W ant to feel calmer and more grounded? Or perhaps you’d like the confidence to pursue a life-long dream? Maybe you simply need an extra dose of focus to see an upcoming project through to completion. While mindfulness can help you meet all these goals, there are some who believe it may not go far enough. Enter sophrology – a simple and empowering practice for self-development and building resilience. Developed by the late Spanish neuro psychiatrist professor Alfonso Caycedo, sophrology (the science of consciousness in harmony) can help you manage stress, reduce anxiety, improve sleep and increase confidence. It’s also a tool for preventing or overcoming burnout.
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Already hugely popular in mainland Europe, while the technique shares similarities with mindfulness, it introduces a powerful dynamic element, according to Dominique Antiglio, author of new book on the subject The Life-Changing Power of Sophrology (Yellow Kite, £14.99). ‘In mindfulness, you observe your thoughts while trying to be as neutral as possible,’ says Antiglio. ‘In sophrology, you still observe, but it’s also to heal the past and build a positive attitude to future events.’ Key to the technique is bringing the brain into a relaxed state known as an alpha state.
‘In this state, everything you experience has a much greater impact on your consciousness and brings you to connect with your deep self,’ says Antiglio. ‘You can then move through a practice of simple breathing techniques, gentle movements, meditation and creative visualisation, and are encouraged to observe what you feel through your body and mind.’ The technique is quite complex and detailed – and Antiglio’s book goes into it in depth – but it includes observing so-called ‘integration points’ (perhaps akin to chakras or key acupuncture points in Chinese medicine).
These relate to what sophrology calls the 5 systems – system 1 being the head, brain and face, system 2, the neck, throat, shoulders, arms and hands, and so on. This enables you to ‘feel the energy flow of the systems and tune into their infinite resources, becoming aware that confidence, joy, vitality or motivation, for example, are not only of the mind but something we also feel deep in our bodies.’ Curious? Try this simple practice for a taste of how sophrology can help you.
FIND YOUR ANCHOR
Anchoring involves using a gesture such as clenching your fist or your toes, then associating that gesture with a state of mind, for example, confidence. ‘The brain has the ability to connect a gesture with a positive sensation, and you can train your brain outside of a given situation, such taking an exam, giving a presentation or participating in sports,’ says Antiglio. To begin, do a body scan sitting in a chair, then tune into a positive space inside yourself, such as a feeling of calm. You could also connect to a past experience when you felt good, such as completing a difficult challenge, or how you feel when in the company of close friends or a loved one, for example.
You then inhale, perform the gesture, such as clenching your fists, pause for a moment, then, when you exhale, you release the clench, along with excess bodily tension. Repeat this two or three times more with your eyes closed and in a relaxed state. The next stage is to visualise yourself using this technique in a situation you find difficult in your daily life, such as asking for a favour. You then repeat this visualisation once a day over the next five or six days. Next, try the technique discretely whenever you feel the pressure building up – your brain should find the resource you’ve programmed.
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