Mental Health Champions: How Dr Ran Anbar Is Helping to Promote Mental Wellness
Be Positive — How we think and talk about ourselves helps to create our future. For example, if we do not achieve a particular goal, and we tell ourselves that we are “a failure,” the mind can accept this as a reality, and we can feel that there is nothing else to be done. On the other hand, if we tell ourselves that next time we want to “do better,” the mind starts to think about how to make this happen. Therefore, structuring our thinking in a positive way helps propel us towards success.
As a part of our series about Mental Health Champions helping to promote mental wellness, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Ran D. Anbar.
Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California, and Syracuse, New York. Dr. Anbar is a leader in clinical hypnosis, and a past president, fellow, and approved consultant for the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. His experiences with hypnosis since 1998 have allowed him to successfully treat over 7,000 children. Dr. Anbar is author of the newly published book, Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I was born in Israel and moved to the United States with my family when I was 9 years old. We lived in Palo Alto, CA, and I went to college at UC San Diego. My interest in how people thought, led me to a major in psychology, and my interest in life sciences led me to a second major in biology. I decided to attend medical school as a medical career seemed to be a good fit for my dual interests.
You are currently leading a social impact organization that is helping to promote mental wellness. Can you tell us a bit about what you or your organization are trying to address?
Center Point Medicine started as a dream to develop a full-time private clinical practice focusing on hypnosis and counseling for children. The rapid growth of the practice reflects the great need for a therapy that empowers children to help themselves heal.
Hypnosis involves a shift in the thinking pattern. To my patients, I define hypnosis as “using your imagination to help yourself.” However, that describes what we can do with hypnosis, rather than what it is.
Hypnosis involves a state of focused attention that can allow people to be more receptive to positive change in their mental wellness. A hypnotic state can be achieved by focusing attention through imagining a favorite place, staring at a spot on the wall, or even gazing at a swinging pocket watch. Hypnosis is not unusual. In fact, people often enter hypnotic states without even realizing it. When people daydream or drive home on “autopilot” they are in a hypnotic state. Hypnosis does not involve mind control or sleep. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis.
In the state of hypnosis, people are more receptive to suggestions from a therapist or from themselves. This occurs because the conscious mind is focused on a task, and therefore is less likely to interfere with incoming suggestions by expressing doubt or resistance to change.
One of the wonderful features of hypnotherapy is that patients can be taught to induce a state of hypnosis in themselves, which is termed self-hypnosis. Patients can learn how to harness the many powers of the mind through use of hypnosis. The knowledge of how to do this can be dramatically empowering.
Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?
In the spring of 1997, when I was practicing as a pediatric pulmonologist, I received a call from a pediatrician about a patient he wanted to refer to me. “Paul is one of the most allergic patients I have ever met,” he told me.
Paul had almost died twice from eating a milk product. Once when he was 7-years-old and the other time when he was 17. In addition to having a life-threatening food allergy, he also suffered from asthma. Once he told me, “Lately, when I’ve been smelling cheeseburgers, I’ve developed asthma attacks.”
I thought this was a strange symptom. But, I thought, perhaps a milk molecule is wafting through the air and this is triggering his asthma (which I later found out could not happen.) “Go see your allergist,” I suggested.
Then I thought a bit more. “Imagine eating a cheeseburger,” I suggested to Paul, which is something he could never do in real life. Within seconds Paul began showing signs that he was having trouble breathing. He was struggling to inhale and appeared scared.
“Stop it!” I exclaimed. And he did.
I knew very little about hypnosis at the time but wondered if there could be something hypnotic going on. So I said, “Imagine a glass plate covering your hand.” He nodded. “Now, tell me if you can feel me touching you,” I said as I touched his hand.
“No,” he said, appearing surprised. I took out my pocketknife (which the airlines later confiscated) and pressed the corkscrew into his palm. “Do you feel this?” I asked.
“No!” he said.
“Whoa, that’s amazing,” I said. “This must be hypnosis. I don’t know if it’s you or me who is causing this to happen, but it’s worth finding out about.”
Immediately, I started thinking: “If you can think your way into disease, can you think your way out?”
This was my rather dramatic introduction to hypnosis and mental health.
Later, after doing a lot of reading and taking workshops in hypnosis, I learned that hypnosis can be of help to anyone with chronic symptoms. This is because stress can cause physical symptoms to develop, or patients with physical symptoms can develop psychological problems such as anxiety because of the difficulties with their health. In all cases, learning how to self-regulate with hypnosis can help patients improve their symptoms.
Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?
I used hypnosis to help patients while I was practicing as a pediatric pulmonologist for 15 years at Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, NY. In my last few years in Syracuse, I split my time between practicing pulmonary medicine and medical hypnosis. I enjoyed both aspects of my practice, but hypnosis and counseling felt the most rewarding because I was able to teach patients how to help themselves without reliance on additional medications, and they frequently improved quickly and dramatically. Further, as no one else in Syracuse offered hypnosis therapy to children, I was inspired by being able to make a unique contribution to health care in Central New York.
When my family’s life journey took us from Syracuse to La Jolla, CA, my “aha moment” was when I decided that I would take the opportunity to recast my career by focusing entirely on hypnosis and counseling, as this was the most fun and rewarding part of my work as a physician. My initial idea was to explain to administrators at the local children’s hospitals about the unique and essential way I could help children in their communities. However, the hospital administrators were only semi-interested. As one of them said, “We don’t know what to make of you. Are you a pediatrician, a pulmonologist, or a psychologist?”
I replied, “Yes, I’m all three of those things.”
“Well,” said the administrator. “We can’t fit you into a box, so we can’t offer you a job.”
I was nervous about the idea of opening a private full-time practice specializing in pediatric hypnosis and counseling because this had not been done frequently in this country. I had always worked for hospitals, and was guaranteed a salary and benefits, which provided financial security. What would happen to my family and me, I thought, if my private practice failed?
My wife was so very helpful in encouraging me and allaying my fears. First, she pointed out that I had succeeded in many of my previous life endeavors. And later she gave me an ornament bearing the inscription of a saying attributable to American naturalist John Burroughs: Leap and the net will appear.
I ended up following the advice I often give my patients regarding how to react when something does not go your way. I quote Alexander Graham Bell: When one door closes, another opens. Setting up a private practice from scratch seemed like a daunting, and almost overwhelming task. Once again I was inspired by a quote I have shared with my patients from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
I picked the name “Center Point Medicine” for my practice as I viewed my work as teaching patients how to find their spiritual center. My experiences in developing Center Point Medicine recall one final quote that I share with my patients by inspirational writer William Arthur Ward: If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
Many interesting things have occurred with my patients, and as part of the development of Center Point Medicine. It is hard to pick the “most” interesting one.
When our hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine proved to be greatly needed and successful, I had hoped that other physicians would follow my lead. There are so many children in this country who could benefit from hypnosis and counseling, and yet there is very little access to health care providers who can provide such guidance.
At Center Point Medicine the way I practice medicine became greater than that of being a doctor (as the root of that word means I was changing something — rather than the patient being in charge of enacting the change) or a physician (the root meaning that I was doing something related to the physical body.) Rather, a better term for my vocation was as a healer.
Further, my new practice reenergized me. In order to help my patients calm themselves, I needed to learn to be more calm myself. I learned a lot from teaching my patients strategies to cope with various life challenges. I was no longer on-call at the hospital, as I had been for many years, which led to many nights with interrupted sleep. I no longer carried a pager that interrupted my patient care when someone needed to speak with me urgently. Thus, life as a healer was much more pleasant and enriching.
I spoke about my practice at national meetings for pediatricians, and many were intrigued by what I was doing. However, only a handful considered developing a practice like mine likely because they perceived the task as daunting.
First, they would need to learn how to use hypnosis, which takes only 20–40 hours to get started, but is a new skill and requires honing and a somewhat new way of thinking. What many of these pediatricians may not realize is that part of the practice of a good physician involves establishment of rapport, the use of imagery, and giving suggestions in a way that patients can incorporate easily. All these elements are part of an effective hypnosis encounter. Thus, a good physician can easily incorporate hypnosis into his or her practice.
Second, as hospitals are not yet open to a full-time practice of hypnosis, for a pediatrician to follow my lead he or she would need to open a private practice, which can seem far-fetched to many physicians who have been trained and have always worked at hospitals. I remember the self-doubts I experienced when I first contemplated opening Center Point Medicine.
And that’s when the concept for CPM Franchise Group was born. I reasoned that through a franchise model, I can help physicians receive training in hypnosis, and teach them how I opened my private practice as a model for their practices. Further, in a franchise system, I would be available to consult regularly with the physicians regarding how to best help their patients with hypnosis and counseling.
As we move forward with development of the Franchise Group, I am excited to see how the dream will unfold!
I have observed that many times in life necessity is the mother of invention, which is a phrase based in Plato’s statement, Our need will be the real creator. CPM Franchise Group became a reality because I needed to find a way to help many children with the gift of hypnosis.
I would also like to share a most interesting patient story, which is excerpted from my book, Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center.
One of the most medically fascinating patients of my career is a 6-year-old boy named Bruce. He initially came to me for treatment of his asthma, but it was impossible to separate the asthma from the host of other medical problems with which he was living. Bruce had a peanut allergy, an allergy to dust that caused his nose to be runny much of the time, acid reflux from his stomach, frequent ear infections, migraine headaches, and a seizure disorder that started when he had bleeding in his brain as a baby. He also sometimes developed fevers that lasted for weeks at a time without any known cause. One possibility was that the fevers were caused by his injured brain’s inability to control his body temperature. Each of these health issues challenged Bruce and his family. Together they were a complicated, discouraging jumble of ailments.
Over the course of a year, we addressed these problems one at a time. After some trial and error, his asthma, allergy symptoms, and acid reflux were much improved. This progress was overshadowed, though, when Bruce began experiencing more frequent seizures. His mother reported he was having an average of one each week, despite the anti-seizure medications he was taking.
Typically, Bruce’s seizures would start in the right side of his head, where he’d had the brain bleed. At first, his eyes would turn to the left and his left hand would turn palm down. As long as the seizure stayed on the right side of his brain, Bruce was able to speak to his mother, tell her he was having an episode, and move the right side of his body. About three quarters of the time, however, the seizure would spread to the left side of his brain. When this happened, his whole body would shake and he’d lose the ability to speak. This was a cruel affliction for such a young child, and a heartbreaking one for his family to have to watch without being able to help.
Some basic brain information: The brain conducts its business through electrical activity. An epileptic seizure is caused in the brain by uncontrolled activity (or “storm”) that can start because one nerve cell acts up. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, and the left side of the brain controls the right side of the body. The speech center in the brain is located on the left side, which is why Bruce could not talk when the seizure spread to the left side of his brain.
One reason Bruce’s seizures didn’t always spread throughout his brain was rooted in the damage he’d suffered as a baby during his bleeding episode. It had included injury to the nerves that connect the two sides of the brain to each other (known as the corpus collosum). Those damaged connectors did not always conduct electrical activity from one side of Bruce’s brain to the other. It was an unusual circumstance. Ironically it was also the silver lining that allowed him to sometimes remain functional during a seizure.
Buffering the Storm
Bruce’s seizure disorder weighed on me. We’d made a great deal of progress with his other health issues, and I wondered if I could help him with his remaining serious condition. I had been learning how hypnosis could help in many different health situations and started thinking whether it could help prevent seizures. I knew that dogs could be trained to sense when their owners were about to have a seizure, and this allowed the owners to take precautions before they were unable to control their bodies. My interpretation was that there must be some recognizable neurological changes that take place before a seizure starts. Suppose, I reasoned, that with use of hypnosis patients could be taught to think differently in a way that changes their brain activity when they first had warning of an impending seizure. Could that prevent a seizure from occurring?
Since Bruce sometimes was able to tell his mother that a seizure was starting, I thought that he could be a candidate for using hypnosis to prevent it from spreading. It was an unconventional thought and perhaps a long shot, but it wasn’t impossible.
I broached the subject with Bruce’s mother, telling her I thought there was a small chance Bruce could learn to prevent his seizures from spreading from the right to left side of the brain. I posed it as an experiment (which it was) and was careful not to create false hope for an unlikely cure, emphasizing instead that there was no potential downside to trying. At worst, Bruce’s existing symptoms would continue. At best, we might see a measure of improvement.
Bruce’s mom was happy to let me try to help. Next, I took the idea to the little boy who had already endured more medical incidents and interventions in his young life than many people do over their lifetimes. Despite the restrictions and regimens his health issues foisted into his life, he had an adventurous spirit, and he was eager to do something new.
Rather than using a formal ritual for entering hypnosis, the process of entering hypnosis with younger kids often involves telling a story or engaging their imaginations with a pretend activity such as interacting with a superhero or transforming into royalty (as in Sally’s bandaging case in Chapter 7). The common objective of hypnosis in both older and younger children is learning how to change their mindset in the hopes that will allow for a change in their symptoms.
Patients of all ages are most empowered in hypnosis when they utilize imagery with which they are familiar. For example, a child who is prompted to imagine how she would feel if her hands contained giant magnets would have no idea how to respond if she’d never played with magnets. The best way to find a useful framework of imagery is to go straight to the source: the child.
I asked Bruce what cartoon character he liked best, and he exclaimed, “SpongeBob SquarePants!”
Ah, SpongeBob. Even though I dislike his show, he has helped treat a number of his young fans in my office.
“Great!” I said. “Did you know that when you have a seizure in one part of your brain it’s like a storm in your brain that scares it? Sometimes, the storm then travels to the other parts of your brain and scares them too.”
Bruce looked wide-eyed at me, and I explained this again, gesturing from the right to the left side of my own head to explain the transfer.
“Do you know what SpongeBob is made out of?” I asked.
“Uh, yeah. A sponge.”
“That’s right. And what does a sponge have in it?”
“That’s right. So when you feel a storm coming, you can put SpongeBob on top of your head, and let the storm pass through his holes. When you do that, the storm will blow away instead of scaring your brain. If you want, you can even put SpongeBob on at night so you will be safe from any storms.”
The fact is, setting up an entire hypnotic intervention in a young child can take just a few minutes. The key is to create a metaphor that makes sense to the child. I suggested to Bruce’s mother that she remind him about SpongeBob whenever a seizure started.
After his visit and with his parents’ help, Bruce started putting his soft SpongeBob toy on his head every night, and telling himself that if a storm came it would pass through the holes in the sponge instead of his brain. In the weeks that followed, he transitioned from the actual toy to an imaginary version that he secured to his head with an imaginary chin strap several times each night at bedtime. Occasionally he’d say the strap wasn’t on correctly or the imaginary SpongeBob was out of place, and he’d start his routine again — exercising a healthy amount of control over his own unique form of treatment.
Four months later when I saw Bruce in clinic, he and his mother reported that he hadn’t experienced a single seizure since his last appointment. The migraine headaches they had triggered were gone as well. He continued his nightly SpongeBob routine for the next several years. During this time, we worked through his other health issues, but he never had another seizure — even though his electroencephalogram (EEG), which measures brain electrical activity, remained abnormal.
How is this possible? Even after all these years, I don’t fully understand the reach of hypnosis in the human mind, but in Bruce’s case the most likely explanation hinges on his symptoms becoming functional over time. Here was a child who’d had seizures for much of his life. They were an affliction initially caused by a physical circumstance (most likely the brain bleed), but at some point they might have become a habit of the body rather than a necessary reaction to an organic stimulus. In a million years, Bruce could not have faked the seizures that impacted every aspect of his life, but it turned out he was able to undo this physical habit and stop manifesting these events in such a stressful, potentially dangerous way. The EEGs of some patients — pediatric and adult — indicate seizure activity when there are no obvious physical signs they are happening. Deep in Bruce’s mind, he had tapped the capacity to join this symptomless group.
A second plausible theory is that Bruce was able to use hypnotic activity to create a disconnect between a stimulus (in this case the flurry of activity on the right side of his brain) and a response (spreading of the abnormal electrical activity to the left side of his brain with resulting full-body seizures). In this patient who had a known disconnect between the left and right sides of his brain because of previous trauma, it would be a fitting resolution to his seizure disorder if he learned how to use that anomaly to his advantage.
Months later, Bruce demonstrated yet another ability to control his mind with hypnosis. Even when his seizures had stopped he continued to develop frequent high fevers, without an obvious physical cause.
“Does SpongeBob have a friend?” I asked him at a subsequent visit.
“Yeah!” he responded enthusiastically. “Patrick.”
“I have an idea for you. Next time you have a fever, tell Patrick to turn on the air conditioning.”
“Okay! I can do that.”
Three months later Ben’s mother reported that he continued to develop fevers, although they did not last as long as previously.
“Tell Patrick to keep the air conditioning on all of the time,” I suggested.
Bruce no longer developed recurrent fevers after that visit. Somehow, the hypnotic suggestion had helped adjust his brain’s ability to control his body temperature.
None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?
I am very grateful to many people who have influenced my development as a physician who uses hypnosis and counseling to help children. I want to acknowledge some of the individuals who taught me memorable lessons that I use to this day to help patients. The brief lessons I am reporting comprise only a small fraction of what each of these people taught me:
My patient Paul, whom I talked about earlier, became my first teacher of hypnosis as we practiced hypnosis together for a year before I started using it with other patients. I also have been privileged to work with many other patients who served as an inspiration for me to expand my understanding of hypnosis. Many of my patients and their parents have encouraged me to share my knowledge with society at large.
My mother, Dr. Ada Anbar, who worked with pre-school children and children with special needs, taught me how to listen carefully to children and to respect them.
My late father, Dr. Michael Anbar, taught me how to sharpen my understanding of hypnosis through challenging discussions, especially about the subconscious. Thus, I have used a gentle challenging approach to teach my patients and students.
My wife, Dr. Hannah Anbar, has been with me every step of the way in getting Center Point Medicine off the ground, and reviewing everything I have written regarding hypnosis. It’s funny to think back to when I first encountered and became excited about hypnosis and Hannah expressed concern about whether I might end up as a guru on top of a mountain. I’m happy to report that instead of retreating to a mountain, I have been working to bring hypnosis into the mainstream in the valley, with Hannah by my side!
Mr. James Carroll, my late 5th grade teacher, gave me his Hardy Boys book collection upon his retirement from teaching that year. I still have and treasure those books that represented Mr. Carroll’s fondness for me. From this I learned how much kindness and care is healing for the soul.
Mrs. Virginia Scardigli, my late 11th grade English teacher sent a story I had worked on for a long time to be read by famous author Ray Bradbury, who was a personal acquaintance of hers. From her I learned to go the extra mile for my patients who are working hard at improving themselves, and about the importance to a teenager when an adult he respects shows faith in him.
Mr. James Soto, my City Editor when I worked with the UC San Diego Triton Times as a college freshman, asked me early in my college career, “How are you doing?” I remember this interaction to this day as it felt so good that someone appeared to care about me at a time I felt very lonely. This reinforced for me the importance of kindness as part of life and my clinical work.
Dr. Paul Saltman, the late Vice-Chancellor or Academic Affairs at UC San Diego, took me under his wing when I met him as a third week freshman in college. I was interviewing the University administrators about their jobs for a story I was writing for the Triton Times. He became my mentor for the next 10 years. I remember how he took me out to lunch on a couple of occasions, which made me feel valued. Now, I take students for meals on occasion, and when they offer to pay for their food I tell them that I will take care of the bill, and that they should pay it forward, just like Dr. Saltman did for me.
Fr. Ernie Mort, the late former Dean of Students at UC San Diego’s Revelle College, talked with me following the sudden death of one of my classmates from the University. Fr. Mort shared that he became closer to his own father after his father’s death, which helped germinate the idea in my mind that interactions with deceased individuals through hypnosis can be beneficial.
Dr. Debra Iannuzzi, my pulmonology colleague in Syracuse, is the first person to tell me about medical applications of hypnosis based on her participation in several hypnosis trainings. Because of what she taught me, I recognized hypnosis when I worked first worked with my patient Paul.
Dr. David Keith, a psychiatrist and family therapist at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, taught me that every good physician uses hypnosis, even if he or she does not recognize it.
Dr. Ellen Cook-Jacobsen, the late physician who treated many of the faculty at SUNY Upstate Medical University, taught me that, “Confrontation leads to resistance.” I have explained to many of my patients that this is the reason confrontation should be avoided if they seek to help someone change, e.g., prompting their parents to change onerous rules. Rather, change is more apt to occur once common ground is achieved.
Dr. Howard Hall, a pediatric psychologist, told the story of a patient who came out of hypnosis and said the world appeared upside down. He told the patient, “Go back” and fix the problem. This anecdote taught me that application of hypnosis should be flexible.
Dr. Dan Kohen, co-Director of the National Pediatric Hypnosis Training Institute, taught me to avoid using the word try. He reminded me of Yoda’s saying: “Do or do not, there is no try.” As I explain to my patients, trying leaves room for failure. When we venture forth we always succeed by learning from the results of our attempt to reach our goal, even if we do not achieve it.
Dr. Laurence Sugarman, Director of the Center for Applied Psychophysiology at the Rochester Institute of Technology, taught me how use the word might when teaching hypnosis. Rather than suggesting that someone imagine what they can see in their mind’s eye, the suggestion can be modified for someone who cannot visualize well as “Imagine what you might see.” The hypnotic experience then seems to work just as well in this situation.
Dr. Julie Linden, a psychologist and former president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis and the International Society of Hypnosis, taught me about the importance of educating others, and invited me to participate in developing the “Teaching and Consultation Workshop” to teach veteran clinicians who use hypnosis how to effectively share their knowledge with their students. This workshop continues to be taught regularly at meetings of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis.
Dr. Thomas Welch, the former Chair of the SUNY Update Department of Pediatrics, asked soon after meeting me, “Why is my pulmonologist doing hypnosis?” I am grateful that he became very supportive of my work when he learned of its scope and impact.
Dr. Thomas Wall, the late psychologist and director of one of my first hypnosis workshops, urged me to write articles about my experiences with hypnosis. My first reaction was to ask myself, “How would I be able to contribute to this very old field of therapy after only a couple of years of experience?” I soon discovered the answer that much remains to be explored and described about therapy with hypnosis.
According to Mental Health America’s report, over 44 million Americans have a mental health condition. Yet there’s still a stigma about mental illness. Can you share a few reasons you think this is so?
Since mental illness cannot be seen, some people are suspicious that it is not real. (Even with COVID-19, a physical illness, many people have a hard time believing it is real!)
People have the idea that if the problem originates in the mind, it should be correctible in the mind. They may feel that people suffering from mental illness are not trying hard enough to overcome it. Therapy for mental illness (either medications or psychotherapy) often is looked upon as showing weakness. Thus, patients might be loathe to admit they are struggling mentally.
Perhaps the stigma that people with mental illness are “crazy” may deter someone from seeking help or admitting they need support.
In your experience, what should a) individuals b) society, and c) the government do to better support people suffering from mental illness?
As individuals and society, we need to be more accepting of each other, non-judgmental, supportive, and encouraging. Unfortunately, in our society at present, being judgmental has laid fertile groundwork for our modern ostracism and “cancel culture” (and not just with mental illness!)
Government needs to work on helping people have more access to mental health care, including through supporting the training of sufficient mental health providers and ensuring that health insurance companies provide mental health coverage. I know of some HMOs which allow only 8 monthly visits for mental health care for their insureds. This is woefully inadequate for someone in mental health crisis, who requires at least weekly visits.
I believe psychotherapy should be the mainstay of mental health care rather than writing a prescription for an anxiolytic or anti-depressant. But we need sufficient clinicians to accommodate such therapy. This is one reason I am developing the CPM Franchise Group.
What are your 5 strategies you use to promote your own wellbeing and mental wellness? Can you please give a story or example for each?
I use the same strategies for wellbeing that I promote to my patients, and thus increase their credibility in the eyes of my patients. I regularly use the inspirational quotes I include with these strategies with my patients.
- Be Positive
How we think and talk about ourselves helps to create our future. For example, if we do not achieve a particular goal, and we tell ourselves that we are “a failure,” the mind can accept this as a reality, and we can feel that there is nothing else to be done. On the other hand, if we tell ourselves that next time we want to “do better,” the mind starts to think about how to make this happen. Therefore, structuring our thinking in a positive way helps propel us towards success.
A simple example of the power of a positive attitude can be checked out whenever it is difficult to find parking in a crowded location. If you believe that you are going to find a parking spot then you are much more apt to be successful because you will become more patient and look for parking in places that appear to be full. Thus, you increase your odds of finding a parking spot. Conversely, if you feel like you are not going to be able to find a spot easily this can translate into a decision to give up quickly, and park far away. My family knows that we virtually always find convenient parking when I announce, “I am going to find parking!”
Henry Ford, the automobile manufacturer knew all about the power of a positive attitude one hundred years ago. He said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t, you are right.”
2. Calm Yourself
Maintaining a calm state can help us better tackle life challenges including dealing with stressful situations, interacting in a constructive way with others, and coping with illness or pain.
One way to achieve a calm state is to take a few moments to imagine being in a safe, calming place. This can be a place you’ve been to, a place you would like to go to, or even an imaginary place. You can activate multiple sites in your brain that will help achieve calm by imagining what you might perceive in your place with each of your senses. What can you imagine seeing? Hearing? Smelling? Feeling? Tasting? I use this kind of calming, when necessary, to help me fall asleep.
As philosopher and psychologist William James said, “The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.”
3. Deep Breathing
Another calming activity can involve deep breathing. First, ensure that you are lowering your diaphragm to inhale deeply, to allow your lungs to expand fully. You will know that you are breathing effectively, when your abdomen expands each time you inhale. Second, breathe in slowly through your nose, with a slow count to 5. Third, hold your breath for a slow count of 5. Finally, exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of 7. Deep breathing can be repeated several times to achieve even greater calm. I take a few moments during stressful days to use this method.
Novelist Hermann Hesse observed, “Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
4. Listen to Yourself
With hypnosis, people can learn to interact with their subconscious, which can be a source of knowledge and wisdom. For my patients I define the subconscious as being a part of them of which they are unaware. However, you do not need to be in hypnosis to gain increased self-awareness as a result of quieting your mind.
Your mind can be quieted with a meditation exercise, such as focusing on your breath for several minutes. I suggest to my patients that they imagine a sailboat at the lower tip of their breastbone. I encourage them to watch the sailboat in their minds as it rises with inhalation and falls with exhalation. I tell them that if they find their mind wandering during this exercise that they should calmly refocus their mind on the sailboat.
Other ways to quiet the mind include taking a walk in nature, listening to soothing music, or contemplating calming art.
Albert Einstein recognized the importance of a tranquil mind when he said, “The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
5. Talk Directly with Your Subconscious
Once your mind is calm you can ask your subconscious a question. As you continue in your calm state an answer likely will enter your mind. The answer may be a complete thought or thought fragment, an image that you might need to interpret, or a feeling.
I speak to my subconscious all the time when I interact with patients. Sometimes, when I want to understand a patient better, or define what the next step therapy might be, I enter a state of light hypnosis, sit quietly, and listen for my subconscious’ input. This has been invaluable. When I review interactions I have had with patients, sometimes I feel as if the therapeutic strategy I ended up using did not come from my conscious self, as I think, “I couldn’t have come up with that!” But, my subconscious obviously did provide me with guidance!
Author Christian D. Larson said, “Believe in yourself and all that you are. Know that there is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a mental health champion?
In learning about hypnosis, I was helped a great deal by Kohen & Olness’ “Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy” with Children, as well as Udolf’s “Handbook of Hypnosis for Professionals.”
Dr. Ernest Hilgard’s book “Divided Consciousness” and Leonard Mlodinow’s “Subliminal” helped formulate my thoughts about the subconscious.
My participation in hypnosis clinical workshops sponsored by the Society for Development and Behavioral Pediatrics and the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis also were instrumental in my development.
If you could tell other people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If each one of us did our part to improve our environment or society the world would be a very different place.
What you choose to improve can be big or small. It will all add up. Imagine it. Seven billion people all doing their part to improve the world. What a wonderful place this would be!
How can our readers follow you online?
They can find out more about hypnosis and my book, Changing Children’s Lives with Hypnosis: A Journey to the Center at my website, www.centerpointhypnosis.com. They can also follow my blogs on www.psychologytoday.com.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Mental Health Champions: How Ran D. Anbar Is Helping to Promote Mental Wellness By… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.