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.

Please join me on Facebook: Mindfulness For Children, and/or sign up for my blog.

Or Subscribe to my YouTube channel

Check out the amazing courses available to help you flourish

Kind regards

Elizabeth Mulhane

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

Please join me on Facebook: Mindfulness For Children, and/or sign up for my blog.

Or Subscribe to my YouTube channel

 

Kind regards

Elizabeth Mulhane

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

 

If you enjoyed reading this blog and would like to receive a monthly blog straight to your inbox, please sign up below.

Join us on Facebook: Mindfulness For Children

Check out the amazing courses we offer

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

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

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

If you would like to stay informed with topics like this please feel free to leave your email to receive our blogs.

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

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

Facebook

YouTube

What is mindfulness and how do I practice?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle

 

Mindfulness is an innate human quality.

 

Mindfulness is an innate human quality (Kabat-Zinn, 2011) which varies in capacity and willingness for person to person (Brown & Ryan, 2003). People are naturally mindful. For example, you might be mindful of how you walk through a muddy area, or take time for yourself to sit and watch the waves roll into the shore (Brown & Ryan, 2003). This state of being mindful is also observed when we see someone totally immersed in what they are doing. According to Martin Seligman (2011) this kind of mindful state may promote wellbeing through engagement which also facilitates accomplishment.

 

This link between being mindful and engaging in an activity, as a way of feeling good, relates to Deci and Ryan’s self-determination theory of being motivated to satisfy ones need for accomplishment and autonomy. That is, we are naturally motivated to accomplish things, and be in control, because we know it makes us feel good, and we innately use mindfulness as a way of engaging. Furthermore, this also highlights Berridge and Kringelbach’s (2011) three basic underlying psychological drivers of wellbeing (wanting, liking, and learning) and in turn, it highlights the overlap between the hedonic and eudemonic levels of wellbeing (Ryan et al., 2013). That is, we mindfully engage in our desires as a way of making ourselves feel good.

 

Overall, we can see that human beings have an innate ability to know how to feel good. We may choose an enjoyable activity for an immediate feel good experience (hedonic wellbeing), or we may choose to accomplish something that may take longer, but will give us a feel good experience that is longer lasting because it’s more meaningful (eudemonic wellbeing). And whether we are consciously aware of it or not, we use forms of mindful concentration to accomplish these goals. For example, we go to the movies to feel good and if our mind wonders, we will bring it back to the present moment, to the movie, because we want to enjoy the storyline.

 

We also work or study, as a way of accomplishing what we need to feel good. If we are working on an assignment and our mind wonders, we will bring it back to the present moment, in order to continue completing our work, because we want to feel good through experiencing success. And according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, this is a basic form of mindfulness, or mindful living, because we are in a state of paying attention to the present moment, in a particular way, non-judgementally.

 

We can cultivate mindfulness.

 

While mindfulness is an innate experience, we can cultivate our ability to be mindful through formal training and therefore enhance our skills and ability to enjoy living in the present moment. Formal mindfulness meditation can also take on a sightly different style of thinking, or awareness. That is, rather than paying attention to what we are doing within the present moment, we are instead simply ‘aware’ of, or paying attention to our experience within the present moment. We are aware of our awareness. We are non-judgementally aware of our thoughts, sensations and emotions. We are watching ourselves, as an observer of our thoughts, sensations and emotions, in a compassionate, yet unattached way.

 

We are formally practicing mindfulness through the mindset of self-realisation. For example, you may be sitting in a group and think, ‘This is really boring. I hate being here.’ And you may feel an emotional response, such as unhappiness. You may even start to feel uncomfortable in your chair. However, rather than attaching to those thoughts, emotions and sensations you are simply aware that you have experienced them, but you are also aware that YOU are not your thoughts, emotions and sensations. When they are gone, YOU are still here. Therefore, YOU are not reacting, or responding to them, you just let them all pass.

 

We use the breath as our anchor when we practice mindfulness. That is, whenever our mind wonders, we gently bring it back by bringing our focus to our breath. We may use inner dialogue to aide us. For example, ‘I am breathing in, I am breathing out’. Alternatively, we may simply follow our breath as it travels in and out of our body. Or, we may focus on just one area of the breaths cycle, for example, we pay attention to the air as it enter and leaves our nose. We are paying attention to feeling the difference between the cool air that enters and the warmer air that leaves. Or, we may keep our attention on the rise and fall of our diaphragm.

 

However, we are not our anchor, we are the entire ship wanting to enjoy the adventure. Therefore, we don’t stay anchored all the time. We simply drop the anchor when the sea has become too rough and our ship has begun to wonder off course. For example, I’m on task, paying attention to my work. Maybe, some thoughts are popping into my mind, but I’m just letting them pass as I continue to pay attention to my work. Then someone enters the room and says something that creates a lot of negative thoughts and emotions within me. I feel close to reacting, or maybe I do! And then I remember I want to experience smooth sailing, rather than be toss around in life’s storms. So, I recall how to get my ship back on course. I drop my anchor! If the storm is really bad, I may need to make those first few breaths deeper than normal. Once I feel calm returning, I return to my normal breathing pattern, still anchored, until I am ready to respond to that person in a positive way, or simply return paying attention to my work.

 

Detaching from all the thoughts, sensations and emotions.

 

By being able to compassionately let go of, or detach from all these thoughts, emotions and sensations, that we continually experience, we develop a space within us to simply ‘be’. We become more compassionate and understanding towards both ourselves and others. In time, as we cultivate this awareness, our mind will naturally settle and we will be able to live in the present moment, in a state of simply ‘being’ for longer periods of time. This occurs because we are no longer feeding, or reacting to all the thoughts, sensations and emotions that we constantly experience.

 

As a mind training technique, mindfulness is analogous to an art form. Through developing our ability to practice mindfulness we learn to simply allow the internal chatter of constant inner judgments and opinions expressed about everything to flow through the mind, without emotionally reacting to those thoughts, while also learning to re-focus our minds. In Buddhism this is called liberation because it is a kind of mental freedom derived from the self-achievement of cultivating the domain of being, rather than being overwhelmed by the constant stressors and emotional reactivity to certain situations in life (Kabat-Zinn, 2011).

 

Of course if we want to cultivate the domain of mindfulness, we must repeatedly practice. Therefore, we need to create schedules for ourselves, in order to develop a regular routine of meditating, that in turn will become a habit.

 

Try this 10 minute guided meditation

 

If you would like to stay informed with topics like this please feel free to leave your email to receive my blogs. Additionally, if you would like to receive training in mindfulness, please contact me directly, via my email: mindfulsmiles@gmail.com

Find out about the courses we offer here

Kind regards
Elizabeth Mulhane

 

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

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its roles in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 94(4), 822-848. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.84.4.822 http://selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2003_BrownRyan.pdf

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

Ryan, R. M., Curren, R. R., & Deci, E. L. (2013). What humans need: Flourishing in Aristotelian philosophy and self-determination theory.

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.

10 ideas to teach kids mindfulness.

This blog, ’10 ideas to teach kids mindfulness’ was inspired through the parents from my Facebook Community: Mindfulness For Children.

 

We want our children to enjoy learning mindfulness and meditation. So it’s important that we keep it enjoyable. The following ideas are meant to help you do just that. These ideas have been generated through a group chat post, in response to the question:

 

What mindfulness and meditation exercises are you finding the kids are really enjoying?

  1. Guided Imagery meditation was mentioned the most times.

This meditation is best down laying down. The children learn to use their minds eye to create mental imagery. Ideas for a mind’s eyes journey may include cultivating a beautiful garden in our imagination; or walking through a forest; or along a beach.

Try this adult version for yourself: Mind’s eye meditation with Elizabeth Mulhane

 

2. Breathing exercises where they are laying down with a stuff toy resting on their belly.

This is a great exercise for helping them find their calm. We can use this when we want them to settle down.

 

3. Listening to guided recording from Annika Harris and Kinderling

Several parents are finding their children are enjoying listen to guided recordings with them.

 

4. Watching Cosmic Kids on YouTube received a few mentions.

Remember to only use screen time as an added extra, rather than a regular way to practice mindfulness.

 

5. Parents are finding that reading books on the topic of mindfulness are helping. For example, Alphabreaths by Christopher Willard .

 

6. Watching Mr Andrews is also growing in popularity. Andrew Jordan Nance has made a series of magical mindfulness videos that kids seem to really like: https://youtu.be/UXiHInp-K3g

 

7. Parents are enjoying practicing varies forms of yoga with their children as a way of practicing present moment awareness and slowing down.

 

8. Mindful nature walks was also mentioned as a very enjoyable practice for children.

 

9. Calm App (guided meditations) came up a few times with one brilliant parent suggesting it’s best used at bath time.

 

10. A lovely exercise from Helene Papillion: Looking around and finding hearts. The more we look, the more we see them! Then we send them to the people we love and those who need them.

 

I hope you find this list gives you a new sense of creativity towards cultivating different ways of bringing mindfulness into the lives of your children. Learning to practice with children is a wonderful way to commit to our own practice while also helping them cultivate theirs. Additionally, parents are finding that this time is becoming a wonderful bonding time.

 

Kind regards,

☕️ Elizabeth Mulhane

Interested in taking an online course in mindfulness and meditation? Check out what’s available https://mindfulnessforchildren.com.au

Join us on Facebook here: Mindfulness For Children.

Subscribe to Elizabeth Mulhane on YouTube here

If you enjoyed the blog, 10 ideas to teach kids mindfulness, and would like to receive similar blogs to your email please let me know.