Tag Archives: health

Rhythm for life – towards better health and well-being

The world is more complicated than ever and life around us seems to move at an ever faster pace, statistics show that anxiety and depression have risen by a third in just over four years – it’s clear that we are facing a significant and growing problem. Discovering new ways to target these issues present great challenges, but also, opportunities. As technology continues to dominate our lives and change our behaviours, research shows there are actions we can take to tackle these issues, one of which is through drumming.

Something to consider

The roots of drumming are ancient, archaeologists have discovered evidence that people have used drums for millennia; numerous small cylindrical drums have been excavated in southern parts of Turkey and Iran dating from 3000 BC. Drumming was important then and it is now, think about your favourite song or musical composition, is there a drum beat or distinctly rhythmical element central to its structure? Some anthropologists believe that rhythms and sounds may have been a precursor to the languages we speak today and used as a form of communication.

Learning to drum and setting out on the musical journey of rhythm and pulse can be enjoyable and therapeutic, here are five reasons why you should come join the party…

1. Drum out stress and anxiety
Research shows that participating in group drumming activities boosts the body’s production of endorphins, the ‘feel good’ hormones. Experiencing a group drumming session can be powerful and transformative, promoting feelings of being energised and focused, it’s hard to engage with other things like your smart phone. Research also shows that participants who had blood pressure checks before and after a one hour drumming session displayed a reversal in stress producing hormones, proving that this is a powerful and transformative way to manage stress and anxiety.

2. Maximise your brain function
Your brain loves it when you drum. Music is a powerful way to engage your brain in a full neurological workout; the visual, auditory and motor cortices work hard during a group drumming session. Drumming promotes synchronous brain activity, getting both sides of the brain working together whilst improving concentration, coordination and problem solving skills. The power of drumming is especially noticeable in people living with dementia and acquired brain injury. Therapeutic Instrumental Music Performance (TIMP) programmes show transformative results in stroke survivors and their rehabilitation, and music has been proven to be a powerful means of communication for those living with dementia.

3. Boost your immune system
There is growing evidence that drumming can be linked to a reduction in pro-inflammatory immune response in the body, helping to induce the opposite effect through increasing the positive anti-inflammatory defences your body needs to stay healthy. According to cancer specialist Dr Barry Bittman (who conducted extensive research in the fields of music and neurology), group drumming has the potential to increase cells associated with killing cancer and viruses. Research conducted at The University of Tokyo showed the number of white blood cells increased significantly, the slowing down and synchronisation of breathing during the sessions improved blood flow.

4. Feel more connected
With the constant quest for super speed broadband and the latest smart phone, do we still have the capacity to make real and meaningful connections to people and places? Drumming is a great way to feel connected to others without speaking or acting, but solely through the non-verbal pulsating rhythms created in a group. Meet new people, laugh, listen, reflect and be part of creating an incredible shared experience for yourself and those around you.

5. It’s fun!
Injecting fun into your life is a serious business! People who are deprived of fun and recreational experiences are more likely to commit crimes, be less productive and have low self-esteem. Drumming is one of the most fun and rewarding things to do – why not give it a try?

Starting in January 2018 we will be holding lots of free drumming workshops in Westminster Music Library, no experience necessary! Contact us to find out more: musiclibrary@westminster.gov.uk
020 7641 6200

Ruth
Westminster Music Library

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Learning and working together

As always, it’s been a busy few months for Westminster Libraries’ Bengali Service! Here’s a snapshot of what we’ve been up to:

Mental Health Facilitators / Ayurvedic Indian Head Massage training

Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016Community Celebration Day at Church Street Library, December 2016

This is a joint project in Church Street, in partnership with the Mosaic Community Trust, to train local residents – particularly those with English as a second language – to become mental health facilitators and massage therapists through a qualified training programme. In turn they are able to act as champions for their respective communities.

As part of the programme a ‘Community Celebration Day’ was held in December at Church Street Library – many people, including GPs and practice managers from the local health centres, attended to discuss patient participation and how local people can play an active role in terms of their care needs.

The project has 15 students and they will be graduating as massage therapists this month! The training will equip the participants with relevant skills to work as therapists or freelance in a salon. Some students demonstrated their newly acquired skills at the event in December and at Church Street’s New Year’s New You event in January.

A World In A Suitcase (AWIASC)

A World in a Suitcase is a storytelling project funded by the Wellcome Trust & WAES in collaboration with an author and a former BBC producer. Its aim was to foster closer relations, understanding and tolerance between communities through sharing their ‘World’.”

Myrna Shoa and Timuchin Dindjer have run six workshops with our English Speaking Clubs members at Church Street Library, using multimedia arts and story-telling prop materials.

Participants have created a visual record of their stories through collages, drawings, words and photos. All these culminated into an exhibition at WAES which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Westminster, Cllr Steve Summers.

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017

A World in a Suitcase (AWIASC) exhibition, 2017 – click to view the rest of the images

Employment and Training Project at Queen’s Park Library

A great partnership has been forged with Queen’s Park Community Council and Paddington Development Trust’s (PDT) employment programme to introduce a new service at Queen’s Park Library.

The PDT Employment Adviser, Shah Alam, is based in Queen’s Park Library every Tuesday (10.30am-3.30pm). Shah works with Westminster residents, long term unemployed and job seekers, men and women over the age of 19, on a one to one basis. He sees them for a series of Information, Advice and Guidance sessions, a minimum of six and at a pace set by the client. Sessions can cover motivation and confidence, skills and referrals to training, CV creation, job search and applications, interview techniques and practical support.

SShah at Queen's Park Library, giving employment advice and supporthah is enjoying meeting with different community members, people with different needs and expectations from a job and who are balancing different responsibilities of family and childcare and other commitments. Contact Queen’s Park Library to find out more.

Parenting Seminars at Queen’s Park Library

A series of parenting seminars were organised and delivered at Queen’s Park Library, in partnership with Westminster Early Help Team & Parenting and Fast Co-ordinator, Madhu Chauhan.

Parenting seminars at Queen's Park LibraryFifteen local people have attended the seminars over three weeks learning about raising resilient happy children, instilling positive behaviours at home so they become happy, well-rounded and able to achieve their full potential.

Feedback ranged from great to excellent after all these workshops!

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

Another successful event was held at Pimlico Library in partnership with Westminster Bangladeshi Association (WBA) on 16 February to commemorate International Mother Language Day – a day to promote awareness of linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism.

The event attracted over a hundred people into the library. We saw children making collages with signs and symbols of their native countries, with images of healthy food and key healthy lifestyle messages in different languages. Children also took part in a colouring completion and poetry performance as well as speeches about the importance of cultural diversity in language and why it is important to learn English in this multicultural city of Westminster.

International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library International Mother Language Day at Pimlico Library

This event was also supported by various organisations such as My Time Active, Westminster Memory Service, Health Information Co-ordinator and Health Trainers.

A Volunteer Success Story

Magdalena works at Queen’s Park Library helping out with Basic Computer Sessions and the English Speaking Club. She also helps colleagues with shelving.

Recently, she has acquired a job as she has been growing in confidence through her volunteering with the Bengali Service in Westminster Libraries. Congratulations Magdalena!

International Women’s Day

The Bengali Service also marked International Women’s Day with an event at Church Street Library, with some high achieving local female guest speakers to inspire the local women of Westminster as well as service providers ranging from  the education, training, employment, health and wellbeing sectors.

Watch this space for more news!

[Mahbuba]

New Year, New You 2017

Church Street Library held its ‘New Year, New You’ event on 18 January, offering customers the opportunity to try something out of the ordinary for 2017. We certainly provided that, attracting a large number of visitors over the course of the day.

Church Street Library: 'New Year, New You'. January 2017

The day unfolded as the three floored library transformed into zones.  The ground floor lending library became the Body and Mind Zone, offering customers a full body MOT, stop smoking advice, healthy eating tips, with health food store Nature Intended providing freebies. Our local Post Office was there too. We also had Westminster Registrars on hand to talk about the Nationality Checking Service. Heavenly music from the London Maritime Quintet filled the air. In total we had 15 stalls sharing the space.

The Maritime Quintet at Church Street Library for 'New Year, New You'. January 2017

One floor down, the Chillax and Breathe Zone filled with nine complementary therapy stalls, delivering foot and head massage, facial threading, hand massage and beauty pampering through to henna hand art.

The Community Space was renamed the Active Zone for the day, hosting modern dance and a local line dancing crew managed by Pina; the Learning Centre became the Learn Something New Zone, where we offered Arabic classes, a CV advice workshop and a taster in creative writing. Carol’s Organic Kitchen provided healthy sandwich burgers and Osman Khan Church Street Community provided tea and coffee.

Transport was arranged to bring Home Library Service readers to the library, offering them a chance to enjoy a concert by professional musicians the London Maritime quintet in the relaxed setting of the library. As a complete contrast our readers then enjoyed some more modern music and a demonstration of hip hop and street dance by a member of Rain Crew.

Breakdancing at New Year New You event, Church Street Library January 2017     Breakdancing at New Year New You event, Church Street Library January 2017

Comments from HLS members:

“A wonderful programme.”

“Loved the music – heard composers’ work I had not come across before.”

“Loved the breakdancing.”

“The young man dancing was so passionate about what he was doing and was charming.”

“It is wonderful to go out and meet old and new friends.”

[Elaine]

The latest from Westminster Community Information

Seals Argue like a pro

Feel like there are one or two things to discuss at the moment?

Want to sharpen up your debating skills?

Westminster has not one but three debating clubs within easy reach; the Society of Cogers, the Sylvan Club and Debating London. You can just go along and listen or get more involved and take part in debates.

Two of the groups meet in pubs, which may be of interest, and one offers debate training (for a fee). You can find them listed on the Westminster Community Information web site.

Debra on the Community Information stall in Paddington LibraryPaddington health event

In late April I attended one of the regular health events at Paddington Library.

Here are some of the things you asked me about:

  • A young man wanted to know about knitting groups in the borough
  • A Malaysian lady who wants to start her own business running classes in Malaysian martial art (silat) and Malaysian cooking asked about business resources
  • A lady wanted to find a diabetes support group
  • A mature student was looking for social groups in the area.
  • An older lady was asking about handyman services and draught-proofing grants.

I will attend other library health events in the future and look forward to seeing you there and answering your questions about community information in Westminster.

[Debra]

In June, somebody celebrated their second birthday of the year…

Maida Vale Library pulled out all the stops for its week of free celebrations to commemorate The Queen’s Official 90th birthday on 11 June 2016. Like The Mall itself, the library was be-decked in patriotic red, white and blue Union Flag bunting.

Crown making craft activity for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016 Crown making craft activity for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016
The 'Crown Jewels' on display for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The celebrations kicked off on the Monday with the first of four craft drop-in sessions. The families who came along made some wonderfully designed crowns which sparkled in the sunlight as they left the building. One little boy was particularly pleased to be able to make another crown, having already made one recently at school for The Queen.

“It’s great that the library does theses craft and art events as they don’t do much art stuff at school nowadays.”

Making Buckingham Palace for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

On the Tuesday, families made 3D models of Buckingham Palace out of recycled junk and on the Wednesday a wonderful collage of the 2012 Diamond Jubilee’s Thames Flotilla of boats was recreated and is now proudly on display in the children’s library.

“My kid really loved this event as he’s mad on boats.”

Remembering the Jubilee Flotilla for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The first big event of the week took place on the Wednesday with our under 5s’ Royal Teddy Bear’s Picnic. Blankets were laid out on the floor and the toddlers and their teddies were treated to music, songs and rhymes along with healthy food and drink. Staff took the opportunity to talk to carers about library partners such as MEND who will be working with us over the summer providing free weekly sessions. They also promoted upcoming library health events specifically aimed at young children, such as Dinosaur Douglas who made an appearance the following week as part of National Smile Week.

“Fabulous event for kids and nannies! I’ve enjoyed it as much as the kids.”

Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016 Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016Teddy Bears' Picnic for the Queen's 90th birthday, Maida Vale Library, June 2016

The Thursday saw a multitude of different designs created for cards and badges fit for The Queen. We also had two more major events for the over 5s: a red, white and blue themed Indoor Street Party with children’s entertainment which took place on the Friday, followed by a visit from Zoo Lab on Saturday who brought along some of The Queen’s smaller beasts to the library.

Our partner Imagethirst was on hand to offer a free photo to children (or adults for that matter!) at the party with our special guest of honour…

Portrait with 'The Queen' at Maida Vale Library, June 2016

All in all nearly 300 people turned up at the various events and activities which took place over the week. We were particularly pleased that we were able to showcase the best of British to some new arrivals who have settled in Westminster and made it their home.

None of these events could have been possible without the ward funding provided by Little Venice, Maida Vale and Westbourne wards. Staff and volunteers worked as a team to make so many events happen in such a short period of time and I must thank each and every one of them for all their hard work.

“The staff here are brilliant and so helpful, they always have so many interesting ideas.”

[Ben]

Humming in Harmony

“The power of music to integrate and cure… is quite fundamental. It is the profoundest nonchemical medication.”
– Oliver Sacks

Humming in Harmony for Mental Health Awareness Week 2016

Westminster Music Library’s five month programme of mindfulness workshops – Humming in Harmony – clearly demonstrates how true this statement is. These simple workshops, designed to improve mental health and beat isolation, connecting and bringing people together through music, have received lots of very positive feedback.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

Created by Sergio Lopez Figueroa, a qualified piano teacher and composer, Humming in Harmony uses the human voice and the power of vocal harmonies in new ways to relax the mind, whilst providing an opportunity to get away from our hectic digital lives.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So what happens when we hum? I asked Sergio to explain:

“Music is energy, so by focusing on pitch or frequency and through conscious breathing, we feel the vibration, and over time improve concentration and focus by listening to ourselves and others simultaneously…. gradually we develop the ability to use this energy to interact with others, and to experience the benefit of tension and release in musical harmonies, and in our bodies and minds. From structured to open sessions, we can experience free expression, lead or follow as we please. We are each responsible for co-creating the best experience for the whole group, which makes Humming in Harmony different from other similar practices”.

It sounds simple enough, no qualifications or experience necessary, just turn up and start humming, and this is the really good part –  singing and humming not only brings people together, it’s also a great way to relax, unwind, de-stress, improve listening skills and pitch recognition, and helps develop correct breathing techniques.

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

So with Mental Health Awareness Week fast approaching, last Saturday, Sergio – with a little help from Westminster Music Library – organised Mind the Body, a day of public health awareness activities focusing on music. Sergio demonstrated how the power of music can facilitate positive changes in emotional wellbeing, how it encourages communication, self-awareness and an awareness of others.  The day included interactive presentations by health practitioners, case studies, a film screening and Q&A session, and a creative Humming in Harmony improvisation led by Sergio on piano.

As you can see from the comments below from some of those who came along, I think it’s fair to say people got quite a lot out of the day:

‘Something I would normally never do – it’s a complete change to my usual hectic life.’

‘Excellent workshop, made me concentrate. Therefore, think positively in the present and left cares behind.’

‘Uplifting! Great help after feeling low.’

Humming in Harmony / Mind the Body workshop at Westminster Music Library for Mental Health Awareness Week, May 2016

And from Sergio himself:

‘Thanks for Westminster Music Library’s support in offering the time and space to start a new initiative like Humming in Harmony, and the efforts you’ve made to generate awareness. The event on Saturday was very successful. We discussed issues about health, showed some interesting videos, and had two humming sessions. Having the piano was a real bonus, the improvisation with keyboard and humming was very well received. Participants were asking when the next sessions are as they are keen to continue.’

I’d better check the diary…

[Ruth]

Spring again

Recently the Home Library Service held its second ‘Spring into Spring’ health and information morning, this time at Pimlico Library (see previous event details).

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

On offer was the chance to sample hand massage, chair yoga (above), laptops and tablets (below), as well as a chance to talk individually to representatives from Open Age, the Health Improvement and Falls Prevention teams and the council’s Environment Team.

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

We even had two new recruits sign up to borrow a laptop from the Westminster’s Council’s Community Computers Scheme!

HLS Spring into Spring event at Pimlico Library

There was a wealth of library, council and health information leaflets to take away as a reminder of new things learnt.

“Helpful and entertaining”

“Thank you for a wonderful day out”

[Elaine]