The promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 2).

The promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 2) discusses the latest research in the use of sound for decreasing pain and increasing wellbeing.

 

Our connection with sound begins early in the womb. All the major structures of the ear are in place between 23 and 25 weeks of gestation and the unborn infant can perceive and react to auditory information from approximately 26 weeks of life. From this stage the cochlea begins fine tuning for specific frequencies in order to translate vibratory acoustic stimuli into an electric signal for processing, or wiring the brain through sound (McMahon, Wintermark & Lahav, 2012). In other words, at just over the half way mark of development, the baby in the womb is using sound to understand the world around them.

 

This also includes developing the ability to get ‘in sync’ with the world. For example, studies in early development have demonstrated that in infancy the new born is capable of physical entrainment to music (Eerola, 2010). This occurs through the brain following tones, which is known as the frequencies following response. The various frequencies (or Hz) are interpreted as patterns that cause stimulation, through the formation of neural pathways and the rhythm of the sound, which causes the two oscillating systems (the brain and the sound) to lock into phase so that they vibrate in harmony. It is the same phenomena that occurs when clicking clocks synchronize when placed close together, or when a tuning fork synchronizes its frequency vibration to be in harmony with another tuning fork that is struck (Neimark, 2004), or the way crickets all synchronize in harmonious collective chirping. However, when it occurs in humans it creates feelings of wellbeing.

 

Research has also demonstrated the positive healing properties associated with sound. For example, research has found that sound can promote growth and reduce disease in plants (Hassanien et al, 2014). Additionally, a study with rats has also demonstrated that applying low-frequency ultra-sound to wounds on the pallet of the mouth, increases healing ability in animals (Maeda et al, 2013). Moreover, listening to music or certain environmental sounds can also reduce pain (Mercadie, Mick & Bigand, 2015). Finally, a study by Alvarson, Wiens & Nilsson (2010) found that after experiencing psychological stress, listening to a mixture of natural sounds from a fountain and tweeting birds, produced a faster recovery response, than that of the control group that listened to suburban environmental noises. Overall, these studies show that we can use certain sounds to promote growth and healing while decreasing the feelings of pain, and simultaneously increase both mental and physical wellbeing.

 

In conclusion, we know that sound is one of the first senses used to create our own inner world – or reality. We truly are wired for sound! This is why it’s easy for very young toddlers to sway to the beat or get their groove on so young – and why they feel happy when they are in that state, or mood. This natural synchronization to certain sounds and beats is also the reason why listening to certain sounds can be so comforting, and therapeutic for both our physical and mental wellbeing. Research has confirmed through a variety of different studies that we can use sound to increase our wellbeing. So next time you are feeling a little too stressed out – try taking a time out to simply sit and listen to some of your favourite tunes as a way of meditating. And remember to allow and encourage your children to do the same.

 

Author: Elizabeth Mulhane

 

References

Alvarsson, J. J., Wiens, S., & Nilsson. M. E. (2010). Stress recovery during exposure to

nature sound and environmental noise. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 7(3), 1036-

1046, doi:10.3390/ijerph7031036

Eerola, T. (2013). Review of Strong experiences with music: Music is much more than just

music. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(1), 49-51. doi:10.1037/a0030781

Hassanien, R. H., Hou, T., Li, Y., & Li, B. (2014). Review: Advances in effects of sound

waves on plants. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 13,335-348. doi:10.1016/S2095-

3119(13)60492-X

McMahon, E., Wintermark, P., & Lahav, A. (2012). Auditory brain development in

premature infants: the importance of early experience. Annals of the New York Academy

of Sciences, 125217-24. doi:10.1111/j.1749-6632.2012.06445.x

Mercadíe, L., Mick, G., & Bigand, E. (2015). Original article: Effects of listening to music

versus environmental sounds in passive and active situations on levels of pain and fatigue

in fibromyalgia. Pain Management Nursing. doi:10.1016/j.pmn.2015.01.005

Neimark, J. (2004). Sound healing. Natural Health, 34(3), 70. DataBase: MasterFILEPremier.

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The promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 1).

The promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 1).

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”

 

Nikola Tesla

The promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 1) is part of a series of blogs aimed at providing a thorough understanding of how sound can be used to increase wellbeing.

Our universe is alive with sound, due to the various frequencies and vibrations that everything is producing.  Therefore, we should consciously make the effort to enhance our lives through understanding how sound affects us. Which includes manipulating our environment to achieve the desired results, by exposing ourselves to healing and transformative sounds, or at least eliminate undesirable sounds, that can negatively impact our awareness and therefore our experience.

 

Recently, science has demonstrated through the use of ultrasound (which operates on frequencies we can not hear) that sound has the power to heal on a cellular level. For example, in one experiment, two groups of rats had lesions made within their mouth areas, and the fastest healing group was the group of rats that experienced the additional ultrasound therapy.  This kind of research clearly demonstrates that although We cannot always hear all the sounds being made (because the average healthy human ear can only detect sounds that fall between the ranges of 20 to 20,000 Hz), they may still be affecting us.

 

Discoveries surrounding sound, and its energy through frequencies and vibrations, from a variety of different scientific fields of enquiry, including medicine, psychology, biology and quantum physics, have strengthened the holistic energy paradigm behind theories of consciousness, such as the Unifying field of consciousness theory (Llewellyn & Pearson, 2011) that suggests consciousness is the foundation of all existence, And  some theories goes as far as to say, This understanding of ‘consciousness and/or the energy of the universe being viewed as part of one system, rather than separate entities’ (Kumar, 2008), can also be understood in the west as electromagnetic energy or electromagnetism. this energy is also known as Chi in Asian countries and In India it is known as prana.

 

Whether or not consciousness and electromagnetic energy are the same phenomena or rather, merely emanate from the same origin is still debatable. However, we know for sure that Electromagnetic energy, or chi, is everywhere, which includes within the mind and body. For example, within the brain, electrical charges cause neurons  to fire and activate the channels and gates on the membranes of cells. This In turn governs cellular changes within the mind and body. And it’s not simply the biochemical reactions causing responses, but also the energy itself creates internal cause and effect.

 

Through quantum physics, we now know that everything in this universe is made up of tiny particles of energy that are vibrating at different frequencies. These frequency all have their own unique sound. For example, electromagnetic waves traveling through the universe, such as sound waves and gamma rays, can be converted by NASA into beautiful musical scores, and a yeast cell sitting in a research laboratory is vibrating at its own unique acoustic frequency range of 0.5-2 kHz, which makes a high clicking sound (Neimark, 2004).

 

Since our own mind/body is also alive with sound, it seems possible to create healing with sound at the cellualar level, through an alignment at a quantum level. A type of quantum tune up through the use of sound.

 

Through quantum physics we also know that the nuclei of the atoms that comprise matter, create resonating electric fields. For example, Within the human body this resonating electric field produces waves of information through the constant vibration of our DNA (at a cellular level). So basically, the universe permeates a field of energy, or frequencies that constantly vibrate. And all matter, including ourselves, exists and interacts in various ways, within this unseen sea, or soup of energy.

 

The unified field of consciousness theory suggests that human consciousness is constantly interacting with the energy, or frequencies that are all around us – through these internal energy charged environments that constitute the physiological components of the brain/mind, and indeed, the body at its cellular level (Llewellyn & Pearson, 2011; Roy, 2003).

 

Understanding energy and/or conscious energy in this way, helps to understand how the Global Consciousness Project’s, random generator experiments clearly demonstrate that events in the environment affected humanities collective consciousness (Nelson, 2011) and also suggest the reverse is also true.

 

In conclusion, we have discovered that everything in the universe has its own vibrating frequency and is making a sound – whether we can hear it or not – because everything is made up of tiny particles of energy. Some scientists call this holistic energy field the unifying field of consciousness.

We also know that sound (whether heard or not) affects us on a cellular level. Some sounds can have positive physical healing effect and some sounds benefit our mental wellbeing. Therefore, we can consciously make the effort to use sound to enhance our lives and that of our children on a daily basis.

 

I hope you have enjoyed ‘the promotion of wellbeing through sound (part 1)’.

 

  Below I have included some free youtube links to a variety of sounds. Please use them to explore what sounds works within your family home to enhance mood and behaviour. Don’t limit your search to these links but instead explore YouTube to find the perfect mood enhancing sounds for your family.

 

Calming Music: Nature Sounds, Zen Music
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x30YOmfeVTE

CHOIR sings OM SO HUM Mantra (Must Listen)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qA4XX15xatk

Carlos Nakai: Earth Spirit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=19nm5_nAwQg

Powerful Shaman Drumming Native American 4K FIRE (2 HOURS)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dxFlXZ4kBw

 

References

Kumar, J. (2008). Duality, wholeness and a new paradigm of consciousness and health.
Retrieved from
http://www.academia.edu/734932/Duality_Wholeness_and_a_New_Paradigm_of_Consciousness_and_Health

Llewellyn, D & Pearson, C. (2011). Consciousness-Based Education: A Foundation for
Teaching and Learning in the Academic Disciplines. Consciousness-Based Books:
Maharishi University of Management. Fairfield, Iowa. 52557. Retrieved from
https://portals.mum.edu/Customized/Uploads/ByDate/2013/September_2013/September_25th_2013/Vol.%204%20Consciousness-Based%20Education%20and%20Physics13125.pdf#page=35

Neimark, J. (2004). Sound healing. Natural Health, 34(3), 70. DataBase: MasterFILE
Premier.

Nelson, R. (2015). The global consciousness project: Meaning correlations in random data.
Retrieved from http://noosphere.princeton.edu/

Nelson, R. D., Jahn, R. G., Dunne, B. J., Dobyns, Y. H., & Bradish, G. J. (1998). FieldREG
11: Consciousness filed effects: Replications and explorations. Society for Scientific
Exploration, 12(3), 425-454. Retrieved from http://w.global-mind.org/papers/pear/fieldreg2.pdf

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Elizabeth Mulhane

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Learn more about sound

The promotion of wellbeing through music (Part 2).

Music has been well researched as a facilitator for increasing wellbeing. According to Rickard (2014), irrespective of culture, music has a profound positive influence on enhancing wellbeing through multiple routes, for both hedonic and eudemonic reasons – emphasising several elements of Seligma’s (2011) PERMA theory. For example, research has shown that music can enhance positive emotion (Juslin et al, 2008) and be used to manage and regulate moods (Lonsdale & North, 2001). It can foster social cohesiveness; or offer comfort and meaning to a person (Richard, 2014). Music can also produce effortless absorption or flow (engagement) within an individual, which in turn can facilitate a way to transcend everyday life, through achieving cognitively stimulated peaks, or spiritual experiences through sound (Eerola, 2013).

 

Music can assist in forming personality, self-identity and relationships (Rentfrow, 2012). In early education settings, teachers have also successfully used music and rhythm as a tool for developing language skills and building memory (Foran, 2009). Listening to melodies has a significantly positive effect on active practice and overnight consolidation of procedural memory (Cash, Allen, Simmon & Duke, 2014) and numerous studies on the controversial Mozart effect (Pietschnig, Voracek & Formann, 2010) have demonstrated that listening to classical music from this composer can lead to improved social, cognitive and physical development in young children (Mattar, 2013); concentration in adolescents (Taylor & Rowe, 2012) and spatial-temporal abilities in geriatric patients (Cacciafesta et al, 2010), while also reducing epileptic episodes in young children (Lin et al. 2012); and tinnitus in adults (Attanasio et al, 2012).

 

A study by North, Hargreaves and O’Neil (2000), found that the average teenager between 13 to 14 years, listens to over two and a half hours of music each day. They concluded that through the difficulties of adolescence, music can empower identity and satisfy emotional needs. Overall, studies suggests that people value music over other leisure activities due to the versatility music has at serving an individual’s different needs, which can change over time (Lonsdale & North, 2001). Preferences that cause strong experience with music (SEM) depend on a complex interplay between the music, the person and the situation, and research has demonstrated that any kind of music, from drumming, electronic or pop, melody, form, timbre, rhythm and lyrics, has the potential to be a SEM (Eerola, 2013).

 

In conclusion, in order to enhance wellbeing in children we should be exposing them to music. Music facilities the growth of intellect in various ways and we should encourage children to listen to melodies and other forms of music on a regular basis. Allowing the child to develop their own preferences of music genre helps the child form their own identify. This in turn will assist them through transitioning the difficult adolescent years.

 

(Insert is a picture of one of my own daughters. Her full time profession is being a primary school teacher, however, she has always been passionate about singing and writing/performing her own music. You can find more info about her songs on her Facebook page: Vienna’s Notebook ).

 

References

Attanasio, G., Cartocci, G., Covelli, E., Ambrosetti, E., Martinelli, V., Zaccone, M., Ponzanetti, A., Gueli, N., Filipo, R., Cacciafesta, M. (2012). The Mozart effect in patients suffering from tinnitus. Acta Oto-Laryngologica, 132(11), 1172-1177. doi:10.3109/00016489.2012.684398

Cacciafesta, M., Ettorre, E., Amici, A., Cicconetti, P., Martinelli, V., Linguanti, A., Baratta, A., Verrusio, W., & Marigliano, V. (2010). New frontiers of cognitive rehabilitation in geriatric age: the Mozart Effect (ME). Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 51, 79-82. doi:10.1016/j.archger.2010.01.001 [Abstract].

Cash, C. D., Allen, S. E., Simmons, A. L., & Duke, R. A. (2014). Effects of model performances on music skill acquisition and overnight memory consolidation. Journal of Research in Music Education, 62(1), 89-99.

Eerola, T. (2013). Review of Strong experiences with music: Music is much more than just music. Psychomusicology: Music, Mind, and Brain, 23(1), 49-51. doi:10.1037/a0030781

Foran, L. (2009). Listening to music: Helping children regulate their emotions and improve learning in the classroom. Education Horizons, 88(1), 51-58. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov.ezproxy.cqu.edu.au/?id=EJ868339

Juslin, P. N., Liljeström, S., Västfjäll, D., Barradas, G., & Silva, A. (2008). An experience sampling study of emotional reactions to music: Listener, music, and situation. Emotion, 8(5), 668-683. doi:10.1037/a0013505

Lonsdale, A. J., & North, A. C. (2011). Why do we listen to music? A uses and gratifications analysis. Br J Psychology, 102(1), 108-34. doi: 10.1348/00712610X506831. (Abstract)

Mattar, J. (2013). The effect of Mozart’s music on child development in a Jordanian kindergarten. Education, 133(3), 370-377

North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & O’Neill, S. A. (2000). The importance of music to adolescents. Br J Educ Psychol. 70, (Pt2), 255-72. [Abstract]. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10900782

Pietschnig, J., Voracek, M., & Formann, A. K. (2010). Mozart effect–Shmozart effect: Ameta-analysis. Intelligence, 383, 14-323. doi:10.1016/j.intell.2010.03.001 [Abstract].

Rickard, N. (2014). Editorial for “Music and Well-being” special issue of PWB. Journal of Psychology and Well-Being, 4, 26. doi: 10.1186/s13612-014-0026-3. Retrieved from http://www.psywb.com/content/4/1/26#B7

Seligman, M (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.

Rentfrow, P. J. (2012). The role of music in everyday life: Current directions in the social psychology of music. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(5), 402-416. doi:10.1111/j.1751-9004.2012.00434.x

Taylor, J. M., & Rowe, B. J. (2012). The “Mozart Effect” and the mathematical connection. Journal of College Reading and Learning, 42(2), 51-66.

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The promotion of wellbeing through music (Part 1).

The promotion of wellbeing through music is a research based blog discussing the benefits of sound.

 

Listening to music can be considered a mediator of meditation since the activity can be classified as an attention-related experience through a person’s ability to become absorbed or engaged with the music. Additionally, physical and cognitive entrainment (synchronizing to the rhythm detected in music) are enjoyable activities (Grosse, 2013) that stimulate the release of dopamine (a pleasure chemical) within the striatum (an evolutionary ancient part of the brain).  Therefore, since meditation increases eudemonic wellbeing and the pleasure from rhythm increases hedonic wellbeing, listening to music can have a twofold effect on producing feelings of wellbeing (Salimpoor et al., 2013).

 

According to scientific research the human brain has evolved to receive pleasure from music due to its ability to predict and expect the sound patterns, which suggests rhythmic synchronization to music and other metrically regular sounds is an innate human quality (Zentner & Eerola, 2010). Based on these research findings it may be that the human brains’ natural capacity to seek patterns, proximity, similarity or closure, known as the Gestalt principles (Sabar, 2012), results from the pleasure or feelings of wellbeing that the brain experiences (due to dopamine release) during this activity. Furthermore, after birth, both physical or mental rhythmic synchronization (entrainment), and the pleasure this brings may be a result of the brain associating beat or rhythm with the innate feeling of wellbeing experienced within the safety of the womb, due to being surrounded by the sound of a mother’s heartbeat. Hence, after birth, and throughout life, human beings may be unconsciously driven to seek comfort and/or pleasure through listening to rhythmic sounds.

 

In conclusion, since wellbeing can be enhanced through listening to enjoyable sounds due to the minds innate tendency to seek out rhythm for its own personal pleasure or feelings of comfort, playing music for young infants may promote self-soothing abilities in a peaceful way. This will also naturally encourage the development of meditation. Additionally, using music as a technique for promoting self-soothing, meditation and wellbeing can be incorporated into a regular routine for children of all ages.

 

References

Grosse, S. J. (2013). Brain gym in the pool. Aquatic Research and Education, 7, 72-80. Retrieved from             http://www.americankinesiology.org/AcuCustom/Sitename/Documents/DocumentItem/07Grosse_J4177_72-80_ej.pdf

Sabar, S. (2012). Review of Gestalt therapy: 100 key points and techniques. Gestalt Review, 16(2), 203-206.

Salimpoor, V., Van Den Bosch, I., Kovacevic, N., Mcintosh, A., Dagher, a., &  Zatorre, R. (2013). Interactions between the nucleus accumbens and  auditory cortices predict music reward value. Science, 340(6129), 216-219. doi:10.1126/science.1231059

Zentner, M., & Eerola, T. (2010). Rhythmic engagement with music in infancy. Proceedings    of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(13), 5768-5773. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1000121107

Additionally research on music for children

Babies’ brains benefit from music lessons, researchers find http://www.mcmaster.ca/opr/html/opr/media/main/NewsReleases/Babiesbrainsbenefitfrommusiclessonsresearchersfind.htm

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The history, religion and science behind mindfulness!

Historical context of Meditation

Understanding the history, religion and science behind mindfulness can help us understand why this ancient practice is so powerful!

From the perspective of controversial evolutionary psychology we can see that mindfulness has always existed. This ability to spend large amounts of time in a conscious state of pure moment to moment aware of one’s environment was key to survival. Innate states of mindfulness can still be observe today in both people and animals.

As humanity evolved man formed indigenous tribal communities around the world. Each tribe developed their own forms of ritual and ceremony that often included intentionally cultivating the mind to meditating into trance-like states to gain insight into the unknown. These states were often reached through the use of drums and/or dance. From experiences in these states of mind the tribe members developed their spiritual belief system. For example, possibly as long as 60,000 years ago (according to carbon dating) the Australian Aboriginal community was forming their religious beliefs, known as the Dreamtime (a collection of stories about the spiritual world, creation and living in harmony with the earth). Through these stories each tribal member received a sense of wellbeing through understanding the spiritual world, humanity, creation and holistic living. As humans evolved so did their ability to control the mind through the practice of various forms of meditation.

All major religions practice a form of mindfulness.

Mindfulness in Hinduism

As mankind developed the ability to write, we find the first ancient sacred text to discuss meditation (apart from the Egyptian and Aztecs) are found in the four Vedas of Hinduism, dating 1500 BCE (over 3500 years ago), speaking of a culture that is possibly over 5000 years old. In Hinduism, meditational experiences or dhyana evolved into several varying states of conscious awareness in order to examine one’s own mind for the pursuit of self-knowledge and knowledge of the universe. These types of meditation included: focusing attention on channeling our powers of concentration; mindful states of present awareness; reflective states of consciousness for nurturing states of love, respect, patience and gratitude, etc.; states for energising the body through Chakra meditation (kundalini); and trance states of mediation (often aided by chanting) to induce deep spiritual awareness, including out of body experience. Although the Hindu religion is commonly named the oldest of the main religions, for some (particularly the Jews) this is debatable.

Mindfulness in Judaism

The Hebrew calendar dates the present year (2017) to be 5776, which places Abraham at 1900 BCE, with stories even older than him that had been passed down through the generations. This suggests that Judaism is the oldest religion. In Judaism there is several forms of meditation (also mentioned in the Talmud). In Genesis 24:63 we learn that Isaac spent time meditating in the field (self-seclusion). Christ also practice self-secluded meditation (with fasting) (as did Moses) to invoke altered states of mind and mystical experiences. This mystical connection between God and the devotee that may be reached through meditation is also expressed in Psalms 104:34, ‘May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the Lord.’ Moreover, both the Torah (Old Testament) and the New Testament speak about visitations from angels, visions and prophetic dreams, demonstrates strong mystical experiences of devotee. This is also mentioned in Psalm 39:3 and Psalm 119:23 which suggests that meditating on the Lords decrees in times of trouble will also promote wellbeing.

On many occasions Psalms speaks of heart felt meditations, meditations that include taking time to sit and think about what God has done, His laws, decrees and precepts, and His unfailing love. Psalm 119:97 also speaks of intellectual or contemplative forms of meditating for the entire day on the love of God’s laws. This is also repeated in Joshua, with instructions to meditate day and night on the Book of the Law. Moreover, we also know that Judaism values meditation due to the fullness of its esoteric knowledge through Kabbalah and Zohar teachings. According to Rabbi Jill Zimmerman ‘Judaism, at its very core, is all about mindfulness’.

‘Mindfulness means slowing down, paying attention, being grateful, taking pauses to appreciate where you are, who you are, and whom you are with. It’s also about forgiveness and compassion, about being conscious of where you are on your spiritual journey and evaluating what’s important. It’s about remembering that we are part of something much bigger than our own selves. It’s about appreciating the earth and that we’re responsible not only for it, but for each other.’

Mindfulness in Buddhism

Buddhism was the next main religion to include meditation around 2,500 years ago, when a Hindu prince named Siddhartha Gautama, left his family to find enlightenment. Buddha developed the eight fold path as a philosophical way of living and understanding his concept of reality (which he named the four noble truths). According to Buddhism, ‘Right Mindfulness’ is the seventh part of the eightfold path. The eight fold path contains three constructs; wisdom, ethical conduct and mental discipline. According to this theory, attaining right mindfulness is the ‘mental discipline’ part of the path, which also includes ‘right effort’ and ‘right concentration’ (The attainment of wisdom is acquired through right view, right intention and right speech. The attainment of ethical conduct is acquired through right action and right livelihood). However, it is the act of practicing right mindfulness that leads to living in accordance to the eightfold path (and the four noble truths). Right mindfulness is the key to understanding the four noble truths, which basically teach us to free the mind from the never ending desires, or continuous cravings that lead to stress or suffering – and attain enlightenment, which includes a cessation of craving (peace of mind).

Mindfulness in Christianity

In Christianity many believers also advocate the benefits of being present and can also make the link with Christ’s own message of not worrying about the future. Additionally, as with every other religion, Christian forms of meditation go a lot deeper than simply being mindful. Other forms of meditation in Christianity include reciting prayer, contemplative or mediative reading of the Bible, fasting, and sitting (self-seclusion) and finding a personal connection through the trinity (Christ, the Holy Spirit and God the Father). Moreover, many Christians throughout the ages have been mystics. Additionally, when nuns and monks practice vows of silence for short or long periods this is also a form of meditation, or mindfulness.

Mindfulness in Islam

Plenty of links on the internet are also connecting mindfulness to Islam. Additionally, as with other religions, mediation through prayer and reading are also practiced along with Sufism in some Islamic sects (which is mysticism occurring in both Sunni and Shia sects of Islam).

The Oneness

I have emphasised mysticism throughout this blog because most people think mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment, due to the common definition circulating. That is, mindfulness is the practice of non-judgmentally paying attention to the mind and body in the present moment, rather than being lost in daydreams, anticipations, worries, or cravings. While this definition is true – to be fully mindful is to accept that we are not separate from everything else, and that this is an illusion. This school of thought was developed in every major religion through mystical experiences and deep states of meditation of the devotee/teachers. It is also expressed in the various texts.

From religion to science

The conceptualisation of everything being connected is now a universally growing truth due to research from the scientific community. For example, through research in genetics and DNA we now know that we share 98% of our DNA with the chimpanzee and we even share 60% of our DNA with a banana plant. The scientific community has also discovered (in line with certain religious beliefs) that electromagnetic energy (Chi or Prana) is everywhere. It is emanating from everything that has a frequency, which is everything that makes a sound, whether it can be heard or not. Additionally, through quantum physics we have discovered that everything is made up of tiny particles of energy. This means if we were to breakdown material things into their smallest unit everything would appear the same (just tiny bits a jiggling energy).

Now we live in a world in which both religion and science have perspectives in which we can view everything as part of a whole ‘sameness’, rather than through our own judgmental filters of our personal likes and dislike. In Buddhism and Hinduism, this leads to a heartfelt understanding of the ‘oneness’, which brings acceptance, forgiveness, compassion, and love. In Judaism, the Zohar explains that ‘Adam’ represents all of mankind and we are all holographic reflections of each other and must learn to love each other as ourselves in order to for fill the potential of man. This is also echoed through Christianity through the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would have them treat you, as well as Christs commandment to love one another.

Positive Psychology, a mindful revolution

Finally, mindfulness is currently a ‘hot topic’ in western psychology, due to the mounting scientific evidence to support its application. As a result mindfulness has become a form of positive psychology that is slowly replacing the traditional problem focused therapies of western society. For example, many studies have shown when participants are taught mindfulness they demonstrated significant results for increasing attention, learning, martial satisfaction, self-compassion, general psychological well-being; and alleviating depression, bereavement, anxiety and acute stress. Moreover, using mindfulness skills can easily facilitate a change in negative mood, increase positive mood and lead to a better worldview of the self, the world and the future.

 

Summing it all up with a warning!

As you can see from history, humanity found wellbeing and meaning in the practice of meditation and mindfulness as it was taught to initiates seeking God through the various religions. Now, after a falling away from religion in contemporary western society (which coincides with an ever growing percentage of people suffering from depression, anxiety and various other mental health problems), people are beginning to return to meditation and mindfulness due to scientific discovery showing its numerous benefits. However, when using mindfulness or meditation to improve one’s wellbeing the initiate must also be seeking or yearning for spiritual knowledge. Otherwise, the initiate is merely glimpsing a temporary improvement in wellbeing that may also be due to simply trying to improve wellbeing (and as such the same results could be reached if one was to merely convince oneself that eating an apple every day will improve wellbeing). As such, this type of initiate only experiences an ultimate result of failure – due to not finding the correct path. This is unfortunately happening and evident through scientific research that shows the improvements found with contemporary mindfulness lessons may be short lived for many people. And as a final warning, Buddha himself predicted that his teachings will be distorted and taken out of their spiritual context and taught merely for the exchange of money by greedy people, who only pursue their own selfish desires. Furthermore, Buddha explains that these teachers cannot comprehend the value or depth of Buddha’s teachings because they lack purity of mind.

If you are looking for guidance on how to teach your children please join me on Facebook: Mindfulness For Children to receive plenty of tips and free lessons, or sign up for my blog (and read through my previously blogs to gain plenty of insight). You may also like to sign up for my 8 week internationally accredited teachers course.

 

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Elizabeth Mulhane

Go to another blog

 

Loving kindness or a mindful empty practice!

Loving kindness or a mindful empty practice discusses the true essence of what a mindfulness practice should be through looking into the various teachings.

 

In Buddhism desire is often interchanged with the word greed. When written in this context the meaning of desire is to want things that one is not in need of. Conceptualizing desire in this way can also refer to the sensual side of desire, which is considered a hindrance in Buddhism.

 

Once the desire is obtained the individual soon loses interest due to the waning pleasure the desire has provided and they then begin to desire something else. In Buddhism this constant craving that is driven by one desire after another is a poisonous mental state to exist in. As such, the individual must learn to break the cycle of suffering through putting an end to seeking empty short lived gratifications/cravings/desires.

 

The Buddhist technique for stopping unwholesome desires and unwholesome thinking is to live according to the mental disciple obtained through the 8 fold path. Mindfulness is a key part to successfully following this disciple, which may lead to peace of mind, or enlightenment. However, western society has exaggerated mindfulness meditation (excluding the other 7 folds of the path) as the answer to achieving a greater sense of wellbeing. Unfortunately, focusing on the breath in order to return the mind to present moment awareness of non-judgmentally viewing reality is not the way to achieve high levels of flourishing. Although, it is the way in part, without the fullness of the teaching, the way in part will only lead to a temporal experience of peace through the existence of emptiness, where the individual has emptied out the darkness (or unwholesome desires and thoughts) and remained empty!

 

This empty state of mind can occur when the individual does not acquired a deeper understanding of the self, or the desires within the self. Therefore, in looking for a way to end their own personal suffering, they have emptied themselves out but not filled themselves up, and have merely become an empty vessel, only striving towards self-gratification for the ego. Although an empty vessel may make the loudest sound, it still only bellows out emptiness to whoever chooses to listen. They have merely and momentarily turned off desire, which cannot last since we are born with the will to desire. Due to ignorance they have run from suffering, rather than embracing the truth of wholesome suffering. And as we know from the example of Christ and Biblical teachings, long suffering is a fruit of the spirit of light.

 

So, no matter how much mindfulness this person practices – they will remain in an unwell state of mind and will not find a sense of wellbeing because they have not found a way to be filled with the light. That is, in order to develop high levels of wellbeing the individual must not merely be emptied out, but most importantly then be filled up with the light, and/or the wholesome desires that the light brings. Wholesome desires lead to wholesome thoughts. Wholesome thoughts bring a sense of wellbeing – even through the times where the individual may experience long suffering.

 

While Buddhism highlights the need for a cessation of craving, due to the suffering craving or desire causes, we must understand that craving or desire and suffering are qualities that exist in both the light and the dark.

 

Going deeper through the Kabbalist understanding of desire

The Jewish Kabbalah highlights the need to understand desire at the soul level of experience. If we wish to control our thoughts we must realise that the unwholesome suffering that our thoughts can create is manifested from our unwholesome desires. That is, Kabbalah teachings highlight the fact that thought is not the starting point of our desires and therefore our actions. It is the desire that the individual first feels that produces thoughts, which lead to actions.

 

Our thoughts cannot change our desires and our thoughts surrounding a particular desire will continue to expand as we want or need that desire to be acted upon, or experienced in reality. Therefore, since we cannot simply turn off desire, if we want to experience wholesome thoughts that lead to worthy actions, or life experiences, we must learn how to desire wholesome things. But in order to do this we must first learn to feel a certain way. Because, as mentioned, feeling creates thought – not the other way around. Loving kindness is a feeling we need to cultivate.

 

In this teaching the ultimate goal is to transition from the natural state of wanting to receive good things to a higher level of existence, or upper level of existing in a state of wanting to bestow good things.

 

The way

In order to experience wholesome desire and therefore to experience wholesome thinking we must meditate with intention. That is, we use meditation to purposefully experience the love we feel in our heart. First we experience love through feelings for those we already love. We then build on this experience by spending time in that feeling, and extending that feeling of love towards others, which includes our enemies. In this way, we feel a growing sense of love for all. This leads to feeling a wholesome desire of love for one another. In turn, this leads to experiencing wholesome thoughts, which leads to preforming wholesome actions. This is the state of the upper level of experience, or the outpouring of the light, which allows us to feel a sense of flourishing and in turn continues to perpetuate the cycle of the way.

 

So there you have it – mindfulness is an empty practices unless you also take time out to meditate on feeling an inner experience of love! If you have been practicing mindfulness please contemplate whether you have been practicing Loving kindness or a mindful empty practice!

 

Are you ready to experience a loving kindness meditation?

You may wish to study versus written about love. This is called self-seclusion meditation. You simply sit quietly in a place where you will not be interrupted and read a verse (usually written by a spiritual teacher) and then take time to think about what you have read. People often use prayer to begin these types of meditations as a way of seeking guidance from the light within.

You may like to read and meditate on a variety of religious sources.

 

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam

 

Learn to develop mental imagery and a way to bestow love (great for ages 3 and up)

The Dandelion Meditation

 

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May loving kindness grow in your heart and bring you inner peace.

Kind regards

Elizabeth Mulhane

Mindful play with children

Mindful play with children includes being mindful of our children’s attitude. Teaching children to be mindful of their attitude allows them to self-assess and re-adjust their perspective in order to enjoy life.

 

A simple way to accomplish this is to predetermine an appropriate time to practice a gratitude exercise with them (but don’t tell them about your plan). That is, rather than try to force them sit still and verbalize all the things they should be grateful for (possible after they have just been sulking about not getting something), find an out of the blue (secretly planned) time to play a game together.

 

Children love spending time with their parents (when it’s fun!). And as long as you don’t expect to get away with doing gratitude mediation with them every second day, your child will enjoy a spontaneous ‘let’s play who’s the most grateful – I bet I win!…and then I will beat you in a game of snap!’

 

Once the meditation is over and you are onto the next game ask them how they are feeling and whether they think the meditation had anything to do with how they feel. By following up in this way you will teach them to self-assess their inner state and they will consciously acknowledge within themselves they can use meditation mind skills when they need to re-adjust their attitude.

 

Teaching children to meditate doesn’t happen overnight. It’s something that takes time and patience. By easing children into gratitude exercises without the exercise being a big deal, you will have a lot more success with teaching them to spend heart felt, quality time within themselves.

 

What is a gratitude meditation and how do I turn it into a game?

 

A gratitude exercise is simply a time where we sit and think of all the things we are grateful for. While it’s good to be grateful for everything you have in life, it’s better to focus on being grateful for the non-material things you have in life. For example, your relationships, your positive attitude, your passion for something, your ability to seek knowledge, your ability to help others, your health, your life, etc. It’s also a wonderful feeling to be mindful of your gratitude for nature: the trees and the fruit they give, the birds and the songs they sing, the waves crashing on the shore, the sun and the warmth it gives, the rain, the mud and even the bugs that help manage the cycle of life. Nature is a beautiful thing and teaching children to appreciate it will encourage a sense of wellbeing within them.

A gratitude game to play the next time you are driving in the car.

Here’s another great way to do a gratitude training exercise with your child. Rather than simply playing ‘I spy with my little eye’, simply add ‘something that I’m grateful for that starts with the letter ….’ Playing the eye spy game in this way will engage a child’s higher order thinking skills in several ways. Firstly, the child experiences an opportunity to dig deep into their own gratitude resources to find things to spy when it’s their turn. Secondly, they learn to critically think within an empathetic context when trying to guess what you chose to be grateful for. Finally, the process will engage meta-cognition (thinking about their own thinking and what someone else is thinking) without even realising it.

 

Note: When you engage in mindful play with children there’s no need to correct your child for saying they are grateful for all their toys, or their favourite television show, or the ice-cream shop. It’s great to be grateful for everything. And over time as your child sees you focus on the non-material things or the beauty of nature, rather than the house, car and fancy things, they will learn to do the same.

 

Author Elizabeth Mulhane

 

Got o another blog: A mindful eating exercise

Check out our amazing online courses: www.mindfulnessforchildren.com.au

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Kind regards,

Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsySc(Hons)

mindfulsmiles@gmail.com

Mindfulness in Schools.

Mindfulness in schools is not turning out the way we all thought it would! The system still needs fixing. Let’s train the teachers to deliver mindfulness to our children – properly so our kids enjoy the practice and learn how to flourish. What’s the point of achieving the highest grades, or earning the highest income after school – if you never learn how to flourish?

 

These days we know that schools need to teach more than maths and English-and I’m not talking about the introduction of cultural studies! I’m talking about teaching children about mindfulness, wellbeing and the importance of participating in activities that promote personal growth.

 

According to Martin Seligman (the father of positive psychology), wellbeing can be described as feeling good through positive emotional, social and psychological experiences. Additionally, as we all know, good physical health is also a form of wellbeing… and while most schools have considered physical health programs, they have been slower to embrace educational programs that promote positive mental health.

 

Mental Health Awareness

 

The process of change is not only slow but overdue considering the research findings that measure the mental health of Aussie’s. For example, the 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing showed that around one in four Australian youth are at risk of developing a mental disorder (25% of young people aged 16 to 24 years). Worse still, research from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007) found that almost half the population (aged 16-85 years) have experienced a mental health problem. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation (2008) estimated that in Australia, neuropsychiatric disorders contribute to 29% of the global burden of disease. While the female suicide rate is recorded to be 4.4 per 100,000 of the population, male suicide rate is 16.7 per 100,000. In 2007-08, 1.4 million Australians were treated for mental illness (WHO, 2008).

 

Improving Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools

 

This is why it’s important that each and every school is teaching the art of flourishing to children- as individuals, and as groups. This can only be accomplished by introducing effective and well supported mental health programs into our schools. Although Seligman (2011) suggests that understanding and achieving satisfactory levels of wellbeing, at both the individual and group level should be a priority of governments, in order for that to become a reality, the citizens need to loudly and actively get involved in promoting programs that teach flourishing in schools.

 

You can make a difference, I can make a difference and together we can all make a difference for our children! Ask your school Principal what kind of wellbeing programs have been implemented into your child’s school. Please feel free to share programs in the comments section.

 

Below, I have created links to Mindfulness for Children programs and our non-profit campaign for empowering parents to bring mindfulness into the family home. Additionally, to ensure you have plenty of resources to take to your Principal in your proactive attempt to make change, I have provided links for keeping up to date with government initiatives, policy and procedures.

 

Easier still, just email this blog to your School Principal or P&C for consideration.

 

Author

Elizabeth Mulhane

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Onsite mindfulness training for children and teachers – currently available in Sydney. Online training available to all.

Read about our – Not for profit Mindfulness For Children Campaign: M.F.C – (18th May). Mindful Smiles Day

Australian government: A Healthy and Active Australia – www.healthyactive.gov.au

NSW Government: Health. Health Promotion with Schools: A Policy for the Health System. http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/heal/Pages/health-promotion-schools.aspx

NSW Government: Education. Student welfare Policy https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/student_serv/student_welfare/stude_welf/pd02_52_student_welfare.pdf

KidsMatter: Australian Primary Schools Mental Health Initiative www.kidsmatter.edu.au

 

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). 4326.0 – National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Main Features. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4326.0Media%20Release12007?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4326.0&issue=2007&num=&view=

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). 4326.0 – National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Summary of Findings. Retrieved from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/4326.0Main%20Features32007?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4326.0&issue=2007&num=&view=

Seligman, M (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.

World Health Organization. (2008). Mental Health Atlas 2011 – Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. Australia. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/atlas/profiles/aus_mh_profile.pdf?ua=1

World Health Organization, (2014). Mental Health Atlas. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/178879/1/9789241565011_eng.pdf?ua=1

Hedonic and Eudaimonic Wellbeing

Determining wellbeing – Understanding hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing.

In order to investigate wellbeing, it is necessary to understand two conceptually different elements that determine wellbeing. These elements are the hedonic and eudaimonia aspects of wellbeing (Seligman, 2011: Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011). Hedonic corresponds psychologically to a state of pleasure or feeling good, through a release of chemicals in the brain. This can occur through basic sensory pleasures received through food and physical arousal, or through social pleasures. Eudaimonia corresponds to a cognitive perception of morally living well, in which the individual feels their life is valuable, meaningful and engaging. Further more, Berridge and Kringelbach (2011), suggest that the three basic underlying psychological drivers of wellbeing, whether perceived consciously or not, are wanting, liking and learning. That is, likes produces hedonic pleasure, wanting creates motivation for reward, and learning creates mental associations, representations and predictions of future rewards, based on experience.

 

High levels of wellbeing creates happy, balanced kids

 

Controversy of how to measure wellbeing also includes whether or not theories of wellbeing should include both objective eudaimonic elements and subjective hedonic elements, Ryan, Curren & Deci (2013), have pointed out that living in a eudemonic way, or in accordance with a neo-Aristotelian concept of flourishing, through self-improvement, incorporates frequent subjective hedonic aspects of positive emotion, happiness, and pleasure. To illustrate this point further, research has consistently found that individual’s with high levels of wellbeing score higher for both eudaimonic and hedonic elements, meaning they co-occur at high rates, in happy people (Diener eta al, 2008).

 

In accordance with Ryan et al., (2013), it seems evident that the over-lap between higher order (eudaimonic) experiences of accomplishment and lower order hedonic experiences of pleasure are both experienced through personal achievement and/or through engagement in artistic, intellectual, musical, altruistic and transcendent experiences (Berridge & Kringelbach, 2011). Moreover, research has increasingly provided convincing evidence for the essential role of behaviour in wellbeing. For example, morbidity and mortality are associated with certain types of undesirable behaviour (such as physical inactivity, tobacco use and poor diet), which create enormous health care cost (Patrick & Williams, 2012). This also highlights the value of the eudaimonic elements of wellbeing motivating behaviour, over hedonic pleasures motivating behaviour (Ryan et al., 2013).

 

References

Berridge, K. C., & Kringelbach, M. L. (2011). Building a neuroscience of pleasure and well-being. Psychology of Well-Being; Theory, Research and Practice, 1:3. Retrieved from http://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/2211-1522-1-3#page-2

Diener, E., Ng, W., Harter, J., & Arora, R. (2010). Wealth and happiness across the world: material prosperity predicts life evaluation, whereas psychosocial prosperity predicts positive feeling. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 99(1), 52-61.

Patrick, H., and William, G, C. (2012). Self-determination theory; its application to health behaviour and complementarity with motivational interviewing. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 9:18. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-18 Retrieved from http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/9/1/18

Ryan, R. M., Curren, R. R., & Deci, E. L. (2013). What humans need: Flourishing in Aristotelian philosophy and self-determination theory. In A. S. Waterman, A. S. Waterman (Eds.). The best within us: Positive psychology perspectives on eudaimonia (pp. 57-75). Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association. doi:10.1037/14092-004

Seligman, M (2011). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness. New York, NY: Free Press.

 

Author Elizabeth Mulhane

Check out our amazing online courses: www.mindfulnessforchildren.com.au

You may also like to subscribe to our YouTube Channel

Or, join our free Facebook Group: Mindfulness For Children

And like my Facebook Page: Mindfulness For Children

Kind regards,

Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsySc(Hons)

mindfulsmiles@gmail.com

The Wondering Mind

The wondering mind is something that we all experience. However, it’s also something we can all learn to control through the use of mindfulness. Kabat-Zinn (2011) describes mindfulness as the practice of non-judgmentally, purposefully paying attention to present moment awareness. This is accomplished through intentionally focusing attention on the mind, body, breath and environment, rather than allowing the brain to operate through its default mode where thoughts are wondering all over the place.

 

According to Kabat-Zinn, this default mode is the natural setting of the brain due to the evolutionary survival system known as the approach and avoidance motivation network. The frontal cortical regions of the left hemisphere of the brain are orientated to be approach related (for food or pleasure, through positive reinforcement), while the right hemisphere of the brain is wired for avoidance, or flight mode (for avoiding danger or punishment, through negative reinforcement) (Elliot & Covington, 2001).

 

Wellbeing and Mental Health for Primary Schools

 

This combination of approach and avoidance creates an inherent wandering mind. These unconscious urges of the brain’s default mode, also described as the narrative network, due to the constant inner chatter that perpetuates, often causes a person to be cognitively or emotionally reactive (Kabat-Zinn, 2011) . However, in accordance with self-determination theory, even from a young age, human beings are naturally motivated to learn to control their emotional re-activity. For example, research has demonstrated that primary school-aged children learn the ability of mastery approach and mastery avoidance through intrinsic motivation that orientates the child towards goal setting practices for achieving positive or desirable events (Elliot & Covington, 2001). That is, through approach avoidance motivated distinction the child learns to perform in a way that optimises praise and avoids punishment. However, due to the strong instinctive response of either cognitive or emotional reactivity to approach-avoidance motivations (Elliot & Covington, 2001), skills in mastery approach and avoidance also vary in capacity and willingness from child to child. This in turn creates great differences in children’s academic performance through out the entire schooling system.

 

Training the child mind for success

 

According to Elliot and Covington, children who obtain academic success are capable of a delayed gratification of emotions, through motives directed towards praise and success. In contrast, children who do not acquire the same level of self-regulation and/or abilities to delayed gratification, often need to satisfy their immediate, negative emotional or cognitive reactive responses towards certain tasks. This highlights the important differences between eudemonic and hedonic levels of wellbeing and illuminates the need for individuals to be taught a simple method for training their minds.

 

Mindfulness is a simply, yet very effective for training the wondering mind to pay attention and self-regulate. Introducing children to mindfulness at a young age gives them optimal opportunity towards developing the mind skills that will help them not only through school, but through life.

 

References

Elliot, A. J., & Covington, M. V. (2001). Approach and avoidance motivation. Educational Psychology Review, 13 (2), 73-93.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). The Healing Power of Mindfulness. The Tucker Foundation and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Centre. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_If4a-gHg_I

Kind regards

Author: Elizabeth Mulhane

Learn more by signing up for one of our amazing courses – check out what’s available here

www.mindfulnessforchildren.com.au

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