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Flower Power

Flowers make you smile and their fragrance helps even more. But can flowers heal? Dr. Surbhi K. Jhunjhunwala (BHMS), Homoeopathic Physician and Bach Flower Therapist tells Naressa Coutinho about the healing properties of flowers and her opinion of it as a career.

Invented in the 1920s by a prominent physician and bacteriologist, Dr. Edward Bach, Bach flower therapy uses the essence of certain flowers to change negative emotions and eliminate defective traits to cure a patient suffering from anxiety, stress,abc depression, anger, fear, guilt etc. These essences help us improve our mental and emotional state. Dr. Edward Bach gave up his existing practice to focus all his energy on finding the healing powers of flowers and homeopathy and Dr. Surbhi K. Jhunjhunwala, Homoeopathic Physician and Bach Flower Therapist introduces us to the world of Bach flower therapy.

"It is a simple and natural method of healing the personality through the essence of wild flowers. The remedies used in this method of treatment are all prepared from the flowers of wild plants, bushes, or trees. None are harmful or habit forming," explains Dr. Surbhi.

A Bach flower therapist interacts with patients suffering from an unbalanced mental state that could surface through anger, fear or worry. Only after a thorough analysis of a patient's emotions and feelings, can a therapist prescribe a remedy. This remedy is not used directly for the physical complaint but has a placebo effect on a patient. "All Bach flower remedies are complementary to homoeopathic remedies," says Dr. Surbhi, "And since Homoeopathy is my main stream, it helps me give better results to patients."

This therapy however, doesn't change a person's nature but only heals the mind and the body, so that the harmful effects of a negative state of mind are abolished. Bach Flower remedies are completely safe for use by anyone, including children and pets. They are natural, non-toxic, and non-habit-forming. Moreover, treatment with Bach Flowers can be combined with other homeopathic or conventional treatments.

Bach Flower therapy falls under the wing of Homeopathy and is best practiced by qualified Homeopaths or by Psychologists and Speech Therapists. Hence Dr. Surbhi doesn't advice taking it up as a full time career. "Bach flower therapy as a full time career is not advisable," she says. "It should be considered as add-on to some mainstream profession, which deals with behavior and personality. One could look at first becoming a speech therapist, physiotherapist, counselor or psychologist, and then later one may specialise in Bach Flower therapy," she adds. This will give a practitioner of this therapy a deeper understanding of the treatment and how it works better with other mainstream treatments.

While there are many centers that teach Bach Flower therapy abroad, in India it is still in a nascent stage. "There are certificate courses available to become a BFRP (Bach flower registered practitioner). These are taught in three levels. The first level can be pursued as a distance education course," advices Dr. Surbhi. The remaining two levels require an individual to be present at workshops and training sessions. Bach Flower Education is a site that allows students to pursue a correspondence course through distance education, but from the second level onwards a student would have to attend sessions and classes.

Using a process called 'mother tincture', Bach therapy has been hailed for its simplicity. It is believed that negative moods lead to energy blocking which then causes a lack of harmony. This ultimate imbalance leads to physical sickness. Thus the treatment focuses on rectifying the root of the problem rather than prescribing medication for the physical ailment. The dew collected from the flowers of plants after being exposed to the morning sun is believed to have certain properties to restore the balance. While you would not be physically creating these remedies, Dr. Surbhi insists that any practitioner must buy authentic Bach flower remedies from a registered manufacturer.

Dr. Surbhi also states that this is an effective treatment and gives quick results. "After learning about Bach flower," she explains, "One can understand a person's suffering in a better way. Moreover, if your career involves dealing with people's sufferings, then this therapy will definitely come in handy." It didn't take too long for homeopathy to make its presence felt in India, and Bach flower therapy is not too far behind either. So add this on to your list of qualifications as it won't do you any harm but a whole lot of good for yourself and the people you meet.

Dr Surbhi Jhunjhunwala (BHMS)
Homoeopathic physician & councellor
Published in Afternnon Dispatch & Courier on November 20, 2013
Healing under spell

The broken-hearted and hardcore smokers on trying hypnosis to overcome addiction.

Dr Reema Shah doesn't exactly arrive at her Khar and Dadar clinics spinning a pocket watch, ready to nudge patients into a zombie state. She busts quite a few myths surrounding hypnotherapy, even while helping Mumbaikars wrangle out of the grip of addictions that range from smoking to drug abuse.

abc "Hypnotherapy is essentially a therapeutic tool," she explains. "It works on the principle of reprogramming the mind to accept healthy, positive suggestions and weed out negative messages.

" The practice that dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt, and gets its name from the Greek term (hypnos) for 'sleep' is said to alter a person's mental state, heightening his level of focus and awareness. Through it, we are able to access deeper laye of our memory bank or what we call the subconscious. "Every action is impacted by stored subconscious experiences, and conscious perceptions. At most times, we aren't aware of subconscious associations," explains consultant hypnotherapist at Masina Hospital, Kirti Bakshi. "For instance, smoking is associated with pleasure or stress-relief. Through hypnotherapy, we help smokers figure the root cause of stress."

Unlearn the negatives

To access the sub-conscious mind, the hypnotherapist helps your conscious mind relax. In this deeply relaxed state, a communication channel is opened with the subconscious mind. It's here that positive messages are programmed into the patient's mind using verbal affirmations and suggestions. "These new messages form the foundation of new behavioural patterns," explains Shah. Fresh neural pathways are created in the brain, and these are then strengthened by post-hypnotherapy structures (eg. posthypnotic recordings which the patient can hear during leisure). "To put it simply, hypnotherapy helps in unlearning addictive patterns and re-learn healthy alternative behaviours."

An addiction is born out of dependency. By examining the genesis of this dependency and helping the patient understand it, the therapist works at restructuring aspects of his life that revolve around the addiction, offering healthy, sustainable alternatives.

3-pronged approach

A few years ago, Shah worked with a 24-year-old smoker who held a high-pressure job. He had smoked his first cigarette at 16 on a whim. "At 24, when he came to me, he had experienced his first health scare. He was finding it tough to breathe. So, his motivation to quit was quite high. The motivation always has to come from within, otherwise hypnotherapy doesn't work," shares Shah, who opted for a three-pronged approach.

The first, involved hypnotherapy to unlearn the smoking behaviour. The second was based on cognitive behaviour therapy to identify, address and change peripheral behaviours that were encouraging the addiction. The third step involved sticking to post-hypnosis structures to support himself after therapy concluded.

"Therapy analysis," says Shah, "made him realise he used smoking as a time-filler and a way of bonding with peers and friends. In therapy, we worked on his social skills and motivated him to take up exercising connecting with friends over the phone to fill out empty hours."

Bakshi, who has handled several cases of drug addiction, says, smoking is usually the first link, and could easily lead to drug abuse. "When compared to alcohol addiction, smoking is slightly easier to give up. But because of its social acceptability, motivation levels to stay off need to be high. Alcohol and drugs, on the other hand, are seen as potentially damaging, so the addiction is taken more seriously," she says.

First person: I didn't have energy to bring up my kids

A smoker for 10 years, 43-year-old homemaker Preeti Khanna on how she kicked the butt under hypnosis

It was back in the early '90s. I can recall the scene vividly. I was 21, and chatting with some friends at the gas station in Central London. We were excited since it was the last day of college, and a few of them lit up. I remember taking a drag and the next thing I knew, I bought myself a cigarette. I had never smoked before.

It was peer pressure. It just seemed like a fun thing to do. At that age, you don't think of what it might do to your health, although the packet explains it graphically.

Within six months, I was smoking 10 cigarettes a day, and always had a packet in my bag. From London, I took off to New York to pursue a career in banking. This was 2000. Unlike most of England, NYC isn't smoker-friendly. I had to walk two miles from my office to take a couple of 'legal' drags. Likewise, if I was at a restaurant and craved a cigarette, I had to step out and smoke. The craving for nicotine doesn't seem like a big deal.

People think cold weather ups the craving, or helps keep you warm. It is a myth. I moved around two very cold countries before I settled in Mumbai after I got married, and my daily quota never changed.

Of course, it didn't help that I married a smoker (laughs), and that most of our friends were addicted. In fact, it's only after I married that I let my 'vegetarian, non-drinking, anti-smoking' parents know of my habit. They were livid, and asked me to quit. But it had been five years since my first drag and I was addicted. So, whenever my husband and I visited them, we'd hide and smoke like teenagers.

Success & relapse

In mid-2002, I discovered I was pregnant with my first baby and I quit cold turkey. All through those nine months and a year of breast-feeding later, I didn't touch a cigarette. Then at a dinner party, somebody offered me one and there I went again. It was a relapse. I wasn't feeding, so I thought it was okay to smoke and stuck to five cigarettes a day.

In late 2003, I got pregnant again and it was a repeat. For the next 20 months, I quit and thought this time it was for good. But at a friend's wedding abroad, we were all standing in a group and I was offered a drag. Without a thought, I grabbed it and I was back to smoking five a day.

Sapped of stamina

Bringing up two tiny kids and sustaining a habit, and a bad one at that, is tedious. Each time I'd smoke - never in front of my children - I was particular that I brushed my teeth and changed my clothes before attending to them. I didn't want them smelling of ash or inhaling the remnants. Neither did I want them to think 'mama is smelling of smoke'.

Although by now, because I was so occupied with them, I was only smoking three a day, my energy levels were perpetually low. Working out wasn't easy because my stamina was poor. I tried ultra light cigarettes, thinking I was taking in less nicotine but I was only fooling myself. I knew I had to quit but couldn't find a reason.

Taking to hypnosis

Then a friend told me about how her cousin had consulted a hypnotherapist to quit smoking, and it had helped. I got curious. It didn't seem like mumbo-jumbo; I had to try it. I called the therapist the very next day and I was at her clinic the next week.

I was with her for an hour. Unlike what we think about being zoned out, I was totally conscious when talking to her. Slowly, she made me recall the time I had my first drag and I was able to explain to her in vivid detail the scene - the chat at the gas station and the drag. It was playing like a film before me. I associated the incident with 'fun'.

She called me back a day later. I smoked my regular three cigarettes in the interim. Strangely, I have no memory of the second session. I can't even recall how I got home. I only remember her telling me, 'Today onwards, you'll never smoke'. She suggested that once I quit I must jot down in a diary the one good thing cigarettes did for me. For the following one month, I did. 'Dear cigarette, thank you for giving me a good time. Now leave me and give it to someone else,' I'd say. The first two days were hard. But after that, I'd be in a room full of smokers and not feel the urge to join in.

A year after I quit, my husband, who tried to quit previously, took to hypnotherapy and ended up with success too. It has been nine years, and we don't miss it.

(Name changed to protect identity)


Pop star Katy Perry, who was "devastated" after her break up with recording artiste and producer John Mayer, took to hypnotherapy, it was recently reported.

It's not uncommon, says Kirti Bakshi. "Today, teenage relationship conflict has become a bigger issue than exam anxiety,"she shares.

Like substances, Dr Reema Shah reckons, we can get hooked to relationships too. And hypnotherapy is considered one of the most effective approaches to overcome heartbreak or loss of a loved one.

The surge of emotion that you experience during a break-up gives rise to despair, clouded thinking and hopelessness. "We call these events 'trauma'," says Bakshi. "Hypnosis works by controlling the emotions, weakening their association with unwanted memories, and venting suggestions. It works by establishing bigger goals, a clear understanding."

Shah, who sees 10 relationship cases a week, says addictive relationships or co-dependent relationships are addressed with hypnosis challenging the irrational distortions of the conscious mind (irrational beliefs which have led to co-dependency) and replacing these with healthy suggestions made to the sub-conscious mind.

But it's imperative that the patient must want to end the addictive relationship.

- Dr Reema Shah
Published in Mumbai Mirror on November 22, 2014
How to be a sport

Mental coaches training India's top sportsmen discuss on-field strategies that you should apply at work.

Five years ago, when business in the country was hit by the global financial meltdown, the tractor division of an Indian multinational automobile manufacturing corporation invited noted sports psychologist BP Bam to motivate their top executives in glum times.

For Bam, who in his three-decadelong career has trained the Indian hockey team, archery team, billiard champion Geeth Sethi and top cricketers, sharing tricks of sports psychology off field was novel.

Bam decided that other than focussing on fostering team spirit among colleagues, he'd focus on the art of juggling various roles and not losing sight of the goal even in a high-pressure environment.

So driven were the executives by Bam's insights, they invited him again to speak to their juniors and factory workers. "We were grappling with a language barrier. I spoke in Hindi and it was translated into Telugu. So I am not quite sure if it left an immediate impact on them," says Bam in a telephonic chat.

Six months later, Bam received a call from the firm's HR department to say the enthused workers had managed to up sales figures.

Bam was surprised that the scientific study of the mind, emotions and behaviour, usually associated with successful athletic performance and physical activity, had come in handy in the modern workplace. He agrees now that an office is comparable to a competitive sport arena, where "the goal is to win and outperform yourself, constantly".

"And like a competitive athlete grooms him/herself to stay in the game for long, employees too need to sustain their work life," explains Mumbai-based hypnotherapist and sports psychologist Dr Reema Shah.

abc According to South African mental conditioning coach Paddy Upton, who once trained the Indian Cricket Team (taking them to No.1 in World Test Rankings), "Sports psychologists start with a degree in conventional psychology, which is a study in the science of mental illness, its diagnosis and treatment."

Almost all published papers in psychology, he rues, focus on illness, not wellness. Thus, psychology is generally seen as a "problemfocussed philosophy".

But the just-emerging field of positive psychology, which focuses on the science of wellness, is the way forward as far as corporate and athletic success goes. "It focuses on building strengths, finding solutions, celebrating success and creating fertile team environments where people flourish and feel empowered," shares Upton.

Performance psychology is a crucial segment of sports psychology, and deals with allowing individuals, teams, and groups to achieve their aims. "It tells the performer how to succeed by developing the power of the mind in daily lives," says Shah.

We got Upton, Bam and Shah to discuss 10 mental skills that can radically change your game at work.

1. Visualise the outcome

Visualising is much more than plain thinking about an upcoming event. "When athletes use visualisation, they feel that the event is unfolding in their mind's eye. Mental imagery impacts cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So, the brain gets trained in advance for the actual event during visualisation," says Shah.

Have a crucial presentation or make-or-break job interview? Go ahead and visualise being there and what you are going to say.

2. Meditate every day

In a letter that cricketer Rahul Dravid's wife Vijeta shared with the media after he announced his retirement in 2012, she said: "The day before every game...Rahul would go into his room for his meditation and visualisation exercises."

Tried and tested over centuries, meditation is an effective method to improve concentration. "It can help improve your mental game in the corporate world, too. It reduces stress, sharpens attention, and boosts emotional wellbeing," says Shah.

3. Drag focus back to the goal

Meditation also helps bring focus back to the goal. "Sport is a non-verbal skill. Thought processes, unless controlled, can spoil the action", explains Bam. "You have to develop focus. Each time your mind wavers, especially when it's time to act immediately, you have to drag it back to the goal." When a cricketer is in his nervous 90s, he must be focussed on the century if he doesn't want to be bowled out.

4. Make positive self talk

Sounds bizarre, but all great athletes are able to stay positive by talking to themselves and questioning their feelings aloud. So, if you are feeling down and out at work, ask yourself, do your thoughts tend to lift you? Or are you constantly tearing yourself apart with an inner monologue of fear, self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness? As Shah says, "Pay attention to your inner dialogue and change it to positive self-talk. This is also called positive self-programming."

5. Get into the flow state

Getting into a 'flow' mindset (often described as being 'in the zone') can help us to consistently achieve optimal performance. Flow is defined as a mental state in which an individual transcends conscious thought and achieves a heightened state of effortless and unwavering concentration, calm and confidence. "It keeps pressure and distraction, both internal and external, at bay," says Shah. In fact, a flow state even helps surgeons who perform complicated medical procedures.

6. Have realistic expectations

Most cricketers batting in the final over experience something called hyper-dynamism. They are under pressure to turn their performance around in a fraction of time. Let's compare this with the media industry, where hacks are meeting impossible deadlines. Here, says Shah, it's important to understand that your previous performance/target achievement doesn't matter. What you are delivering currently does, so stay focussed and have realistic expectations. Be aware that you're not going to crack every deal that comes your way, just the way a batsman can't hit a six on every ball.

7. Understand your role & play it

The first lesson Bam teaches players is to understand their role and separate personal from professional to avoid distraction. "When you are on the field, I say, you are not so-and-so's husband or wife, son or daughter. You are a sportsman who has a role to play," says Bam, drawing an example of a top shooter who was to get married weeks before a national championship. "She was neither able to enjoy the wedding preparations nor practise well. I told her to forget about the championship until her wedding, and forget that she is a newly-wed, days before championship.... Everything fell into place. She won the championship."

8. Be a constant learner

Consistent performance, believes Shah, is a myth. "Every player/employee enjoys a peak, and then dips. It's important to learn to stay grounded through this ebb and flow." Don't get bogged down when things aren't going your way or be overly jubilant when your KRA has exceeded expectations. "Learn from every poor performance rather than brooding over it. You are more open to constructive feedback, and willing to see other perspectives, when you are open to learning." After a peak performance, jot down specifics of what you were thinking, feeling and doing immediately before, during, and after the event or through the time that led to positive results. The next time you need a confidence boost, refer to the list.

9. Survive as a team player

None of the above will help if you are a lone wolf. "It's one thing to be a competent team player and another to be a competitive team player," says Bam. "Across different sports, matches have been lost because players tend to compete with members within the team, and not with rivals. Leave your ego at home when you leave for work.

10. Develop your emotional quotient

While it can get frustrating when you are pushing your limits but the rest of the team is slacking, it's important to remain empathetic. There could be a problem on the personal front that's hindering someone's performance. Have a heart. Show some compassion, and offer help. It's imperative, says Shah, to "develop beta traits in an alpha world" if you want to build a positive work environment.


Paddy Upton says the application of sports psychology to business has to do with moving away from an autocratic instruction-based environment to a newly emerging and more empowering approach where people are encouraged and allowed to grow and learn under a supportive non-critical leadership.

Here's Upton's advice for bosses.

Collaborate, don't rule

"The dictatorial-style synonymous with the military, works there, not in the world of business or sport where success is often determined by people making good decisions under pressure," he says. Military troops always wait for instruction, aren't allowed to take independent decisions and will be penalised for errors. If employees are made to do the same, it's only a matter of time before they fail. Move from one-man or woman control to collaboration, from constantly telling people how and what to do to asking them how t h e y could have done it better.

Don't be constantly critical

"All humans are born with drive, motivation and positivity. These qualities are enhanced when they do work they enjoy in an environment that's nurturing," says Upton. If you are going to be a consistently critical boss, all you'll do is suppress drive. A one-off pep talk doesn't help (especially in a negative work environment). "It can motivate a team for a few days at best."

Listen, and diss rules that don't deliver

In 2008, when Upton was working on the national cricket team, he along with coach Gary Kirsten, spent plenty of time listing all the good traits players thought they possessed, and built a team strategy to make the good even better. "We listened far more than we spoke, asked far more questions than we gave instructions," says Upton, who has been credited for the team's 2011 World Cup win.

"We ditched petty rules, stopped all 'tickthe-box' meetings that weren't delivering value. Sometimes, we wouldn't even have a team meeting before a game. If you have covered all bases, why meet for the sake of it?" he says.

Treat the team as adults

Upton says they involved junior players in crucial meetings and conversations, seeking their inputs, letting them know their thoughts were of value to the team. "We never criticised. We didn't de-brief a game on game day. We did it only the day after. There was no instruction, only conversation on ideal outcomes and how to get there.".
- Dr Reema Shah
Published in Mumbai Mirror on April 06, 2014
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