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Changing Bodies, Changing Minds

How the mind effects changes with age

At different points on the path of life … things take some turns. Our bodies change. We enter another phase. The early changes of growth and entering adulthood are easy to identify because looking back now they feel more like a rite of passage than a hormonal train wreck. And then later in life our bodies transition from our reproductive stage to midlife.

For men, it’s a loss of testosterone, which can mean belly fat, hair loss and lower libido. And, frankly, men have it easy. For women, the hormonal changes in midlife can be even more staggering than those experienced in the teen years. But at least one local hypnotist says it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Menopause shouldn’t be the toughest thing you have to deal with,” says Beverly Craddock, master hypnotist at Hawaii Hypnosis Center, in Honolulu. “In fact, women going through menopause will all experience it a little bit differently.” 

Beverly points to studies that found that women of Japanese descent experience fewer symptoms of menopause. For many years, researchers studied diet and environmental factors to determine why different races were experiencing different menopause symptoms.

“Recent studies have identified cultural differences that play a significant role versus diet or any environmental factor,” she explains. “The researchers learned that because Japanese culture values aging so strongly that women are more likely to experience the aging process in a more positive way. Basically, it’s all controlled by the perceptions of the mind.”

Beverly says that when women view menopause from a Western perspective, they’re more likely to experience it in a negative way.

“Women in Western cultures struggled for many years for equality in the workplace,” she says. “The sexual revolution of the 1970s brought about concepts such as reproductive choice and birth control. Whether people agreed with all of the changes or not, menopause in Western culture became the time when women were giving up the things that seemed to be highly valued culturally. Asian cultures tended to view this time differently—more as a time when maturity and wisdom were achieved.”

Because of an understanding of the new research findings on how cultural perspectives affect the actual physical symptoms of hormonal change, Beverly says that hypnosis is finding new success in helping women attain more comfort as they transition through the hormonal changes of midlife.

“Hypnotists have always believed that mental perspective and subconscious beliefs have the ability to alter physical symptoms,” she notes. “This new understanding proves that the mind absolutely can make changes to the way we feel and even the way the body operates.”

Beverly points to the success of hypnosis in a recent study by Gary Elkins at the Mind-Body Medicine Research Laboratory at Baylor University. Elkins’ study of 187 women found that weekly hypnosis sessions led to both a perceived and an actual reduction in hot flash symptoms for 80 percent of study participants after five weeks.

Based on the results of this study, Beverly started looking at how the unconscious mind could be directed to provide a more gentle and regulated flow of hormones without the wild swings.

“The human brain gets good at doing the things that it does repeatedly,” she explains. “So when the physical parts of the body begin to change and shutdown, the brain keeps trying to do what it has always done and release hormones. The mind doesn’t have the experience to deal with the new physical factors. Menopause is the time that the mind takes to adjust to the physical changes. When that happens, things like temperature regulation fall into new patterns of relief. Hypnosis works to help the mind move through the transition phase more easily.”

Beverly teaches her clients how to use goal-oriented hypnosis to create a better health blueprint and to allow the mind to slowly transition to the bodily changes. By creating slow changes, clients can experience relief from primary and secondary menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, mood swings, vaginal dryness and anxiousness.

There was also another interesting research breakthrough that has really helped Beverly’s clients find comfort.

“There’s a study by a business professor at Harvard that really keyed us in to even more ways that both the body and the mind interact with one another,” she says. “The research by Amy Cuddy showed that merely changing the position of the body and holding a ‘power pose’ (hands on hips, legs apart) for two minutes was able to increase testosterone levels and decrease cortisol levels in test subjects. Those researchers applied their work toward building confidence in business and politics.”

Beverly realized that shifting a client’s body position could also change other hormone levels within the body. She has her clients use body position to create chemical change while the subconscious mind is helping alleviate stress, level hormone flows more gently, improve mood and increase overall health. Her work with menopausal clients addresses the causes and the symptoms of menopause by working with mind and body to achieve relief.

“Each client is different, and we work individually to find their solutions,” she says. “Some of them laugh when I explain everything, but then they feel better … and they keep laughing because they missed laughing when they were miserable.”

Beverly does remind her clients that hypnosis is never a replacement for the care of a physician. When working with clients with medical issues, such as chronic pain, or with clients going through menopause, she requires that they discuss using hypnosis with their physician before beginning the sessions. 

Randy Hampton is a writer, social scientist, hypnotist and blogger living in Honolulu.

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