Rewire your brain for happiness

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A recent research study shows that acupuncture may work by creating long term changes in your brain cells. 

The research carried out by Richard Harris, a neuroscientist at the University of Michigan, compared real acupuncture with placebo acupuncture. 

The researchers were expecting the effects of real acupuncture on the brain to be similar to placebo acupuncture, but more pronounced. 

What he found was that the real acupuncture had a totally different effect on the brain cells. 

While placebo acupuncture simply triggered a short term spike in endorphins (feel good and pain killing chemicals), real acupuncture actually changed the brain cells in the long term so they were more receptive to the endorphins. 

This explains why people experience a lasting sense of wellbeing from having acupuncture. It also explains why cortisol levels are lowered in the long term and not just the short term. 

It also goes some way to explaining why our patients say things like: 

“When I first started acupuncture I had just been diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was at my lowest point both physically and mentally. Both the treatment and personal care that I have received from Gabriella has put me back on the road to well being and health - a place I was scared I would never get to again. I can't believe how well I am feeling now. I didn't realise the power of acupuncture on mind, body and spirit - and will not lose it from my life again.”

- Katy, London NW6

If you’d like to find out if you’re a good fit for our help just email me at:

Please include:

- Your phone number
- A good time to reach you

I set aside some time each week to do informal assessments over the phone.

With my 20 years experience in both Neuroscience and Acupuncture, I am often able to see things that your doctor may have missed.

I look forward to talking to you.

Michael Arnold
BSc Neuroscience LicAc.

If IVF hasn't work for you, this might be why

According to data released by the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority 75% of all IVF cycles end in failure.

Recent research has shown that prolonged high levels of the stress hormone cortisol are associates with lower pregnancy rates for women having IVF.

The researchers conclude:

"These findings provide preliminary evidence that longer term systemic cortisol may influence reproductive outcomes; and in turn suggests that interventions to reduce cortisol prior to commencing IVF could improve treatment outcomes."

Source: US National Library of Medicine

Average UK couple spends £11,378 on IVF

Recent research commissioned by Fertility Network UK shows that on average couples end up spending £11,378 on IVF, and one in ten couples pay over £30,000. 

NHS funding for IVF is becoming a postcode lottery, with 52% of areas only offering one round of IVF. 

IVF and the NHS: the parents navigating fertility's postcode lottery:

Our clients see a 77% success rate for women under 40 with unexplained infertility, even if IVF has failed previously. 

Our methods are shown to reduce cortisol levels.

The national average success rate for IVF in the UK is 32%, if you are under 35. If you are between 35 and 37 this falls to 27.3%.

Note: if you have unexplained infertility the IVF success rate is only about 2 - 3 % higher than this. I did some research into this that you can find here.


“You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you.” 

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim. 

Click the button below to find out more:

Average UK couple spends £11,378 on IVF


Recent research commissioned by Fertility Network UK shows that on average couples end up spending £11,378 on IVF, and one in ten couples pay over £30,000. 

NHS funding for IVF is becoming a postcode lottery, with 52% of areas only offering one round of IVF. 

IVF and the NHS: the parents navigating fertility's postcode lottery:

Some IVF clinics in the US offer a 100% refund guarantee plan. 

This means that if after three cycles of IVF you don’t have a baby, you get a full refund. This takes away the financial burden and risk associated with fertility treatment. 

A service like this typically costs $24,000 - $31,000. And you can expect a 58% success rate. 

Our Pregnant in Six Months Programme offers the same guarantee and a 67% success rate for women under 40 with unexplained infertility, for a fraction of this cost. 

The national average success rate for IVF in the UK is 32%, if you are under 35. If you are between 35 and 37 this falls to 27.3%.

Note: if you have unexplained infertility the IVF success rate is only about 2 - 3 % higher than this. I did some research into this that you can find here.

This is very different from what many are told by their doctor: 

“You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you.” 

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim. 

IVF only 2-3% more successful for unexplained infertility than explained

"You have unexplained infertility. IVF has a high chance of working for you."

Many of my patients report that their fertility specialist has told them this. But the data does not support this claim.

Problem number 1 - no UK data available

According to the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority (HFEA), in 2013 in the UK unexplained infertility accounted for 43% of all IVF cycles started and 20% of all ICSI cycles (IVF where the sperm is injected directly into the egg). See the table below (source: "Fertility treatment in 2013: trends and figures", Human Fertilisation and embryo authority, page 14)

In 2013, 49,636 women had a total of 64,600 cycles of IVF or ICSI (Source HFEA). So there are 10s of thousands of of women having IVF for unexplained infertility each year. However the HFEA do not break down success rates for unexplained infertility compared with all other causes of infertility. This in itself is a little odd.

However I managed to find a US website that does provide this comparison.

What I found was surprising.

Yes there is a slight difference between IVF success rates for explained vs unexplained infertility. But that difference is 2-3% across all age groups. 

I'll say that again. Data comparing 190,000 IVF cycles in the US shows that there was only a 2-3% difference in success rate between unexplained infertility and all causes of fertility, including blocked fallopian tubes, endometriosis, hormone imbalances and whole range of other conditions.

The tables below are taken from the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology in the US:

The first table below shows success rates for all causes of infertility. This data is for women using their own eggs.

This next table (below) shows success rates for fertility "unknown factor" infertility ie. unexplained infertility. Again this data is for women using their own eggs.

The link below is where I got this data. It is a tool provided by the Society For Assisted Reproductive Technology. It contains data from 190384 cycles of IVF performed in the US in 2014. You can compare success rates for different causes of infertility by clicking on the "filter" button in the top right hand corner:

These figures are from the US, however we can safely assume, due to the large volume of data, that the percentage difference between unexplained infertility and all other causes in the UK will be roughly similar.

Note: In the USA success rates are higher across the board than in the UK. For UK figures for IVF success rates by age, see below. 

UK national average IVF success rates my age:

(source: "Fertility treatment in 2013: trends and figures", Human Fertilisation and embryo authority, page 29)

Note: Although this data is from 2011 and 2012, these are the latest figures available from the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority. This is due to the nine month wait to know the outcome of the IVF cycle and the time taken to verify and prepare the figures, 

British Medical Journal Article - "Are we overusing IVF?"


"How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?"

Millions of women are being told when to get pregnant based on statistics from a time before electricity, antibiotics, or fertility treatment.

Article: "How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?"

"Deep anxiety about the ability to have children later in life plagues many women. But the decline in fertility over the course of a woman’s 30s has been oversold. Here’s what the statistics really tell us—and what they don’t."

Meet Dave

Dave Bennett
Lic. Ac. MBAcC Bsc Hons (App. Biol) ARCS

I remember clearly my very first acupuncture session 19 years ago.

I sat in the waiting room of Dave’s clinic feeling very nervous if I’m honest.

“What will Dave be like? Will he be a hippie dressed in a Tai Chi outfit?” What will he ask me?”

"Will the acupuncture hurt?

“What if Dave can’t help me? What will I do then?”

I was hurting inside from the deep sadness of my best friend’s death. I was doing everything in my power to keep it all under wraps. I was putting on a brave face, but really I felt terrible.

At that moment a man in a striped shirt and grey trousers came out. Ok so no Tai Chi outfits at least then.

“Hi, you must be Michael.” said Dave with a warm smile.

I felt instantly relaxed. Dave had a very easy and warm manner. I knew straight away I was in good hands.

Dave led me into his office and we both sat down. Over the course of the next hour I was able to tell Dave exactly what was going on for me. I knew he had my absolute best interests at heart, and whatever I told him I could sense that there was absolutely no judgment whatsoever. Just compassion. If you’ve ever sat with someone in this way you’ll know what a truly liberating experience this is. And that was before he even put any needles in.

Dave made his assessment and found that I had a major blockage in my energy. He explained that unless we treated this block, nothing else he did would get through. He did a treatment to clear the block, and straight away I felt a huge release. I walked out of the session like I was floating.

"Wow I didn’t know I would actually feel a physical difference in my body after this!” I remember thinking to myself.

I had weekly treatment with dave for the next 6 weeks and I started to feel a deep sense of peace come into my life, like nothing I had ever experienced. The anguish didn't go away over night, but I started to reconnect with my old self. The one I had forgotten even existed. I realised that by cutting myself off from the painful and difficult emotions I had also cut off the joy in my life.

The natural and simple joy of being alive.

I realised that this disconnected, "never realy happy but never really sad" half life, is no life at all. Yet it's the life we've all been conditioned to settle for.

Since then I’ve had regular acupuncture with Dave for the last 19 years. I wouldn’t go without it. It keeps me sane when life is crazy. (And my life gets just as crazy as anyone's). It keeps me healthy when everyone around me is getting sick. and it keeps me feeling youthful and full of vitality. Someone just last week thought I was 25, (I turn 39 in November). I don’t say this to boast, rather to show the power of this medicine.

So why am I telling you this story? Well, Dave moved out of London 15 years ago to bring up his family away from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke. I travel five hours there and back to see him for treatment. I’ve tried other acupuncturists closer to home but it just doesn’t do the same for me as Dave’s treatment.

So it is with real excitement that I’m able to announce that I’ve managed to convince Dave to come and work in London as part of our team. He’s now working in Harley Street on Fridays. If you work in Central London it is very easy to take some time out of your day to see him. And you can call me biased, but it is well worth it.

He’s not cheap, but as I always say “You get what you pay for". Dave has 20 years experience in Five Element Acupuncture and has also had a career in biomedical research. As The Max Factor advert says “It’s the makeup of makeup artists”. Well Dave is quite literally the acupuncturist of acupuncturists. If you want the best, then he might be what you're looking for.

I must warn you though: He will get booked up. At his other clinic in Brighton, Dave is consistently fully booked. You have to be patient to get an appointment, and book a long way in advance.

To read more about Dave, including fees, click the link below:

Dave is also offering our Pregnant in Six Months Programme:

To book a free consultation with Dave or any of our other practitioners you can email

or call


Best wishes,


P.S. Liz Langdon, a long time patient of Dave's, says this about how Dave helped her to have a family:

"I first started seeing David about 10 years ago as I had an irregular cycle. I'd had some tests as a teenager the doctor was not able to find anything conclusive but suspected I had polycystic ovaries. I just lived with the fact I would always have an unpredictable cycle. Some years later David was recommended to me and I thought why not give acupuncture a go. After just a few months of appointments my cycle became much more predictable and I felt generally so much better that I've kept up with monthly/six weekly maintenance appointments since. When my husband and I decided the time was right for starting a family it took longer than we wanted to conceive. I found the acupuncture appointments helped with making my cycle more predictable again (as I had been on the pill for a number of years) and also with my stress levels each month that we were unsuccessful. Happily we now have a gorgeous 2 year old boy and I am now expecting our next child. I continued with acupuncture throughout my first pregnancy (and intend to do so this time) and credit it with the fact I had a very straightforward pregnancy and did not suffer from many typical pregnancy symptoms. When my due date approached I even used a tip David had suggested and ended up going into labour on my due date.

David is really easy to talk to about any problems or issue I may have. He is empathetic and has a great sense of humour. I also really appreciate that he has a scientific background and is very much grounded in reality which is not always the case with 'alternative' practitioners."

- Liz Langdon 

Nature stacks the odds by expecting failure

That’s why a turtle lays 100 eggs, knowing only a handful will survive. 

That’s why a tree drops millions of seeds, knowing only a handful will grow into new trees.

That’s why 100 million sperm set out and only one gets to fertilise the egg. 

Most humans stack the odds against themselves by expecting to never fail.

They avoid success by running away from failure.

But you can only embrace success if you expect that mostly you’ll fail. We don’t think of it as a failure when 100 million sperm minus one don’t get to the egg. We call it “The miracle of life” because one sperm made it. 

We don’t call it a failure because JK Rowling got rejected by 50 publishers. We call her the best selling author of all time because one publisher dared to see her potential. 

We don’t call Nelson Mandela a failure because he spent 25 years in prison. We call him a legend because he managed to end years of oppression under apartheid. in fact he said that his time in prison deepened his resolve and his courage to do what he needed to do.

Your story hasn’t finished yet. Like all stories it only makes sense looking backwards. Like that time you looked back on your life and realised that if that dreadful painful thing hadn't happened to you, you wouldn’t be the person you are today. 

Stack the odds - expect failure. But know that it is not who you are. Just as a tree is not a failure because less than 1% of 1% of it’s seeds actually grow into a beautiful oak. 

Right now is merely a stepping stone on your journey. A tiny fraction of who you really are.

Blessings on your journey,


The greatest lesson I've learned

When I was 18 my best friend James died. He was one of the best friends I've ever had. 

I remember answering the phone that day. I heard James' girlfriend Mary say to me "Michael, I think you'd better sit down. I've got some bad news". I sat speechless as she told me how he had taken a taxi to Archway bridge and at 4am that morning, jumped off. 

For at least a year I struggled to even take in what had happened. I was in shock. Inside I was pushing down the feelings of loss and grief. Like many people I believed in "negative emotions" and "positive emotions". On a subconscious level, I made a decision not to let myself feel these feelings of enormous sadness. 

But the grief had to come out somehow. It started to manifest as insomnia. I'd wake at 5am every morning feeling exhausted but no longer able to sleep. Endless fatigue plagued me.

Then someone suggested something that would transform my whole experience. 

It was actually my mother who suggested I try acupuncture for the insomnia. I didn't really know much about acupuncture but I thought "Well I guess it's worth a try". I probably would have tried anything just to cure this horrible insomnia. 

On my first acupuncture session with Dave I remember leaving feeling somehow lighter and more alive. Was this real or just placebo? That night I got home and cried for James' death for the very first time. 

Over the next 6 weeks my sleep started to return to normal. I started to feel like myself again. But there was a difference. I actually felt more alive and at peace than ever before. I realised that by avoiding "negative emotions" all my life, I had not only cut myself off from pain, but also from the full extent of the the joy and aliveness that is possible. 

I remember Dave saying to me that sadness is ok. "It's when we push it away that problems arise." 

I decided to do an experiment. One evening while sitting quietly I decided to allow myself to feel what was there. Not to push anything away. I started to feel a deep sadness well up inside me. I allowed it be. It was ok. This was a big surprise. Just sitting immersed in the sadness felt ok. Yes it was sad and painful but it was somehow alright. Suddenly my instinct to push it away kicked in and I was plunged into internal struggle and horrible suffering. Wow, so it was actually the pushing away that was causing the suffering. I once more allowed the feelings to be, and once more I was able to find a peace with them. Sadness yet peace. Simply by allowing. 

This was the most profound learning of my life. What I thought all along was the cause of suffering was not the real cause. That I could "make friends" with my feelings and by doing so allow them to come and go. 

You suffer. You have deep feelings of sadness and frustration. Maybe you feel like you have to "be strong and carry on". Most people probably have no idea what you're going through. 

Try this for an experiment. Find a quite space to yourself, where you know you won't be disturbed. Just allow things to be. Exactly as they are. Whatever you're feeling right now, it’s ok. 

See what happens when the urged to push the feelings away kicks in. The mind might say "Oh this is horrible, I can't take this feeling any more". These thoughts themselves may actually be the cause of suffering. Don't take the minds word for it. Test it out. Can you be at peace with how things are right now? 

There is huge liberation in "allowing". This doesn't mean resignation. It means that things right now (the situation, how you're feeling) are a certain way. In this moment, they cannot be any other way. You can either resist this and create suffering or you can allow and find a peace. 

You might at first find momentary glimpses of what I'm talking about. Gradually these glimpses will join up and form longer stretches. 

This is quite possibly the most healing thing you can ever "do". 


Career Woman, Family Woman, Superwoman

Image by hans van den berg -

Image by hans van den berg -

Being a woman in your 30’s and early 40’s is no easy task. You’re trying to make it in your career - arriving at work early and leaving late, and probably earning less than your male colleagues (income equality? what’s that?).

You’re also trying to start a family, without letting on to your boss that you’re going to be going on maternity leave sometime soon. Yes feminism may have made a start but there is still a long way to go in today’s workplace.

Your parter wants a child too and he does his best to be supportive. “Don’t worry. Just try and relax. It’ll happen.” He’s well meaning but he can’t really understand it when you’re period comes again and you sob with frustration and anguish. He’s doing his best but his mind works in a practical, rational manner. He wants to solve the problem but he doesn’t realise that at that moment you just need to be heard and held.

If you’re a man reading this you may have noticed this frustration when you focus on practical solutions. I’ve had to learn the hard way that this is usually not the best way to help my partner when she’s upset.

I have a huge admiration and respect for the woman who come to my clinic. They are doing an incredible job of keeping it all together. Their relationship, their career, their huge desire to have a child that they can’t really talk to anyone about. The sense of isolation and the feeling that nobody really understands what they’re going through.

Imagine if being a great mother got you as much respect and admiration in our society as being a great footballer, or a film star. What greater gift is there to give to a child and yet what a thankless role. Yes society’s values are completely topsy turvy. As the saying goes: “Do not adjust your TV, there is a fault in reality.”

This is all very well you may be saying “but what can I do to help myself in this situation?” The bills still need to get paid and this baby’s not going to make itself. Well very often just to recognise that you are under a lot of conflicting pressures is the arising of a new way of being.

Just to see that this is an extremely difficult situation and that you are doing the best you can. It’s so easy to give yourself a hard time. We do it all the time. “Oh well Suzanne is coping much better. I should be able to manage this.” The hard time that we give ourselves is actually a large part of the pressure we feel. Not to mention a huge cause of strain on the body.

What we don’t realise is that Suzanne is struggling just as hard as you to keep it all together. Struggling to keep up the appearance that everything is just fine and hunky dory. Under the surface is a very different story.

Over the years I’ve treated hundreds of people and I have yet to meet someone who isn’t struggling in some area of their life. We’re all crying put to talk about what is really going on in our life. The hurt, the anguish the pain as well as the joy and the elation.

But as long as we’re burying the pain and the anguish we cannot truly experience the joy and the elation. Feelings just don’t work like that.

As author and researcher Brene Brown says:

"We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions."

We are so afraid to be vulnerable, even to the people closest to us. Because we think vulnerability is a weakness. But the ability to vulnerable with the people who care about us is actually a huge strength that should be celebrated. Just to be able to say “Look I’m really struggling with this” can be liberating.

I was teaching recently with my new acupuncture students. I had been suffering with back pain all week. It was brought on by the pressure of putting together a programme that I had never taught before. At the start of the class we had a check in to see how everyone was feeling. My aim is to encourage vulnerability but also to practice listening as a skill. When it was my turn to share I realised that the biggest thing on my mind the last few days had been the excruciating back pain.

I realised I needed to talk about it. I got to the bit where I saw that the pain had started when I started the acupuncture school and that it was the anxiety of trying to making it perfect that had brought it on.

Could I really share this? I was meant to be the teacher. Would this make the students doubt my abilities?

“No” I said to myself. “This is exactly what I need to be modeling.”

As soon as I told the whole story I felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I didn’t need to be tough and keep it all under wraps. The students responded well too and they brought a vulnerability into their own sharing. It brought us all closer and helped to gel the group together.

What’s more, the next day my back pain was almost completely gone!

“Through my research, I found that vulnerability is the glue that holds relationships together. It’s the magic sauce.”

- Researcher and author, Brene Brown

How else can we truly be accepted and loved, if we don’t let people see us for who we are. Warts and all.

We don’t have to be a superwoman or a superman to be worthy of being loved. We just need to be ourselves and to allow the people who matter behind the hardened wall of protection.

This is more than just about having a child. This is about being about being a parent who is able to model what vulnerability looks like to their child. Knowing that you are helping to bring a being into the world who has the tools they need to thrive, not just survive.

Here's to allowing yourself to be exactly how you are,

Michael Arnold

How your brain sends "pregnancy lockdown" signals to your body and why it will continue to do so unless you address this problem

With 15 years experience in Neuroscience and natural fertility I have found that there is one area that is consistently overlooked by other fertility professionals.

With 15 years experience in Neuroscience and natural fertility I have found that there is one area that is consistently overlooked by other fertility professionals.

Namely, how your brain sends “pregnancy lockdown” signals to your body and how it will continue to do so unless you address this problem.

During periods of physical or mental stress changes in the brain lead to a chemical called cortisol being released. Increased cortisol levels has been shown to inhibit the burst of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which triggers ovulation. This means that if you are stressed for an extended period of time you may not ovulate every month. 

Overproduction of Cortisol due to stress can also leads to increased levels of estrogen. Elevated estrogen is a major cause of symptoms such as Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis and recurrent miscarriage. 

Cortisol also inhibits Testosterone. In men it is testosterone that stimulates the production of healthy sperm. So reduced testosterone can have huge consequences on sperm count and quality. 

To summarise: release of the stress hormone cortisol, upsets the balance of your fertility hormones and can dramatically reduce your fertility. 

“Several months of trying to conceive passed but no joy…. frustration set in, stress levels rose. I was finding it difficult to cope.”

Does this sound familiar? Many doctors will acknowledge the effects of stress on fertility but they don’t have any answers for it. They’ll most likely say something like “Just go home and relax” 

The link between increased stress and reduced fertility has been established scientifically, as this article shows: 

However how do we use this information to help boost fertility? Its all very well saying you need to relax but if it were that easy you probably wouldn't be reading this right now. 

Over the coming blog posts I'll talk about steps you can take to reduce your stress hormones and increase your fertility. 

In the meantime, If you'd like to find out if stress is affecting your fertility you can take this short quiz.

Best wishes, 

Michael Arnold
BSc Neurosci. Lic Ac