Six Habits to Hapiness

Newsfour meets therapist Fionna Brennan

By Eoin Meegan

Image courtesy of Fiona

Fiona Brennan is a hypnotherapist whose new book The Positive Habit (see book reviews page 22), is currently shaking up the self-growth industry. It centres around six emotional habits: love, calmness, confidence, gratitude, hope and happiness.

When NewsFour met Fiona recently at her ultra-modern therapy rooms in Blackrock, I began by asking why those particular six habits?

FB “Together they make up what I call the Now Habit. We create habit loops all the time, both emotional and behavioural, and these have three distinctive features. The first is the trigger, then the routine, and lastly there’s the reward, the payback we get from our habit.

The thing we need to do is change the routine. And, as regards the six emotional habits, they build, organically as it were, one from the other.

For instance, have you ever seen a confident person who was not calm and composed? So it’s important to do them in order.”  

Fiona, who originally hailed from Sandymount, trained as an actress and worked very successfully at this career for many years, including doing a stint in Fair City.

NF So how did you get involved in healing work?

FB “I felt I was absorbing too much of the negativity of my characters. I wanted to play happy people, but most drama is about tragedy and you start to take it on.

There are a lot of mental health issues in the acting industry, and it doesn’t really prepare you for it. There’s a lot of rejection there too, and what I was feeling at the time was a sense of hopelessness.

I was on stage one night and I had what was a kind of an epiphany. I suddenly decided I wasn’t going to do this anymore. I wanted something else, so in 2012 I trained as a therapist and began seeing clients on a one-to-one basis. I now feel very privileged to be doing the work I’m doing and making a positive impact in people’s lives.

We all have a choice, we can learn from our suffering and channel it into something good, or we can just shelter behind it. I choose the former.”

NF Is thinking itself a habit? (I had to ask!)

FB “Yes it is, absolutely, people don’t realise how much of a habit thinking is, and the default position for so many people is worry and feeling anxiety. But it doesn’t have to be that way, you can train yourself to think differently. There’s this thing called neuroplasticity, which is where the environment around us and what we do has a direct physical impact on the brain. Thinking is, in fact, the greatest addiction we have, and it is a habit like any other.”

NF Does the positive habit actually work?

FB “Absolutely. I have seen sustainable shifts in people who do this work. In fact, I see it every day, so it’s not just the happy glow effect. But you need to practice. It’s like physical exercise, you don’t just do it to get fit and then let it go. You must continue with your practice if you want to make real change.”  

NF Don’t we also need to acknowledge our negative, or darker side?

FB “Very true. I’m glad you said that. I see people struggling with this every day, wanting to change a negative mindset, but it’s really better to create positive habits from the start. The most positive thing you can do is be comfortable with the negative. When people are comfortable with that it’s like a light is switched on.

Sometimes when clients come to me they burst into tears, and then they feel embarrassed, but actually crying is something I like, although not a masochist (laughs), it is a great way to release emotions.”

Despite maintaining a high media profile, including a slot on Today FM, and a regular Monday evening blog post, Fiona still continues her therapy work, and in 2016 even found time to create an online course, “The Positive Habit”, from where the eponymously titled book took seed. She also did a TED talk: Your Subconscious Power – How to Be Anxiety Free.

In addition, she has created two very special audios which she recommends listening to first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, just before drifting off to sleep.

FB “Just before we go to sleep and the moment after we awaken are the most malleable times for the mind, when the subconscious mind is most receptive and we can tailor it to echo and mirror what the conscious mind desires. So these are the times most conducive to instilling whatever new positive habit we want to acquire. Then, in a very short time these become automatic.”

Sounds like really good news, from a very inspiring lady.