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Guiding visions and focusing on the positive

Seniors learn how to combat negative thoughts in the guided imagery class

Posted: March 31, 2008 1:02 a.m.
Updated: June 1, 2008 5:03 a.m.
Every Thursday at 2 p.m., rooms A1 and A2 of the SCV Senior Center are overflowing with happy people. They sit attentively in rows, mesmerized by the words of Dr. Michael Holt.

Well, they're not literally mesmerized, but they are clearly happy.

Though Holt is a certified hypnotherapist, he comes to the center to teach guided imagery techniques to seniors to help them combat stress, anxiety and negative thoughts.

Though many people think that senior citizens lead an easy, carefree life filled with leisure activities, travel and socializing, that's not an entirely accurate picture.

The flip side of retirement is the worry that comes with rising bills, declining health and the loss of freedom. And worry leads to stress and anxiety, which, if left unchecked, can ruin enjoyment of the golden years.

"It's amazing what seniors are going through," said Holt, who co-teaches the free class with his wife Mardee. "This class offers a way to relieve stress, control pain and take back the worry about everything that is happening."

Considering the need for such a class and Holt's down-to-earth approach, it's no wonder that the course is surging in popularity.

"People are really, really open to it," Holt said. "We don't do any mystical or metaphysical stuff, it's just common sense, straight and fun. We are having a blast."

Every week Holt covers a different topic, such as dealing with pain, making a choice, positive thinking and how to let go of negative emotions. In addition, he teaches simple meditation techniques, also known as "guided imagery," which allow people to refocus their thoughts away from the bad and toward the good.

After only six weeks, many of the attendees are already reaping huge rewards. Toni Smith of Friendly Valley said she initially started coming to the class out of simple curiosity, and now she never misses a day.

"In a few weeks its already done me a world of good," she raved. "I have more confidence and am better able to deal with my worries. He taught me that I am in control of my thoughts. I wish I had something like this 40 or 50 years ago. I would have been a different person."

In addition to being a hypnotherapist, Holt is a master practitioner of neuro-linguistics programming and has years of expertise dealing with the mind and empowering change. He owns Venice Nutrition in Santa Clarita and offers counseling and advice on how to deal with such issues as ADD and pain management.

The techniques and principles Holt teaches are not specific to seniors, and are ideas that any one of any age can benefit from. In fact, the earlier a person learns to deal with stress in their life, the better off they will be in the long run.

"Stress causes the body to release cortisol, which, if unresolved, increases the wear and tear to biological systems," Holt said. "This creates fatigue and damage, which can have long-term ill effects on health and well-being."

Becky Hodges, another attendee of the class, couldn't agree more.

"The class has really helped me get motivated, helped me with my doubts and helped me let go of negative things," she said. "It's helped me get up in the morning happy, instead of sad. And that's important no matter how old you are."

For more information call the SCV Senior Center at (661) 259-9444.


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