Tag Archives: Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week – Surviving or Thriving?

mhaw17-main-banner_0Read, learn and connect with us during this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week –

Libraries’ positive contribution to the mental well-being of the population is well documented – see the Arts Council’s publication on ‘The health and wellbeing benefits of public libraries.’ 

I say population and not just customers or residents as it has been said that living near a library and, indeed, just walking past a library has a positive effect on one’s emotional and mental well-being.

Of course we in libraries are keen to invite people to come through the doors and experience the well-being benefits first hand. The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is ‘Surviving or Thriving’ which encourages us to look at our physical and mental well-being.

mental-health

Some of our offers are more obviously health focused, our health information displays encourage us to feed our brains with the right food and suggest ways to be more active, as well as giving information on managing and living well with chronic conditions.  Poor physical health can be a drain on our mental and emotional strength and poor mental health can lead to inactivity, poor diet and so the cycle continues.

One way to break cycles of unhelpful thoughts and behaviours is cognitive behavioural therapy and Westminster has a free psychological therapy service, Westminster Talking Therapies.

In order to help people decide whether this service is for them or for support while waiting for a referral, or during, or after therapy, the libraries’ Reading Well Books on Prescription collections are recommended by GPs and health promotion specialists. A new collection put together to support those living with chronic conditions will be launched in July this year.

The Reading Well Books on Prescription initiative is part of our Bibliotherapy offer. Our libraries host read aloud groups in partnership with The Reader Organisation. These facilitator led ‘Share a book’ groups meet every week and give members the opportunity to join in reading aloud from good literature and discuss what has been read over a cup of tea or coffee or just sit back, listen and enjoy the company.

lavenderIt is encouraging to look at how we in libraries contribute to what is called ‘the wider determinants of health’  All the things in our lives that support us, family, work, employment, housing, finances, education, lifelong learning, English classes, coffee mornings, knitting groups, activities for children and teenagers, employment advice, business information points for entrepreneurs old and young, all these available in libraries.

Libraries have always been inspirational and aspirational encouraging us to ask for more learning and knowledge and skills to create meaningful lives for ourselves and our families.

There are also some very good enjoyable fiction books available free to borrow hard copy or online! See our new book displays or log on to the 24/7 library. Did you know that reading for as little as six minutes can improve mental well-being?

See what you can do this Mental Health Awareness week to look after your own mental well-being, eat well, sleep well, go for a walk in one of our gorgeous parks and yes, visit your local library.

Kate Gielgud

Health Information Co-ordinator

 

 

 

 

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]

The healing power of music

Westminster Music Library was proud to play host last Saturday morning to Sergio López Figueroa, a composer, social entrepreneur, and founder of the exciting Big Bang Lab. The event was Humming in Harmony, a fascinating collaborative exploration of music and self through the most surprisingly simple medium: humming!

Humming in Harmony - Big Bang Lab

The morning’s session was just the first of many, which will take place at Westminster Music Library on Saturday mornings (10.00am-12.00 noon) and Wednesday evenings (5.00-6.50pm) from now until May 2016.

The premise of Humming in Harmony is simple: all music is vibration. Humming, in particular, offers a way for us to feel these vibrations within ourselves – especially when combined with the various techniques and exercises Sergio utilises in each workshop. By encouraging silence and focus on the vibrations humming produces within ourselves, the participant becomes much more aware of themselves and their surroundings. Using these principles over the course of these sessions, participants should learn increased concentration, and improved focus not only on oneself but on others.

Our series of Humming in Harmony sessions will include an all day workshop on 14 May to coincide with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week. The connection is not accidental: Sergio has designed Humming in Harmony with mental wellbeing as one of the central focuses. In previous incarnations, these workshops have been delivered in care homes, community centres and workplaces, with a wide range of children and adults who may have experienced isolation, mental, or physical health conditions. Sergio stresses the health benefits of mindful activity, and tailors each workshop around the needs of participants.

If the experience was a little strange at first, our attendees soon felt relaxed thanks to Sergio’s open and approachable manner. His enthusiasm for music is infectious, and everyone was soon enjoying the sensation of listening to themselves hum – a curiously calming activity which I suspect most of us have never tried before! Sergio, accompanied by his faithful glockenspiel, had us freely exploring our vocal ranges before pairing us off to do partner exercises based on the musical interval of the perfect 5th.

Humming in Harmony with Sergio Lopez Figuera (Big Bang Lab) at Westminster Music Library, January 2016 Humming in Harmony with Sergio Lopez Figuera (Big Bang Lab) at Westminster Music Library, January 2016

The whole “vibe” of the session encouraged exploration, improvisation and group participation. Sergio was happy to hear feedback and suggestions from all who took part, which is just as well, since many participants were keen to express their amazement at what a unique experience peaceful group humming can be. Our session ended with a ten-minute “group hum” in the key of A. Had Sergio managed to teach us a ten-minute piece in this short session? No – instead, he had equipped us with ideas and techniques, leaving us to “compose” the piece as we went along. As the piece came to its natural end, the short silence that followed was broken by the exclamations of fascination at what we’d just managed to achieve. In just one hour, the group of strangers had been transformed into an ensemble, creating music together with just the basic framework Sergio had provided.

It truly was a fascinating morning, and I am keen to see what else will be explored along the way as Humming in Harmony unfolds. If you’d like to find out more about Humming in Harmony, email: info@bigbang-lab.com. The next session in Westminster Music Library will be held on Saturday 6 February at 10.00am, follow this link to book: www.meetup.com/London-Music-and-Wellbeing

 [Jon]