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Everyday in the press and on TV we are bombarded with news of the imminent closure of hospital wards, reductions in NHS services or increasing waiting times for vital medical procedures. Whilst I do not agree with the austerity cuts put in place by the current government – that’s a rare political comment from me – I do feel that there is a lot that individuals can do to keep themselves healthy and in the process reduce pressure on the NHS.

Public Health England – whose responsibilities include supporting the public so they can protect and improve their own health – are asking adults aged 40-60 to make seven lifestyle changes to increase their chances of living a long and healthy life.

These changes include:

Stop Smoking Reduce Alcohol Consumption Get More Exercise Improve Diet Reduce Stress Improve Sleep Check for Common Signs and Symptoms of Disease

Well, I’m confident to say that I have made all those changes over the years and feel relatively healthy for a 52-year-old.

I stopped smoking about 15 years ago after a visit to my doctor about an unrelated issue. I can still vividly recall his face of disapproval when I told him I only smoked a few a day. He quite casually said, “Well you might as well smoke 20 a day if you’re okay with having heart disease.Even smoking a few a day increases your chance greatly of damaging your heart.” You see, like many social smokers I was in denial of my habit as I exercised and ate a relatively healthy diet. I was somehow convinced that this would balance out the damage that smoking was doing. This, my friends, is the kind of BS we tell ourselves to justify negative unhealthy habits.

As for alcohol, I’m fortunate that I seem to have a body that really can’t process it on a chemical level. I can feel nauseous and hung over almost immediately after drinking so I very rarely do. I’m kind of envious of those who can drink a little “just to take the edge off” but it feels so unpleasant I’m not even tempted. However, if you feel that your alcohol intake is excessive – and according to the NHS this means over 3-4 units a day for men and over 2-3 units for women – then do consider getting support with hypnotherapy, other therapeutic interventions, AA or other support groups. To calculate your alcohol unit intake go to:

Exercise, I feel should be a thing that one enjoys rather than a chore. I build exercise into my daily life – walking to the shops, cycling to work, gentle yoga, martial arts practice and beating back the jungle also known as my garden. Going to the gym, for me, would be a real torture as it feels so separate from my life, but if that’s where your passion lies go for it. Some people enjoy the social aspect of gyms and that obviously has health benefits too in that it can contribute to positive mental health.

At present, I eat more healthily than I have ever done. I have seriously reduced my sugar, processed carbohydrate and unhealthy fat intake. At first it does take a certain amount of discipline but now the cravings have disappeared I find sugary food really sickly and unpleasant. Hypnosis helped in my initial preparations for these changes and made it relatively easy to just walk past those pasty and cake shops.

Stress reduction for me was also a must as I have a tendency to worry and overthink issues. After receiving hypnotherapy from the wonderful Peter Field in Birmingham, I noticed my level of background anxiety had reduced considerably and I am eternally grateful to him for his skill and wisdom. I also meditate on a daily basis with a method known as Acem meditation which was developed in Norway and is described as a non-religious mindful technique for relaxation, health and personal growth based on modern psychology and scientific research. I never imagined I would ever be a person who meditated every day but it has become a major foundation of my life.

With all of these healthy lifestyle changes and daily interventions, I’m finding that generally I sleep well and if I do wake in the night and my brain fires up with concerns of the day, I have enough self-hypnosis techniques to send me back to sleep relatively quickly. This wasn’t always the case as I too have experienced periods of insomnia.

As for the last item in the list above, can I suggest not trawling the internet for your latest malady to discover you have a rare incurable illness. It’s much wiser to either visit your GP or check symptoms and get advice on this great symptom checker website from the NHS:

So I do hope you will consider doing your bit for our struggling NHS and for your own health and well-being.

Be well.

For more about Acem Meditation in the UK see: and for Acem Meditation International

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