contact and was reported to have caused liver problems for the Gulf War infantrymen who used it; The "all natural" botanical repellent that works decently, but needs to be reapplied every 15 minutes; The ultrasonic emitter that clips onto your clothing and "scares off" mosquitoes by mimicking the sound of their top predator, the dragonfly (don't waste your money on this one); and just about everything in between. None of these turned out to be a sastisfactory solution that I felt good enough about to stick with. So in the last couple of years, I've settled on what I felt was the one true solution to preventing mosquito bites: a physical barrier.

That's right, I got a bug suit. You know, the dorky matching hoodie and pants made of window screen material that goes on outside whatever clothing you're wearing. It even has a drop-down 'veil' of sorts to protect your face. And as expected, it is not only highly embarrassing to wear in areas where I run into other people, but it works great! -- except now all the mosquitoes just bite me on the hands :( But I can't expect myself to wear gloves while trying to fumble with the tiny buttons and switches on audio equipment and cameras while standing in a stream. And plus, IT'S SUMMER, PEOPLE. It's way too hot to be wearing gloves! And yes, mesh bug gloves are available, but that doesn't solve the problem of trying to manipulate tiny controls (and it also adds another element of embarrassment to the already very embarrassing bug suit).

Which leaves me with - what exactly? Bug suit over my whole body and repellent on the hands, of course! Brilliant! Now, I simply have to find a repellent that works for more than 15 minutes and doesn't give me hand cancer... which brings me back to square one.

But then I found this great article on safer bug repellents. Thank you, WebMD and CBS Health, for waiting until mid-July to publish this article. But better late than never, I suppose. So what are the latest safest options? Soy-based repellents, and oil of lemon eucalyptus. Time to go to my local holistic camping store and find these things! The article also offers short summaries of other natural repellent choices and physical measures you can take, and also has a section on the old standby, DEET, which still seems to be the consensus winner for pure repelling ability, but comes with the usual list of cautions, especially for children. It is after all, an insecticide.

Strangely, no mention was made of the bug suit among the options. Apparently, it's just too dorky for mainstream use. Thanks again, WebMD.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yet another article on breathing

Just when you thought you'd mastered the ancient art of breathing, another expert comes out with a new way! Just kidding, actually, the technique for proper breathing is, at its heart, generally consistently agreed upon, but everyone does have a tendency to add their own spin to it.

Here's my opinion of what you NEED to know: Basically, short, fast, shallow breaths result in stress and poor oxygen transfer to the body, which leads to fatigue, poor brain functioning, and overall poor health. Long, slow, full breaths, on the other hand, create relaxation and good oxygen transfer, leading to higher energy levels and better brain functioning. It's easy. If you ever needed to know one thing about breathing, it would be to favor long, slow, full breaths. Every single thing ever written about good breathing contains this same advice.

However, if you want to see the latest round of "improvements", read this article that I found online. It talks about emphasizing the exhalation phase of the breath as the focal point for relaxation, and also has a guide on how to pace your breathing for maximum effectiveness. It's good advice really, but do keep in mind that the number of different breathing techniques out there merely indicates that there's no single correct way. Heck, try them all, you can't really go wrong as long as you follow the golden rule of deep, full, breaths.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Breakfast-skippers beware

If you think you're too busy for the first meal of the day, you might want to reconsider, especially if you're struggling to keep your weight down. You've probably heard that skipping breakfast is bad, because it makes you stuff yourself more at the two remaining meals of the day, but now doctors (actual MDs, mind you!) have performed a study detailing exactly what happens when a person skips breakfast.

Participants in the research study skipped breakfast and then were subjected to a functional MRI scan, which allows doctors to see how blood flow increases in response to brain activity. During the scan, the participants were shown randomly ordered photos of high-calorie and low-calorie foods. It turned out that the reward center of the person's brain became more active when shown the high-calorie option as opposed to the low-calorie choice!

However, when the participants had breakfast 90 minutes prior to the functional MRI scan, the activity of the brain's reward center was not significantly greater when shown photos of the high-calorie foods versus the lower-calorie options.

No wonder donuts for lunch seems like such a good idea after skipping breakfast!

So if you are finding it difficut to eat smaller, healthier portions at lunchtime, you might want to give breakfast, the good ol' base of the food pyramid, greater priority in your daily life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

5 Side Effects of Stress

In today's blog entry, we have a guest writer! Exciting! Meredith Walker has contributed a short article about the effects of STRESS (which, as we know, is the root of all evil). Meredith writes for several online education sites and manages the blog for NursingDegree.net, a website that offers people the opportunity to attend school and choose between a variety of nursing programs and degrees. The site also helps people to go back to school while continuing to work or raise families. If you are interested in finding out more, Meredith's contact info is at the end of the article.


5 Side Effects of Stress

Stress is an inevitable part of life that can lead to many debilitating illnesses including ulcers, anxiety, or hypertension. While some forms of stress can never be eliminated from your life, the key is learning how to control stress when it hits. Stress can produce many side effects that are dangerous to your overall body chemistry and it is only after completely understanding these effects that you will be able to move forward in combating the things in your life that cause you undue stress.

Ulcers

Ulcers have mainly been cited with a bacterial infection that causes the growth of an ulcer, however only 80 percent are found to be associated with this infection, which leaves the rest up in the air in regards to the true explanation for the remaining 20 percent. Many of these have been attributed to stress, either directly or indirectly through various complications. Chronic stress, as well as irregular meals due to this stress, has helped contribute to many forms of peptic ulcers through increasing the amount of stomach acid that can lead to infection.

Insomnia

Insomnia occurs as a result of many conflicting factors, most revolving around stress at work, life, or school. If something important is about to occur or something traumatic has just happened, this stress will contribute to your inability to get enough sleep because you will lie awake all night thinking about this particular task or event. Decreasing the amount of stress in your life will lead to a healthier sleep schedule and will in turn result in a better overall lifestyle.

Anxiety

Stressing about an upcoming due date or event in your life can cause unneeded anxiety because of the stress which this event may bring with it. In order to combat this from occurring, you need to calm down and figure out a way that will rid your mental state of all this extra anxiety; maybe you can have someone help you through this time, or even extend your deadline. Causing your body this type of unneeded stress and anxiety will cause you to grow old before your time and can lead to overreactions in many different scenarios. The best thing to do is remain calm and remember that no matter what, the upcoming event is going to occur regardless of what may happen.

Depression

Depression is a serious mental illness that can affect every aspect of your life from your work to your family to even your pets. Stress is a large contributor to depression and can cause you to become severely depressed from one incident in your life. If you continually dwell on one specific event, rather than moving on or focusing on something happy in your life, you will find yourself spiraling downward into depression, which becomes incredibly difficult to work your way out of. The best way to avoid this is to accurately manage your stress and do not let the little things in life bother you in such a vast way.

Hypertension

Stress can lead to hypertension as well, which is a medical condition in which blood pressure is chronically elevated. Avoiding stress through relaxation techniques such as meditation can thwart high blood pressure from occurring. While this is not the only cause of high blood pressure, it has been found to be a main contributor when coupled with poor eating habits (which can also be a sign of undue stress). Leading a stress-free life is a difficult thing to accomplish but once you get to this level, your overall mental and physical health benefits from this lifestyle change.

This post was contributed by Meredith Walker, who writes about the online nursing programs. She welcomes your feedback at MeredithWalker1983 at gmail.com

Saturday, June 13, 2009

So what exactly IS the right way to breathe?

It seems like every day that I learn of another new opinion on the "right" way to breathe, whether it's in a book, a magazine, an online article or a seminar that I've attended. It's ironic that the act of breathing, something that we perform every second of our lives, is constantly under revision. Some insist on breathing from bottom to top during inhalation, starting in the belly and finishing in the lungs for an "in" breath; and breathing from top to bottom during exhalation, starting in the lungs and finishing with the belly for an "out" breath. For others, the exact opposite is true, and they insist on breathing top-to-bottom during inhalation and bottom-to-top for exhalation. And some feel that you need to breathe in through the nose out through the mouth, and others say that breathing in and out through just the nose is fine.
Like nutrition, it appears to be an inexact science, and we may never arrive at the one right way that works for everybody all of the time. But much like nutrition, there are, I believe several "ground rules" that, when followed, make everything else more or less dispensable.

Here's what I mean: If you want to be a slender, healthy individual, then eat small, well-balanced meal portions, eat only at meal times, and avoid junk food. This advice sounds too simple, right? Yet in my hypnosis practice, I've never had a weight loss client NOT lose weight once they started incorporating these simple, easy-to-remember rules into their lifestyle. You don't need to worry about low-glycaemic index carbs, or low-density carbs (which most of us really can't be bothered to measure anyway), but you WILL lose weight, even without exercise!

Likewise, I would say that if you want to master proper breathing and derive maximum benefit from your breaths for the purpose of relaxation, awareness, lowering your blood pressure and boosting your immune system, there are just a few simple rules to adhere to, and then everything else is up to you. Breathe softly and gently, taking full breaths that extend all the way down into your diaphragm, but don't strain. It really doesn't matter if you want to be a top-to-bottom breather or a bottom-to-top breather, or if you want to breathe through your nose and mouth, or just your nose. Just make sure you extend your breathing down into your abdomen, because breathing is about using more than just your ribcage and lungs. Watch how a cat breathes. THAT is proper breathing.

Simple, right? But simple works. Boil everything in life down to its simplest components and marvel at how well it works. And when in doubt, trust your animal instincts. As humans, we often lose sight of the fact that we are animals, and we share instincts and common ancestry with cats, dogs, monkeys, reptiles, and fish. All of these critters know exactly the right way to eat, sleep, raise their children, exercise, and breathe without ever reading an article or attending a seminar! You and I all have these truths within us. We just need to trust ourselves and pay attention to what our minds and bodies are saying.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Beware! Restaurant portion sizes are increasing again. Who are the culprits and what can you do about it?

If you are on a weight loss program or have already established a lifestyle of healthy eating for yourself, you know that the last place you want to go is one of the many "sit-down" chain restaurants that litter our strip malls, airports, and other commercial centers. But that simple truth is more important now than ever. This article I found online indicates that these so-called family restaurants are now scaling up their portion sizes even further, thus putting more calories into each meal, in order to lure us into eating out again despite the condition of the economy. The article also names the culprits and suggests ways to avoid the traps.

A representative of these restaurants claims that, as a consumer-driven business, they're just giving us what we want. And sadly, for many Americans, that is, in fact, true. You see, here in the states we've learned to equate quantity with value. If we go to The Cheesecake Chili Garden and pay $12.99 for the Ultra-Chili-Cheese-Macaroni-Hoagie-Deluxe, and suddenly we are given 30% more at no extra cost, we suddenly say, "Oooooh, now THAT'S a good deal!" And then we are more likely to not only buy it, but come back and buy it again another time, naively thinking that in these tough times when money is tight, we need to make every penny count.

But the reality is, we all pay for our unhealthy habits in the end. If we perceive that we are saving money by eating these huge, unhealthy meals made with questionable ingredients, we eventually suffer declining health in some form or another (obesity and heart disease come to mind), and we see that "savings" ripped out of our bank accounts (and then some) to pay the cost of medical bills and expensive weight loss programs.

So don't be "that person" who keeps these chain restaurants in business. Instead, eat at local establishments that use healthy ingredients and don't emphasize quantity over quality. If you're faced with a portion that you know is too big for you, split it in half before you even start eating it, ask for a take-out box for the half you won't eat, put it in the box, and forget about it for the rest of the meal. You can always eat that other half the next day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Your Secret Garden

Meditation Getaways - Your Secret Garden -

This meditation is not about taking a mental vacation so much as it's about creating sanctuary and personal space. We create a secret garden or backyard in our subconscious minds that we can visit at any time to experience tranquility and peace. Everyone at some point in their lives has imagined a place that they would love to call home. For you, this could be a place you fondly remember from your own life, or it could be a place you've wished for in your own mind. It could be a real place, or a complete fantasy, or a combination of the two. We start by creating our imagined home in great detail on the outside. Then we walk through the house and construct the interior details as we go. Eventually we emerge in the backyard, a place of fantastic beauty and incredible tranquility. In this place, we exist as our ideal selves, and we form an image of ourselves that we can take with us back to waking reality.

This guided meditation features segments from two Moodstreams nature soundtracks as background sound: "Dawn Birds of May" and "Songbirds Behind the Farm".

Sunday, May 31, 2009

How to succeed with hypnosis

Are you considering hypnosis for the first time? The majority of my clients come in with no experience in undergoing hypnosis and very little background information. With that comes a multitude of misconceptions and false expectations about how the process will work. Most new clients are unaware of how cooperative a process hypnosis really is. Hypnosis is not a miracle solution that does all the work for you as you relax. Your thoughts and feelings are not all of a sudden transformed without effort on your part. No, a hypnosis program is a two-way street, an agreement between hypnotist and client to both participate equally in the process. Clients who embrace this concept are more successful at reaching their goals than those who have a "wait-and-see" approach, or those who expect that the hypnotist is the only one who should be doing any work. In order to help all my new clients have the proper expectations as they embark on their adventure of self-transformation, I came up with this guide on how to succeed as you undergo your first hypnosis program:

How to Succeed with Hypnosis

The success of your hypnosis program depends on 100% commitment by both me and you. I'm ready to give it 100%. Are you? As your hypnotist, I am like a personal trainer for your mind. I help you to achieve what you never thought you could achieve on your own. But you must realize that, just as if you'd hired a personal trainer for fitness, you are the one who is doing the “heavy lifting”. And that means that the progress, insights, and ultimate success are entirely yours to create, enjoy, and be proud of. I have seen many clients reach their goals rapidly and dramatically, and I've seen others take a bit longer to achieve their desired transformation. There is a definite “profile”, a set of common characteristics, shared by highly successful clients. And with that in mind, I have created this list of six ways in which you can help yourself to reach your goal faster.

1. Expect success! Hypnosis utilizes the amazing powers of the mind to achieve results. If, in your mind, you honestly believe that you will succeed and are succeeding, then the hard work is already done. We've all learned in school about the placebo effect, where patients were told that they were receiving a treatment for a condition that they had, even though they were really receiving plain water or a sugar pill – and they recovered anyway! This is proof that the mind's expectations play a huge role in the success of a treatment or therapy. Hypnosis is a deliberate use of this phenomenon, the mind's ability to create actual change through expectation. Speak to yourself and others in positive language that expresses your faith in your own ability to succeed. Clients who have positive expectations always have the highest success rate.

2. Be diligent about using your reinforcement techniques. Whether I have taught you to give yourself pre-sleep suggestions, taught you self-hypnosis, or given you a recording to listen to (or all three), be sure to be faithful to your reinforcement techniques and use them daily as instructed. Hypnosis is not an instant fix. Reprogramming your attitudes, habits and lifestyle requires time and repetition. Any habit or way of thinking, whether it is good or bad, requires reinforcement to establish, and what we're doing with hypnosis is establishing a brand new attitude and different, beneficial habits for you. Be patient, and know that you cannot properly judge the success or failure of your hypnosis program unless you have followed through with everything you have been taught.

3. Spend every moment of your day thinking, acting, and feeling like the “new” you. We are reprogramming your attitudes at the subconscious level, and the best way to achieve this quickly is to act like you're already there! Be the person that you want to become, not the person you're leaving behind. When you are faced with a decision, ask yourself, “What would the 'new me' do?” or, “Is what I'm about to do going to help me to reach my goal?”

4. Be proactive about coming up with your own solutions. Remember, the success of hypnosis is as much about the client as it is about the hypnotist. Throughout the days and weeks of your hypnosis program, always be thinking of effective ways to help yourself reach your goal. Come up with your own ways to break your associations to your old habits and ways of thinking (e.g. If drinking coffee triggers you to smoke a cigarette, lay off the coffee for a while). Create your own reinforcement techniques. Clients who actively participate in the hypnosis program always have greater success than those who expect things to happen by themselves.

5. Be focused on the process, not just the end result. Make sure to appreciate every little bit of progress and insight you have on the way to reaching your ultimate goal. Successes build upon each other, so the more readily you recognize every little positive change, the easier it is to achieve the next one. For instance, if your goal is to lose sixty pounds, be ecstatic when you lose the first two, because that feeling of success fuels you to lose the next two, and so on. It's much easier to climb a big mountain if you are having fun along the way.

6. Give your hypnotist as much feedback as possible during the program. I love to hear from my clients in between sessions about how they are progressing, what they've found helpful and what needs work, and what they want/expect at the next session. It helps me to better structure the program to help you as much as possible. I am never too busy to listen to you, so feel free to call or e-mail.

Hypnosis is as much about you helping yourself as it is about me helping you. Keep that in mind, and you will most certainly be successful!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Are you a stress eater? Sleep it off.

It may seem a bit counterintuitive at first: Sleep more and you'll LOSE weight? But there is an increasing number of research studies (by actual PhD scientists! MDs even!) detailing the crucial link between undersleeping and overeating. I recently read a brief news article summarizing the latest findings. Lack of sleep may throw off your normal hormonal balance, causing an overeating response. Stress (the root of ALL evil) is also a factor, and may be both the result and the cause of lack of sleep. Stress causes disruption of regular sleep patterns, which may make individuals less organized, which leads to yet more stress, and encourages ill-advised behaviors like emotional eating.

It seems like it's almost everyday that I read something about the link between stress and obesity. Why, it was only a few weeks ago that I wrote my most recent blog post about that very topic, and I'm sure it won't be long before I write another one.

Anyway, I think we're seeing the point here, America. Get more sleep, and eat less Peeps. More time on the mat, and less time being fat. Catch more Z's and be less...obese.

I could go on forever.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Dawn Birds of May 2.0

A new soundtrack, Dawn Birds of May, has been released! Now, I do realize that Dawn Birds of May already existed as a title in my catalog, but I have decided that this latest version will be a direct replacement of the old version, and so the old version will discontinued. Of course, if you ask nicely, I will still give it to you.

The reason for the replacement? I always felt that the old Dawn Birds of May, while chock full of different bird songs and calls, was not my finest work. It had way too much distracting ambient noise and strange buzzing tones that appeared midway through the recording (from a source unknown to me). I felt a little guilty offering it for sale in my catalog, because I always felt like it could have been much much better. The newer version of Dawn Birds of May is, in fact, a very different soundtrack. Besides being a much cleaner recording, it also has an entirely different feel. It is much less busy because the density of birds is lower, and it seems more orderly somehow, like it has a well-defined beginning, middle, and end. I am always a sucker for a recording that is "story-like" rather than monotonous or chaotic, and this one is certainly that. It ebbs and flows nicely. At times it is very up-front, while at other times, it eases up, and becomes more distant. My favorite feature of this soundtrack is that it prominently features my favorite of all woodland songbirds, the Wood Thrush. Such a complex and eerie song it has! Go to the product page and listen to the first sample, you'll see what I mean.

Here is the new product description:

The songbirds of Spring have arrived, and they busily go about their early morning rituals of courtship and territoriality at the edge of the forest. This recording captures the conversations reverberating under the forest canopy, and features the haunting, beautiful melody of the Wood Thrush. The first four minutes showcase a single Wood Thrush in the foreground, as it sings over the gentle breeze blowing through the trees. Then, other birds, such as Mourning Doves, warblers, woodpeckers, Blue Jays, and robins make their way into the soundscape. Some Wild Turkeys even make an appearance!
Approximately half an hour long.

The old Dawn Birds of May will still be sold on Tradebit under a different name, Woodland Birds.




Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Paul's notes from the field

My initial worries about an unproductive Spring for bird recording have been put to rest. I went to my sure-fire-can't-miss recording spot in central MA yesterday and found that, in this particular wilderness, the ice storms of this past winter did minimal damage to the trees. As a result, the birds were out in their usual splendor, singing their hearts out at dawn and well into mid-morning. Meanwhile, as I noted in previous blog posts, other forests of central MA have seen a reduction in songbirds due to tree falls caused by the aforementioned storms.

Interestingly though, the species composition at my sure-fire-can't-miss spot is a bit different from what it was last year at the same time. When I was at this same exact location last May (May 11, 2008 to be exact), I noticed a lot of Eastern towhees, no red-winged blackbirds, and no wood thrushes. Yesterday, however, there were no Eastern towhees at all, several wood thrushes, and a few red-winged blackbirds. I even noticed a catbird. I normally associate wood thrushes and catbirds with summer, and so it seems that this year, at least for the birds, summer has arrived a little earlier than usual. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention the flock of wild turkeys that I encountered!

I will be releasing a new soundtrack soon, based on what I recorded yesterday. This year's dawn birds of May soundtrack will feature wood thrushes prominently, because they have such a hauntingly beautiful song. I've been wanting to release something with wood thrushes for a while, and I am delighted that I finally got a good recording of them. And you may even hear a gobble-gobble or two from the turkeys!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Now available in the online store: "Songbirds Behind the Farm" nature soundtrack

A busy Spring, my mellow fellows! I have added another new nature soundtrack to the Moodstreams catalog: "Songbirds Behind the Farm". Here is the product description:

The forecast called for a thunderstorm, but the rains never came. Instead, it turned into a warm, humid Spring afternoon on which robins, cardinals, warblers, blackbirds, doves and other birds sang amidst the peaceful ambience of a pond behind a farm.
This soundtrack tells an interesting story, as different sections of this recording are dominated by different birds. A pair of Canada geese enter the soundscape (with a splash) midway through and assert themselves, and bullfrogs and treefrogs make guest appearances as well.


It seems there are endless possibilities for great nature sounds now that Spring is in full swing. The challenge, however, is producing a good variety of soundtracks without seeming redundant. Honestly, I could go out every week this Spring to the same location and never make the same recording twice, because the demographics of natural areas change so regularly during this season, as new species of migratory birds come through the area. But then the catalog would be a bit heavy on the "chatty chirping bird" sounds!

So why this latest offering, when there are already three perfectly good bird soundtracks (Dawn Birds of May, Streamside Conversations, and Water Flows Beneath Us) in the catalog? I feel like "Songbirds Behind the Farm" is quite a special recording. The other three have some kind of flowing water nearby, which can mask some of the subtle sonic details of the environment, but "Songbirds" has only the birds and the peaceful ambience of the sounds surrounding the pond and farm on this wonderfully still Spring day. In addition to the main "characters" in this play, you will hear bullfrogs croaking in the pond, the splashing of water as an animal dives in, the flapping wings of birds in the bushes, the echo of a goose's honk, and other subtle details that even I may have missed. All this is made possible by the wonderful stillness of the environment. And perhaps even more important than the sounds themselves is the story-like way in which this soundtrack unfolds. It changes throughout, ebbing and flowing as different species of birds and frogs enter and leave the soundscape, and comes full circle at the end. I hope that you will find this recording as lovely as I do.

Monday, May 11, 2009

"Streamside Conversations" soundtrack is now available for purchase

Hello, Mellow Fellows,

The first of the Spring 2009 nature soundtracks has been completed, and I have added it to the online store. It is called Streamside Conversations. There is of course a sample that you can listen to on the product page. Here is the description that I put up on the website:

Relax to the morning conversations of songbirds echoing under the canopy of an evergreen forest by a swiftly moving stream. The beauty of this soundtrack is how it constantly changes; different sections of the forest come alive at different times, and the chatty canopy inhabitants move throughout the soundscape, resulting in a recording that alternates between busy and sparse, close and distant.

In case you're wondering how this soundtrack compares with the other Moodstreams recordings that feature water and birds (such as Water Flows Beneath Us, and Dawn Birds of May), I would say that this latest one is less "busy" overall, and the density of birds varies throughout the half-hour recording, as the birds move from place to place in the forest canopy. So there are sections where very little can be heard other than the sound of the stream, and then there are sections where the birds converge and become very chatty. It really illustrates the fact that the forest is a constantly changing entity. Also, the stream is more distant in this recording than in Water Flows Beneath Us, and forms a nice background of white noise that would be helpful for blocking out distracting sounds in your personal listening environment.

More Spring soundtracks are coming!

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Wonders of Spring

We're in the midst of Spring here in my home region of New England, and as I was going to work at my hypnosis clinic in Maynard, MA this morning, I noticed leaves on the trees for the first time this year! The sounds of the season are in full abundance, and these days I wake up to all manner of chirping outside my window. This also means, of course, that Spring nature recording has begun in earnest.

I'm thinking, how could I possibly match such a productive recording year as I had last year? It's going to be tough, especially since many of my most peaceful (i.e. undisturbed by man-made sounds) recording sites in MA were hit by a huge ice storm this winter, which resulted in a lot of fallen trees, and consequently less habitat for many of the songbirds that I recorded last year. I suspect that this is why many of my early recording attempts this year at my old reliable sites have produced much sparser sounds. With fewer birds around, there's simply a lot less going on in some of these early Spring recordings. That's not to say they can't turn into spectacular relaxation soundtracks. I actually prefer relaxing to more spacious sounds myself. There's a lot less "pizzazz", but with less subject matter to pay attention to, there are fewer distractions to prevent you from completely zoning out. Sometimes having too many sounds is like trying to listen to several conversations at once. It's quite a mental commitment. Some people would argue with that, preferring a immersive blanket of sound to completely captivate the mind and block out stray thoughts.

In any case, yesterday I recorded in a coastal scrub forest, a new site for me, and captured exactly the kind of sparse bird sound recording that I love and others hate. This particular area was not hit by the ice storm or anything, but has naturally sparser, lower-growing trees and vegetation and is dryer than the typical New England forest. Because of this, the songbird population is somewhat different there, and I recorded some birds that did not appear on any of my previous recordings. It's pretty exciting for me. I know, it's the little things.

Expect some new Spring soundtracks soon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The crucial link between stress and overeating

In my career as a consulting hypnotist, stress control and weight management are two of the biggest issues that I help people with. This detailed article on msn.com illustrates the critical relationship between the two issues.

So why exactly does stress make you stuff yourself silly? Your body and mind react to all stress the same way, regardless of whether the stress is physical or mental. If you're having a stressful day at the office for instance, your brain perceives that to be equivalent to being chased by tigers through the jungles of Southeast Asia all afternoon (more or less). And it instructs your body to release hormones like adrenaline, which activates the age-old "flight or fight" response (or is it "fight or flight" ?), and cortisol, whose job it is to get your body to immediately replace those calories you either just used up as you deftly escaped those tigers by taking to the trees, or DIDN'T use up as you sat in your office getting a horrible annual evaluation from your slave-driver boss. So, you see, regardless of the stressful situation, you get very, very hungry. And you stay hungry as the cortisol continues to flow through you.

If you were indeed in the jungles of Southeast Asia, you'd reach for some delicious and healthy wild edibles (or tiger meat, depending on the outcome of the encounter) and replenish your calories that way. But for most cube-dwelling Americans, the easiest option inevitably turns out to be those delicious-looking danishes perched precariously in the coils of the cafeteria vending machine, waiting to be gently dislodged with a few quarters and an easy press of "A6" on the keypad. The euphoria-inducing effects of these sugary "foods" allows them to quickly become associated with tension-reduction in our own minds. So we reach for them every time something feels wrong, and they become our comfort food. And that, of course, is very, very bad if you're trying to stay healthy.

The article suggests 7 healthy ways to reduce stress and keep your weight under control.

1) Do some quick exercise when you feel stressed. This helps to flush the cortisol out of your system, curtailing hunger while relieving your stress.

2) Eat slowly. No inhaling! Slowing down and being more aware of getting full decreases the portion size you consume before feeling satisfied, and also lowers cortisol levels.

3) Don't be so strict when it comes to dieting. Strict dieting causes a drop in blood sugar, which the body perceives as stressful. This causes that mean and nasty cortisol to rise again, making you ravenous, and your self-control goes out the window. Eat well-balanced, nutritious meals so that your blood sugar stays even throughout the day. I always suggest to my clients that all their meals must contain portions of carbs, protein, fat and fiber.

4) You'll appreciate this one: Give in once in a while. It's okay to have a small sweet snack to stop your cortisol production, than to risk having it get out of control. But you must know when to stop. Take precautions to prevent yourself from eating the whole bag of cookies.

5) No mo' joe. If you insist on coffee, make it decaf. Stress + caffeine = more cortisol production. And that results in the dreaded stress-eating response.

6) Eat a breakfast that's high in nutrients like Vitamin B and C, calcium, and magnesium. Deficiencies in these nutrients leads to cortisol production and food cravings. Try some citrus fruit or juice, some yogurt, and something bready like toast or a bagel.

7) Get enough shut-eye. The body perceives loss of sleep as a major source of stress, which results in increased appetite and weight gain. So be sure to get your 7-9 hours on the Serta.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Physical activity is 90% mental. Even Michael Phelps knows that.

How do you get good at a sport? Practice, practice, practice. That's what they always say, right? But practice is more than just physical. What makes a great athlete great? He/she integrates mind, body, and spirit, elevating his/her own level of consciousness above and beyond that of the next guy. Extraordinary athletes spend as much time, if not more, in mental preparation -through visualization, relaxation, and meditation - as they do in physical training. This online article has good advice for incorporating visualization, Qi Gong, breathing, and meditation into your training routine.

And it evens dares to mention Michael Phelps, the most annoyingly overmentioned athlete in history. Because he's so perfect, and excellent, and astounding, and blah blah blah.

Don't forget the old standy...Sleep! You and I, and even flies, need it.

You won't find anyone more eager than me to extoll the virtues of establishing a deliberate practice of mental and emotional relaxation in some form. 20 minutes a day is all it takes. But even though we engage in mental rest on a conscious level, let's not forget the age-old standby, the thing we all were born to do and can't live without, the UNconscious kind of rest: Sleep!

Scientists (with actual PhDs) have now recognized what we knew all along - that sleep is essential for memory and learning. This article in WebMD news explains how sleep influences the chemistry of the brain, paving the way for new learning, by strengthening some synapses and destroying others.

Different stages of sleep are important for different types of learning. While napping or meditating may help strenghthen memorization, it appears that deeper sleep is needed for learning new skills and processing complex information.

So before you decide to meditate the night away, know that while that may help you remember your wedding anniversary, it may not be the best course of action if you are trying to master the intricacies of Irish tap dancing.

The article mentions that even flies need sleep to learn! And flies need more sleep after social interation. Social interaction??? It was not mentioned what kind of social interaction these flies were engaged in, but after a day of swarming over a rotten banana peel with my friends, I'd imagine that I would appreciate a good night's slumber... before getting up in the morning for another day of swarming over a rotten banana peel.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Island Voyage

Meditation Getaways - Island Voyage -

We start by relaxing on a tropical beach created entirely in the imagination, paying attention to the various sights, sounds, and textures around us. We spot a giant piece of driftwood from an ancient tree further down the beach, and we walk over to investigate. We climb on the driftwood log to sit a while, but then the tide comes in and soon the log begins to drift away. Our sense of adventure kicks in, as we decide to hang on for the ride! The driftwood log becomes our raft, as it takes us out to sea and to an offshore island. Not a meditation for those who get seasick!

This guided meditation features the Moodstreams soundtrack "SoCal Beach" as background sound.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New England Seashore sounds

The Moodstreams catalog has a new nature soundtrack, "New England Seashore". It's the classic sound of waves washing up on a Northeast beach. My previous ocean recordings were made on West Coast beaches, and for those of you have visited both coasts, you know there is a BIG difference between Pacific Ocean waves and Atlantic Ocean waves. The Pacific is powerful and vigorous, while the Atlantic is generally more calm and gentle. So you might say that on the West coast, waves "crash" on the beach, but in New England, waves "wash" up on the beach. The recording technique for "New England Seashore" is different as well - I place the stereo microphone a short distance back from the highest point on the beach that the waves reach. In my Pacific recordings, I perched the microphone over the waves and allowed the waves to wash past the microphone. So "New England Seashore" offers a more distant listening experience, as opposed to the more immersive experience of "Pacific Tidepool" or "SoCal Beach". So now you have a choice based on your personal listening preference. Check out the catalog to compare all the sounds.

Friday, March 13, 2009

10 Questions with Paul Nguyen

I am currently featured on the Transparent Hypnotist's "10 Questions for Hypnotists". The column runs Fridays, and asks different hypnotists the same 10 questions. Check it out, and thanks for reading!

You thought proper breathing was automatic...

... but in reality, most people don't breathe correctly at all. Stress produces shallow breathing, which, in turn, produces yet more stress! According to this article I came across, improper breathing can also result in lower metabolic activity, decreased energy, a weakened immune system, and numerous other problems.

And we already know that proper breathing is essential to all relaxation and meditative practices. Learning to breathe the right way automatically increases your level of relaxation.

Shallow, improper breathing is done with only the chest. Full, correct breathing starts in the abdomen, allowing the diaphragm to flex naturally.

Begin your inhalation by pushing your belly out and downward. Then let the diaphragm flex to fill your lungs, as your chest expands to it's full capacity. Begin the exhalation in your chest, and let the air leave your lungs naturally. Lastly, pull your belly upward and inward.

So inhalation begins in the abdomen and finishes in the chest. Exhalation begins in the chest and finishes in the abdomen. Practice this, and see how much better you feel!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Summer Twilight

Meditation Getaways - Summer Twilight -

Our subconscious mind takes us on a trip to a grassy meadow on a Summer afternoon, with crickets chirping and other insects buzzing about. In the gentle breeze, the tall grass sways back and forth rhythmically like waves on an ocean. As afternoon turns to twilight, and then to evening, the sights and sounds change, and we arrive at a pond surrounded by a glade of trees. In the dark, we are greeted by firefly-like particles of light that behave with incredible purpose and intelligence beyond our own, and they bestow us with the incredible gift of healing.

This guided meditation features two soundtracks as background sounds: "Summer Meadow" and "Evening by the Pond".

Friday, February 20, 2009

Enhance your emotional health

You already know that your mental health and happiness can be greatly improved through techniques like meditation, conscious relaxation, and hypnosis. Another very powerful discipline for enhancing mental well-being is Qigong, a Chinese system of techniques, thousands of years old, aimed at cultivating Chi, the fundamental life force in all of us. Qigong includes breathing exercises, meditation, visualization, slow movements, and postural work. Read more about it in this article I found.

So you're losing weight with hypnosis...

...which is great! You've cut junk food out of your diet completely, you eat sensible portions of food, and you don't snack in between meals. But how do you get to your goal weight faster, and make the weight loss process even easier on yourself? Read this article that I found online for recommendations on the proper consumption of carbohydrates.

Pay particular attention to the last part of the article, which gives you the take-home message:


• Eat smaller, more frequent meals.

• Reduce your portion size of carbohydrate without eliminating it.

• Ensure all meals contain portions of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fibre.

• Slow the passage of glucose into the bloodstream by emphasising low-density and low GI carbohydrates.


Following these tips will speed you along toward your goal weight, while hypnosis eliminates those cravings you once had, and severs your emotional dependence on food.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Article about Moodstreams Hypnosis in local paper

A short news article about Moodstreams' local client-based hypnosis practice was published in the Maynard Beacon-Villager a couple of days ago. It's about how I dispel the lingering myths about hypnosis to make my clients feel at ease, and how I make my sessions as casual and natural as possible to emphasize the fact that hypnosis is indeed a natural state of mind that we all experience as a part of daily life.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rejuvenating Rain

Meditation Getaways - Rejuvenating Rain -

We take a walk on a rainy day, from an open hillside down to a dense forest of majestic trees. The rain cleanses us of all stress and anxiety, and fills us with positivity. The rain becomes stronger as the meditation progresses, but just before it gets too strong, we escape into the sanctity of the forest, shielded from the elements by the dense canopy. The storm eventually clears, and the sun pokes through the spaces in the canopy, treating us to a spectacular light show.

This guided meditation features the soundtrack "Spring Rainstorm" as a background sound.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Echoes of a Winter Brook soundtrack

Check out the catalog to preview the newly released soundtrack, "Echoes of a Winter Brook". It's one of the few sounds of water that is specific to Winter, as it is created from the sound of a brook rushing through a cavity of ice and snow.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Winter Sounds Coming

Following up on my post from last week called "Winter Downtime":

Despite the Arctic cold temperatures we've been having this winter in New England, I did eventually get the courage to head into the deep woods, snowshoes and all, for an afternoon of recording. And I'm glad I did, because I was treated to some very interesting "winter-only" sounds.

The small streams have frozen over and there are a couple feet of snow on top of the ice, but in the faster sections of the streams, the rushing water has carved out little "caves" in the ice and snow down the middle of the stream, and these cavities add a great reverberation to the sound of the flowing water. It's kind of like the sound of water in a tunnel. This is the recording that I think will turn into a great soundtrack for relaxation, meditation, or hypnosis.

Generally, 70% of my recorded material gets discarded before production, due to excessive artificial noise, wind noise, other unwanted noise, or it's just not unique enough to differentiate it from other soundtracks I've created. Well this time, I believe I "nailed it" and came home with useable material from just a couple hours of being outside, including the hiking time to get to the recording site. As I mentioned in my "Winter Downtime" post, there is so much less human-generated noise in the woods during winter that a half hour of recording will actually yield just about half an hour of useable material. I might just need to edit out a distant jet plane or two, but that's it! No hikers, no Harleys in the distance, no recreational prop planes, no motor boats. The moral of the story is: If you can handle the bitter cold, recording in winter CAN be fruiful.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Don't Let Stress Be Such a Grind

Hello fans of relaxation, self-change, and all other great things!

I came across this great article about the connection between stress and teeth grinding (or bruxism, as it's formally called).

The American Dental Association says that teeth grinding usually happens during sleep, and may be brought on by stress and anxiety, frustration, or anger.
So if it happens while you're asleep, how would you know if you're suffering from bruxism? Symptoms include increased tooth pain or sensitivity, or awakening with jaw muscle strain, pain in the face, and tenderness in the jaw. In extreme cases, if left untreated, teeth grinding leads to worn-down or chipped teeth, and even tooth loss, which must be repaired through extensive dental work to restore the entire mouth.
Experts suggest that sufferers of stress-related bruxism find a way to manage their daily stress, such as exercise or meditation.


So what this says is that if you grind your teeth at night or during stressful situations (I know some people who clench their teeth while stuck in traffic), you need to stop the problem before it gets worse, or else you may have a lot of expensive dental work in your future. If you experience the symptoms of teeth grinding, chances are you have stress in your life that needs to be managed. Begin a daily practice of mindful stress reduction. Meditation works great for this, and it's really quite easy to get started. I began meditation a few years ago simply by reading some books. The information is out there, we just need to seek it out. Moodstreams soundtracks work great as meditation aids.

And of course another great solution is to seek the help of a hypnotist. As a certified hypnotist myself, I work with many clients on stress management. Stress is the root of many disorders including bruxism, and a qualified hypnotist has scripts to address both general stress management as well as bruxism in particular. And a good hypnotist will also teach you self-hypnosis (which works the same way as meditation), so you can continue the practice of relaxation when you are out of the hypnosis clinic and going about your daily life.

Relax and live peacefully,

Paul

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Winter Downtime

I hope all of you who have been listening to Meditation Getaways have been satisfied with it, and have used these meditations to find inner peace, and discover your latent powers of imagination. I have done 3 episodes so far, and I have many more planned. Please leave me feedback on what you think of the guided meditations, and what changes you'd like to see in upcoming episodes. I try to keep the length of these meditations between 15 and 20 minutes, so that you can listen to them in the middle of the day as a quick break, without taking too much time out of your schedule. The last thing people need in this day and age is ANOTHER COMMITMENT, right?

Here in New England it is the dead of winter, we've had 3 snowstorms and temperatures are steadily falling to teeth-chattering levels this week. Winter is typically a time where my nature recording activities are drastically reduced, which is why you haven't seen an update to the online store in a while. Recording is difficult in winter, because the equipment doesn't enjoy being subjected to below-freezing temps too much, battery capacity is drastically reduced, and wimpy nature recordists don't like freezing their butts off while they wait for a 45-minute winter stream recording to finish. ;)

That being said, recording in winter DOES have its perks: There are much fewer people out in natural areas, so I don't have to go as far out of the way to avoid human interference; The Harley Davidson, the bane of a nature recordist's existence, is completely absent from country roads in winter, which, again, means I don't have to go as far off the beaten path to find quiet spaces to record. At least motorcycle riders also have the same problem with freezing their butts off in winter; The number of recreational airplanes in the sky is also drastically reduced in winter, which means I can now record in wilderness areas that are within a few miles of a small airport (which is most of central Massachusetts, and ironically the parts that are furthest from car traffic); Recreational motorboats are all out of the water, tightly wrapped in their winter plastic-wrap cocoons, which it makes it much easier for me to record near the ocean and near lakes; And a thick blanket of winter snow over everything just seems to have a way of insulating the wilderness from the sounds of society. If you ever want to experience true quiet (the kind of quiet that's so profound that you can hear your own blood running inside your head), stand in the middle of a remote New England pine forest in the dead of winter during a gentle snowfall. You will not hear cars, planes, tranes, animals, wind, or even water (because it's all frozen). But in those cases, the silence is so overwhelming that there's nothing to record!

With all that in mind, I suppose I'll suck it up soon and go out and capture some recordings of some partially frozen winter streams flowing. The sound of water flowing under sheets of ice is really quite amazing. This is also a great time to go and record the Atlantic Ocean, because there'll be no people on the beach and no boats in the water. And as soon as we get a warm spell, I'll go out and record the sound of icicles melting and dripping water rhythmically onto the ground below, which I've been thinking would be quite soothing and mesmerizing.

So, yes, you CAN expect to see and hear something new soon!

Moodstreams adds a new location!

I am proud to announce that Moodstreams now has a new clinic location for private hypnosis sessions in the suburbs of Boston, MA. I, Paul, your friendly local hypnotist, have started seeing clients at Assabet Valley Natural Health, a new alternative health clinic in Maynard, MA. I'm in this clinic a couple of days a week, and I am able to hold appointments there on Fridays and Sundays. I share this wonderfully quaint clinic space with two incredible alternative health practitioners: George Mandler, an acupuncturist and dietician, and Joy Mandler, a massage therapist and maternal care specialist. They are the owner's of the clinic and have done a great job setting up the space.

I continue to be avaiable for house call hypnosis sessions throughout the suburbs of Boston. But I encourage clients, both new and old, to come to the clinic for appointments if possible, because you'll be impressed with how comfortable the space is, and you'll find that it is very easy to relax and go into hypnosis there. And besides, getting out of the house once in a while is a good thing, right?

In Health,
Paul Nguyen, Certified Consulting Hypnotist