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    Friday, May 24, 2024

    Hypnotism, dogs, meditation and the military: Get back on track with resolutions for 2024

    A “Meditation for a Calm Heart“ is held at A Peace of Space in the Taftville section of Norwich in 2019 during the studio’s first-ever yoga teacher training. The attendees hold their hands in a meditative gesture called a mudra. (Photo courtesy of A Peace of Space)
    Some dog training tricks work on humans, too. Bash, a French bulldog, works on standing on a skateboard during a session at Rhodes Collar in Stonington. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Maureen Wirta works with Birdie and Barkley during a training session at Rhodes Collar in Stonington Tuesday, January 30, 2024 in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Barley, a mini Australian shepherd, gives a high-five to Maureen Wirta during a training session at Rhodes Collar in Stonington Tuesday, January 30, 2024 in New London. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    An overwhelming majority of people by now have given up on their New Year’s resolutions for 2024, according to statistics.

    There is some dispute about when people tend to quit: Jan. 12 is Quitters Day, and Jan. 17 is called Ditch New Year's Resolutions Day. BetKentucky.com, a sports betting website, found residents of Connecticut plan to keep this year’s resolutions through March, which may be wishful thinking, considering that less than 10 percent of resolutions last till year’s end.

    But there are local experts who know how to change behavior and help get resolutions back on track. If not, New Year's Resolution Recommitment Day is June 1.

    Mind over matter

    There are hypnoses for entertainment purposes and for therapeutic purposes. Neil Myers, 61, works in the therapeutic realm at his Waterford business called Total Hypnosis.

    Myers is from England, and he first got interested in hypnosis as a teenager, calling his burgeoning talent "a chick magnet."

    For more than a decade now, Myers has been specializing in healing hypnosis through regression as a licensed hypnotist in Connecticut. He said his method of hypnosis gets to the root cause of a client's issue by exploring the past to help fix problems in the present.

    "It is a battle between the subconscious mind and the conscious mind," he said.

    Myers said his technique is applicable to New Year's resolutions.

    He explained that a person's conscious mind might want to change a behavior for a logical reason, but the subconscious doesn't want to change that habit because it is connected to a memory. Myers says healing hypnosis through regression can access the subconscious, look at the memory and then align the desires of the subconscious with the conscious.

    He wants to make it clear that therapeutic hypnosis is not a cure for any physical or mental illness. And Myers acknowledges that hypnosis is not for everyone.

    "Clients need to have two things when they come to a session — intelligence and courage," he said. "It is not possible to hypnotize a person who is not willing. Humans have free will. It's not mind control. If it was, I wouldn't have to work."

    In his work, for which he charges by the session, not the hour, he focuses on getting results as fast as possible. Myers said the most sessions he has done with a client is 13, and that is extremely rare.

    "Hypnosis doesn't have to be long-term to be effective," he said.

    Myers said hypnosis is not suited for fixing relationship or communication problems. He said it has no effect on infectious diseases or a physical ailment, like a deficiency. But he said he can help alleviate issues linked to PTSD, phobias, compulsions and addiction.

    Gone to the dogs

    Gleanna Doyle has been working in animal training and behavior for approximately 30 years. She is the founder and owner of Rhodes Collar in Stonington, a school for dogs, cats and other animals. She's currently working on her master's dissertation about how humans communicate with dogs during training tasks.

    Doyle, 56, said the major difference in changing a behavior or a bad habit in a dog versus a human is the use of language — dogs understand a limited number of words, so other methods of communication are needed. In addition to nonverbal cues, she said there's also an emotional piece to training dogs.

    "Smile," she said, when asked how to communicate with dogs.

    Doyle said she uses boiled chicken, freeze-dried salmon and lots of cheese as rewards for dogs as they are learning new habits. But, most importantly, there must be no conflicting messages, verbal or nonverbal, in the training.

    "Dogs respond to clarity and structure," she said. "And timing is critical for dogs, and people."

    Doyle said her training techniques may work for New Year's resolutions in humans — for example, if a person is trying to get back in the gym.

    "A mother is not going to let a member of the litter go somewhere they're not ready for," Doyle said about canines. "We take a step back. We go for something simpler."

    She suggested changing the expectation in the resolution, asking what is stopping someone from getting to the gym, and then trying to solve that problem first. Reward yourself for achieving those smaller goals. She did say that treats might not work for someone who is trying to slim down.

    Doyle also said her expertise can help with stopping bad habits in humans and beasts.

    "The things we don't like are typically things we haven't taught," Doyle said. "You have to teach a protocol, what to do instead, and then figure out how will you reinforce it."

    Un-basic training

    Maj. Jamie Cuticello is a commanding officer who helps with training at Camp Nett in Niantic. He said drill sergeants, shouting at soldiers and rigorous exercise are only part of the military experience.

    "What we try to do is to create safe environments for someone to fail gracefully," he said. "The 500 push-ups and throwing up on yourself has its time and place."

    The father of three boys then compared military training with parenting.

    "It's like learning to ride a bike. You don't go into a bike race the first time you're learning to ride a bike. You have to have a certain level of confidence and experience with failure first," Cuticello said.

    He added that trying to get back on track with a New Year's resolution requires resiliency, especially after a failure, which aligns with his training.

    "What we do in the military is stress inoculate. We create situations where they're not able to fall back on the old ways of doing things," he said.

    Cuticello, who lives in Guilford, said it's an illusion that you can compel a person to do what you want, but it's possible to inspire someone into action.

    "I think it starts with trust. The people that you're dealing with, whether it be your children, your soldiers, your employees, your spouse, or yourself, for that matter, if you have that trust and respect for that person, you believe their guidance is worth listening to," he said.

    The teachings of the Connecticut National Guard appear to apply to keeping New Year's resolutions.

    "One of the things the military teaches you is that through pain and perseverance, you realize you can do significantly more than what you originally thought," Cuticello said.

    Inner-mission

    Neiley Rushford Snide, 49, believes that there is a style of meditation for everyone and that meditation can fix pretty much everything.

    She is the founder and director of A Peace of Space in the Taftville section of Norwich, a yoga and meditation studio that offers classes in several styles of yoga and meditation as well as mindfulness, wellness and energy work.

    But she recognizes, as a practitioner of meditation, that it is not easy at first. Snide advises using a timer when starting meditation and only sitting for three minutes per session at the beginning.

    “I think the biggest thing when starting a meditation practice is to start slowly. ... The brain takes time to recalibrate, just like muscles take time to build stamina,” she said.

    Snide said meditation can help with achieving New Year's resolutions like quitting smoking, even though it is a chemical addiction.

    “Meditation shifts the need for instant gratification,” she said. “It helps you become more introspective and not just on autopilot.”

    She said meditation brings mindfulness to the forefront of life by going inward through listening to your breath, quieting the mind and feeling the sensations of the body. Snide further explained that meditation is different than prayer because it is not asking a deity for help or offering gratitude.

    “Meditation is deeply personal. It’s you and yourself and your breath and that is it. It’s soothing your nervous system by just paying attention to your breath,” Snide said.

    r.watson@theday.com

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