We’ve had hygge , lagom and lykke , we’ve accepted meditation into our daily life and we even know how it differs to mindfulness ; when it comes to wellness trends, we’ve bought and read the books and got the slogan t-shirt. But there’s a new technique on the block that promises to take both your meditation and wellbeing to the next level: sophrology.
Yes, it’s another word to add to our lexicon but trust us, soon you’ll be seeing it everywhere. But this isn’t just another fad - it could be effective in helping those suffering from anxiety, burnout, stress or even confidence issues, and it might be the key to building up our resilience. Here’s what you need to know about the latest wellbeing buzzword…
What is sophrology?
This was our first question too, and who better to ask than leading sophrologist Dominique Antiglio, founder of BeSophro and author of the upcoming book, The Life‑Changing Power of Sophrology, £14.99?
"Sophrology is a wellbeing practice that uses breathing, relaxation, body awareness, meditation and visualisation techniques designed to help you connect with your resilience and improve your mental and physical health,” explains Dominique.
"Whether you struggle with your emotions, stress, sleep, an overactive mind or a toxic relationship, it will help you reach a state of balance so you can positively use your energy for what truly matters to you. Sophrology helps you become more mindful of your needs, your limits, your strengths and capabilities so you can create more happiness in your life.”
What is it not?
"Sophrology is not a complicated or time-consuming practice,” says Dominique. "Nor is it only for meditation converts. And it doesn’t involve an in-depth analysis of the “whys” and “hows”.
"With sophrology, it is about the mindset - we learn to acknowledge what we feel and where we are, and we use a short and effective practice to move forward or look at things differently. We can become creative in the way we live our lives.”
I believe it’s a tool that every person should have to help them connect with their “superpower”
What it can do for us
But we already meditate, do yoga, write a gratitude journal and practice self care. Do we need this?
"I believe it’s a tool that every person should have to help them connect with their “superpower” and cope with life’s pressures,” Dominique tells us.
"We all seem to have a lot of pressure from all aspects of life – the pressure to “have it all” and succeed in everything we do.”
How is it different to mindfulness and meditation?
According to Dominique, sophrology blends Eastern philosophies and Western science to help you to 'tap into your resilient self’. While it’s definitely about being in the present, it prepares you for future events too, or might even help you to ‘uncover your life’s purpose’.
So far, so familiar - but the practice is about more than just the mind. "It allows you to enjoy the present and move forward in a positive way,” says Dominique. "Sophrology involves a physical element with gentle body movements and exercises to allow for a true mind-body connection that lets us tap into the wisdom of our bodies. When we agree to listen, consciousness reveals itself through the body and mind.
"One of the principles in sophrology states that we can decide how we are going to experience certain events even when we can't change them. We are therefore responsible for our experience and how we respond to situations. This is the key differentiator compared to mindfulness or meditation, and why it is so appealing to so many people.”
What happens in a sophrology session
Anything that helps us to cope better with life’s stressful events and changes gets our vote… but what exactly is involved? Fear not - it’s all pretty practical, and personalised as Dominique explains.
"People come to sophrology with different needs and expectations, so my work is to define with my client what they are looking for. We usually spend the first part of the session consulting so I can understand their strengths and possible difficulties. Once we have agreed on the aim of the session, I will tailor a simple sophrology practice for them and guide them through it. The practice gives them the ability to connect with their inner world and resources.”
This is where the mindfulness similarities come in. "They sit comfortably on a chair, with eyes closed and I guide them with my voice through a simple body scan so they can relax and connect with their body sensations. They might notice that they feel tense or are thinking too much, so we use a few specific breathing and simple tension-relaxation movements to shift the tensed state.
"They are then ready to dive into a deeper practice, which may involve positive visualisation (if we are preparing for an event) or standing with eyes closed whilst engaging in some gentle movements so they learn to connect to their body in a new and empowering way.”
Just 5 sessions could change your mindset
Time is precious, we know, and lack of it can often get in the way of our meditation or mindfulness no matter how good our intentions. Sophrology, however, is something that you can learn quite quickly, and in a way that will have a lasting effect.
"My sophrology sessions involve a 12-step method that allows you to uncover specific aspects of your resilience and this is something we tune deeper into with each session. Each client goes home with a recorded practice so they can do it 10 minutes a day and come back with more insight the following week,” says Dominique. "The number of sessions depends on each individual but five sessions will be enough to see significant changes and to acquire a skill for life.”
Is sophrology for you?
As with meditation, this is a practice that anyone could benefit from according to Dominique. "Sophrology is for everyone! But it is particularly helpful or those who feel the need to relax, recharge, re-centre, and who want the best out of life for themselves and those around them. It can also help to improve the quality of your sleep, increase energy levels and focus, help you let go of anxieties, and to learn to enjoy the present moment.”
Struggle with nerves or lack of confidence? Sophrology might be the answer - it’ll help you to prep for any upcoming events that are keeping you awake at night.
Does it work?
"Sophrology works because human beings are resilient by nature,” says Dominique. "For centuries, we have known that the breath, meditation, certain physical movements or intentions can positively impact our physical selves and our happiness. Sophrology uses these universal principles that are now backed up by scientific studies.
"For example, regular meditation has been shown to change the structure of the brain, so the practice will positively influence the quality of sleep or anxiety, and breathing practices have a positive effect on our physiology.”
We’ll report back once we’ve tried it, but the science is there. Resilience, better sleep and less stress? This is one wellness trend we'll be watching.
Find out more about Dominique Antiglio on her website or buy the book here