Living Well with Complementary Therapy

  • 10 April 2024

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Male sitting on a chair talking to a female nurse

Patients and carers referred to Arthur Rank Hospice Charity are supported by a range of different services. One of these is Complementary Therapy, which is offered to patients on the Inpatient Unit, as part of the Living Well Services, for patients in the community (within a 20-mile radius) and in our bespoke treatment rooms in the Bradbury Wellness suite at the Hospice.

Therapies on offer include clinical aromatherapy, reflexology, a range of massage including  Holistic, Biodynamic, Shiatsu and Indian head massage, reiki, fascial unwinding and the ‘M’ technique. Sessions may help alleviate many common symptoms such as pain, nausea, insomnia, muscular aches, pins and needles and low mood.

The team of Complementary Therapists tailor programmes to each person’s needs.  Sessions provide a safe space where patients and their carers can take a little time out of their daily challenges and achieve a sense of wellbeing.

Seven Senses

Complementary Therapist, Laura Hawksley, recently spent an informative and fun hour, in the Living Well Service session, to explain more about the service to the patients. They enjoyed an interactive morning where she gave out soft balls and jelly babies! The welcome props enabled her to talk about how people’s wellbeing can benefit from tuning into one or more of the seven senses.

Laura explained:

“Complementary Therapy is relaxing, creates a sense of calm and keeps you in the moment. We aim to offer the maximum benefit whilst disturbing the client as little as possible: comfort is everything. You should feel yourself becoming lighter. It’s an opportunity to interconnect to our bodies and can calm our natural fight or flight response.“

She added:

“If we move one part of our body, everything else moves. We want to encourage our body to move, however tiny the movements are. Our lungs move in 360 degrees, breath into our whole being.”

Tips and Activities for you

She shares tips, recommendations and activities for you below:


You will need:

A small soft ball, your hand or a piece of fabric you like the feel of.


  1. Roll a small soft ball / move the fabric/ stroke slowly around and up and down your arm, hands and/or any area that needs it. Roll with a really gentle pressure. (There is no right or wrong way to do this, whatever feels good / feels right, try a light stroke of 6-10cms a second).
  2. Give yourself a hug or hold your own hand.
  3. Give yourself a hand massage or ask someone to give you a hand massage. Demonstrations can be found on our website here:
  4. Slowly put your hands together – when do you feel the heat? That’s the energy we all have.
  5. Ask yourself – does it feel good? Does it feel right?

Male sitting on a chair balancing a small ball on his chin


Touch can help you relax and slows down the mind, by working on the nervous system, and nudges the cells to respond positively. Soothing touch supports the release of oxytocin and other neuro chemicals that helps us feel safe and loved.


You will need:

Some of your favourite smells. (Patients at the Living Well Session said they liked Ariel Washing Powder (other brands are available!), cut grass, fresh bread, roses (each variety is different), coffee, roast dinner. They also shared that they didn’t like: sewerage, nail varnish remover and cooking cauliflower!)


  1. Ask yourself – what do you like to smell?
  2. If you are feeling stressed, keep your favourite smell near you.


Aroma is the quickest way to the brain. The smell pathway is the quicker than any other. Smells can do different things for us. For example, some smells, such as peppermint and rosemary can give us energy. Others can relax or calm us, such as lavender, cedarwood, chamomile.


You will need:

Imagination or memory.

Photographs to jog memories.

Mindfulness app or video – you can find a mindfulness video on our website here:

Female sitting in a chair with her hands together


  1. Close your eyes and visualise your favourite place. Explore it in detail, and if possible bring in the other senses, what could you hear, feel, smell?
  2. Look at a photo and bring to mind the emotions and pleasure that that are associated with the time and place. Treasure the joy, love, peace that you experience in that moment without judgement.


Visualising your favourite place can help you to enjoy being in the moment, and de-stress and relax. It allows us to space to be.


You will need:

Different tastes and textures – jelly babies, mints, ice cubes etc.

Female sitting in a chair and nurse offering a sweet


  1. Take a small amount of drink or food and stop to think about how it tastes and feels. This is called Mindful eating.
  2. Make a list of foods or drinks you could have to change your mood.


As with the other senses finding and exploring tastes that you enjoy is another way of bringing pleasure and relaxation into our day to day lives, often in a way that is different to the past. Taste receptors send messages to the brain. Different foods support relaxation or energise us. Taking time to explore this can be fun.


Male and females sitting in a chair

You will need:

Music such as radio (some patients like to listen to a Classical Music Channel), iPod, records, CD’s, App’s, BBC Sounds (birdsong has positive mood benefits) etc.


  1. Listen to music as you are doing different activities and note your mood. The right music at the right time can reduce our level of stress.
  2. Walking to marching music or singing can help your gait.
  3. Dancing and moving in time to music, however slow or simple can help pour stability.
  4. Allow yourself to listen to music that reflects the whole range of human emotions, it is important to feel sadness and fear alongside peace, love and relaxation.


Richard Sima from the Washington Post wrote:

“By analysing the data, the researchers found a significant positive association between seeing or hearing birds and improved mental well-being, even when accounting for other possible explanations such as education, occupation, or the presence of greenery and water, which have themselves been associated with positive mental health.

The benefits persisted well beyond the bird encounter. If a participant reported seeing or hearing birds at one point, their mental well-being was higher, on average, hours later even if they did not encounter birds at the next check-in.”

Male sitting in a chair

Mick Swales, who has Muscular Dystrophy and attends the Living Well Sessions said:

“I’d be lost without stereo sound. I remember my Dad pointing out the Cuckoo to me when I was a child.”


Other senses such as Proprioception helps you to feel where you are in the world using your muscles, tendons and ligaments. For example when you close your eyes you can still put your finger on your nose or when you roll over in bed you don’t fall out.


Interoception notices physical changes in the body, such as butterflies when you feel nervous or happy.”

Sleep tips:

To be able to sleep we need to feel safe, and the brain sometimes needs help to cope with the stresses and thinking of our modern lives. However there are several tricks we can use to help fall asleep:

  • Notice each worry as it enters your mind, acknowledge it and place it in an imaginary file for tomorrow, or watch it move across the horizon like a cloud, or write it down.
  • Move your eyes slowly from side to sidepretend you are watching a tennis match, it tells the brain there are no tigers in the room!
  • Close your eyes and think of the alphabet – visualise each letter in a different colour.
  • Tap your arm or leg with your hand. Explore Ted talks: drum yourself to sleep.

Laura also talked about the importance of a good morning routine to help with a good nights sleep!  She recommended seeking natural light as soon as possible after waking up.

When it comes to bedtime she recommended no devices (phones, ipads, computers etc) at least 30 mins to 1 hour before bed.

Laura left time for questions the end of the session and one patients asked:

“What can I do when I feel worried or anxious at home?”

Laura replied:

“A stressful life is not absent of worry or stress but a normal part of life. Feeling OK with worrying is also OK. Acknowledge the feeling and tell yourself ‘It’s alright to worry, thank you! I can see you, I can hear you but I need to think of something else today.”

You can also find supportive videos for sleep, anxiety, meditation and lots more on our website:

The Living Well sessions are offered free of charge to patients living in Cambridgeshire with an advanced serious illness or other life-limiting condition. Referrals can be made by a healthcare professional, provided that you are aware and in agreement. For more information please visit our webpage or email or telephone: 01223 675777.