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



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-


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.

If you are keen to improve the wellbeing within your family please sign up for our family orientated mindfulness course . This amazing 8 week online course was designed to help you improve yourself, your mind, your life and your families overall levels of wellbeing.

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Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsycSci(Hons)

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 ).



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

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

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

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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Elizabeth Mulhane

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.


Kind regards

Elizabeth Mulhane

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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

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Elizabeth Mulhane B.PsySc(Hons)

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.



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 –

NSW Government: Health. Health Promotion with Schools: A Policy for the Health System.

NSW Government: Education. Student welfare Policy

KidsMatter: Australian Primary Schools Mental Health Initiative



Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). 4326.0 – National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Main Features. Retrieved from

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2007). 4326.0 – National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007. Summary of Findings. Retrieved from

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

World Health Organization, (2014). Mental Health Atlas. Retrieved from

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).



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

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

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:

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)

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.



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

Kind regards

Author: Elizabeth Mulhane

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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


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Kind regards
Elizabeth Mulhane



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

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

Kabat-Zinn, J. (2011). The Healing Power of Mindfulness. The Tucker Foundation and Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Centre. Retrieved from

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:


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

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