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Mindfulness Lotus Position

Is Mindfulness An Established Part Of Our Lifestyle?

As we approach the end of the first month of 2020, it’s normal to reflect upon how many of our new year’s resolutions have survived or slowly faded out. How many of our goals were essentially revolved around becoming happier and healthier? Can an overall objective of mindfulness help to fulfill them all?

In the last few years we have seen the area of mindfulness move away from a scorned and outlandish notion, to a legitimate health practice. As mental health slowly shakes its taboo and the desire for a more fulfilled and present lifestyle takes center stage, many turn to mindfulness. Practices such as meditation are used as a reprieve from the fast-paced pressures of day-to-day life in modern society. More and more people are openly admitting that they meditate and seeking out a different approach to life.

The roots of many mindfulness practices can be credited back to Buddhism, and many meditation teachers refer to these teachings in their practices. Some, like Andy Puddicome, co-founder of the meditation app Headspace, having come directly from practicing Buddhism for a decade.

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Mindfulness itself has evolved and moved into the modern realm, making itself available and easily accessed by the average person. Rather than approaching monasteries for teachings of a calmer mind; articles, videos, books, and apps are available at your fingertips. Many argue that the growing trend of mindfulness practices are a result of the chaotic and overwhelming digital society that we live in. It is a little ironic therefore that a popular solution is the growing use of digital mindfulness apps. Learning mindful meditation from the comfort and privacy of your own home is an inexpensive and easy solution. Especially in the case of these apps, as a focus on ten-minute sessions or less are designed to easily slot into your lifestyle.

Last year the mindfulness market was estimated to be worth $1.2 billion (according to marketresearch.com) and it’s still growing; it’s estimated to be worth over $2 billion by 2022. There are over 1000 meditation apps available with Headspace, Calm and Buddify among the market leaders. From sleep exercises to breathing techniques, to mindfulness guides and meditation practices, it has never been easier to practice mindfulness.

The trend isn’t just in these apps, it is not uncommon to see more and more people turn to these practices as alternate health solutions. Doctors themselves are beginning to recommend mindful practices as part of a healthy lifestyle. Mindfulness retreats, classes, studios and training in the workplace are all becoming the norm. In January 2019, Vox reported that mindful activities such as Yoga and Meditation had tripled in the US between 2012-2017 and has since not shown signs of slowing down. You don’t have to go far to find a Yoga class or meditation workshop. Carving out sections of your busy schedule to slow down and focus on this sort of self-care is said to have tremendous benefits.

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Anecdotal evidence may indicate that many of your friends, colleagues and acquaintances are embracing these techniques and showing signs of happier and healthier lifestyles. Can we argue that mindfulness is now an established part of society and not just a trend? Have you considered it yet?

So what are the benefits of mindfulness practices? Said to profit both mental and physical well-being, practicing to keep a calmer mind can alleviate mental states of anxiety, depression and stress. More surprisingly perhaps, researchers have begun to find that it can also help to relieve physical conditions such as chronic pain, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal conditions such as IBS, and even treat heart disease. Even without mental and physical health problems, mindfulness and meditation is a way of re-wiring the brain to become, among other benefits, a happier, calmer, kinder and more patient person.

Despite the booming economic market of mindfulness practices, especially meditation, mindfulness doesn’t need to be an expensive practice, but it does take practice. One of the main aspects of mindfulness and meditation is the notion of being present. Many techniques aim to help refine this ability, from mindfully eating to walking to meditating, all of which requires a focus on the body. Whether that is concentrating on a small morsel of food and recognizing taste, texture, and bodily reaction as you take your time to chew; or sitting down and meditating, in which you attempt to clear your mind, focus on the breath and the feeling of your body and allow wandering thoughts to come and go without judgement.

The practice of mindfulness has been hugely beneficial to many people and its shrinking taboo and growing availability has made the area easier to access. Consider seeing if your year could be improved by a clearer, calmer and happier mind.

Woman Enjoying the Day

U.S. Life Expectancy Increases For The First Time In Years

The life expectancy of the average U.S. citizen has gone up for the first time since 2014. A major contributing factor to this is likely the fact that cancer death rates have declined the most they have in U.S. history within the past year. Additionally, drug overdose deaths, whether intentional or unintentional, have also seen a major decrease since 2018, some good news for a country that’s typically always devastated by physical and mental health statistics. 

The reports come from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and went on to emphasize how drug overdose deaths have decreased by 4% nationwide since 2018, a shocking statistic considering the increasing threat of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that’s caused countless accidental overdoses; including that of famous rapper Mac Miller who passed away in September 2018. 

However, the CDC credits the overall increase in life expectancy to the decrease in deaths caused by cancer or heart disease; the two leading causes of death in the world. The average American now has a life expectancy of 78.7 years, which is one tenth of a year more than what the CDC said in 2017. While one tenth of a year may not seem like that big of a deal, in terms of preventable and unpreventable causes of death it says a lot, especially to the professionals who are working with those who are sick with these diseases; it indicates to them that what they’re doing is working, even if it’s just a little.  

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“While modest, it’s really great news that the data shows progress. We have to be a little bit optimistic that some of our approaches to the problems worked, but let’s strike while the iron’s hot. I credit [the decline in overdose rates to] the overdose antidote, naloxone, which states and cities have made available so emergency workers and others can save the lives of people overdosing on opiods. But naloxone is a last resort that doesn’t get at the root causes of why people turn to drugs or suicide,” said psychologist Benjamin Miller, chief strategy officer at the non profit Well Being Trust.

Miller is referring to the stigma surrounding mental health and its relation to addiction. The fact is, substance abuse and addiction isn’t seen by general society as a real illness because it has to do with will-power and your brain, not multiplying cancer cells that you have no control over in your organs. However, mental illness is just as severe as physical illness, and the statistics can back up that both are just as uncontrollable and deadly. 

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Destigmatizing addiction and expanding accessible mental health resources won’t fix everything, but it’s definitely a start, and the new data from the CDC proves that it works too. Miller emphasized this point as well, stating that within the past few years medication-assisted treatment for those addicted to opioids has become more accessible. This is extremely important as addiction to opioids specifically has become one of the biggest health epidemics the U.S. has ever endured. 

Before this new data, for the past three years the U.S. has seen a relatively steady decline in life expectancy due to disease and accidental death rates. Drug overdoses are looped into this conversation because they account for over a third of all accidental deaths in the U.S.. Accidental deaths are within the top 10 leading causes of death as well, and that top 10 has remained stagnant as well for the past few years. 

Other top leading causes of death in the U.S. include pneumonia when coupled with the flu, heart disease, cancer, unintentional injuries that lead to unexpected complications, lower respiratory disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and suicide. By further opening up these conversations regarding mental health and addiction, we can at least work on preventing some of those top 10 causes from increasing while we let medical and mental health professionals work on the rest.

Psychiatrist

Yale Psychiatrist Recommends Trump Undergo Involuntary Evaluation

The health of American presidents has long been a subject of interest for the American voter. The question of physical fitness for office is one that any candidate or president faces. Barack Obama, for instance, drew public scrutiny for his smoking habit, which he replaced with chewing Nicorette gum during his presidency, and Hillary Clinton faced skepticism about her fitness for office after appearing to collapse while campaigning for the 2016 election. This concern is heightened for older candidates; the 78-year-old Bernie Sanders, for instance, underwent perhaps the biggest challenge of his campaign thus far after suffering a heart attack, from which he has since recovered, and people were concerned for the health of 77-year-old Joe Biden after his eye appeared to fill with blood during a town hall event. But while the physical health of presidents tends to be heavily scrutinized by the media and the general public, the mental health of presidents and candidates is not discussed with the same frequency, even though presidents have tremendously stressful jobs which require emotional and cognitive stability to execute properly.

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This absence in our public discourse is the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is a general overall societal taboo against discussing mental health issues. And while doctors often feel free to discuss the physical health of presidents and candidates, they are much less likely to question their mental fitness because of the Goldwater rule, a medical ethics rule that discourages psychiatrists from diagnosing public officials whom they have not personally examined. But in the unprecedented case of the presidency of Donald Trump, this norm is receding, as liberal pundits openly speculate that he suffers from narcissistic personality disorder or dementia, and some psychiatrists have made the rare decision to speak out. “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” for instance, argues that the president is dangerously mentally compromised.

Perhaps the most chilling part of Dr. Lee’s analysis is her argument that the president’s illness has generated a “shared psychosis” in American society.

Recently, Yale professor Dr. Bandy Lee, who edited this book, spoke with Salon about the state of the president’s mental health and what should be done about it. Dr. Lee, and the other experts who contributed to the book, feel that their duty to warn and protect the public supersedes the Goldwater rule, as they claim the combination of Trump’s pathologies and his political power present a serious threat to American society. This assessment is based on the president’s “signs of danger or emergency,” which Dr. Lee says include “verbal aggressiveness, history of sexual assault, incitement of violence at his rallies, attraction to violence and powerful weapons, [and] provocation of hostile nations.” In fact, while Dr. Lee praises Nancy Pelosi’s impeachment efforts, she argues Pelosi has not gone far enough and suggested she submit the president to an involuntary psychological evaluation. According to Dr. Lee, anyone has the right to call emergency services to report a coworker or family member who seems dangerous, after which point they may be professionally evaluated by a psychiatrist, potentially against their will. This law applies to everybody in all 50 states, including the president, and as Nancy Pelosi holds a high position in government, Dr. Lee argues that Pelosi has not only the right but the professional obligation to take this action against her coworker.

Such a move would be absolutely unprecedented in American history, and it’s very unlikely that Pelosi would take this route in her efforts to stymie the president. Nevertheless, Dr. Lee is beginning to believe that a mental health hold is becoming “inevitable,” as Pelosi’s decision to withhold sending articles of impeachment to the Senate is likely aggravating the president’s condition. A more realistic suggestion, endorsed by Dr. Lee as well as psychiatrists from around the country, is for the House of Representatives to hold a hearing involving psychiatrists to discuss the president’s mental fitness for office as part of its impeachment efforts. Given the narrow scope of the House’s impeachment inquiry, though, this too is unlikely.

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Perhaps the most chilling part of Dr. Lee’s analysis is her argument that the president’s illness has generated a “shared psychosis” in American society. According to Dr. Lee, in a case of shared psychosis, “rather than the sick person getting better, the otherwise healthy people take on symptoms of the sick person, as if they had the sickness themselves.” Dr. Lee claims that Trump, who is not only paranoid and delusional but holds a position of extreme power, has a strong influence on his supporters, resulting in their adopting his pathological pattern of thinking. This level of psychological control is particularly appealing to authoritarian figures like dictators, whom Trump openly admires, as it allows them to consolidate their power and withstand threats from legal and political institutions. Several theories have been proposed to explain the president’s steady approval rating despite his being mired in endless scandals and controversy; the shared psychosis theory, endorsed by Dr. Lee and many other mental health professionals, suggests that the president’s base is unlikely to stop supporting Trump as long as he is president, as they unquestioningly accept his self-aggrandizing and warped messaging about himself and his opponents.

Silhouette of Singer

Suffering from Sinus Infection, Ariana Grande Cancels Performance

Recently, pop singer Ariana Grande took to social media to share that she is undergoing an illness serious enough to force her to cancel an upcoming show. The artist has been suffering from a sinus infection for a few weeks, and her condition has worsened over time. While Grande opted not to cancel her performances in the earlier stages of her illness, instead opting to power through despite feeling unwell, she recently posted on her Instagram Story that she is “still very sick” and that she “really [doesn’t] know what’s going on with [her] body right now and need[s] to figure it out.” She added that she was taking medication and was on an IV drip in the hope of feeling better for the following day’s concert, but that she couldn’t make any promises. Additionally, she posted a video of herself using a steamer to help her breathe properly.

The next day, Grande took to Instagram again to announce that she would have to cancel a show. Despite this unfortunate news, however, Grande emphasized her gratitude for having the opportunity to perform for her fans and thank them for their support. She apologized to her fans and promised they would be refunded. Grande was met with an outpouring of well-wishes and support during her illness, and Barbra Streisand advised her to “take a strong Vitamin C drink with some Manuka honey and of course get some chicken soup!”

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Although she ultimately decided to cancel her Lexington, NY performance, the singer didn’t want fans to be disappointed. As such, she paid for the lunches of dozens of fans who attended a spontaneous meet-up at Rupp Arena organized by the Grande Tour News Twitter account. Many of the fans who attended the meet-up had traveled across the country to see Grande perform, so her paying for their lunches was a gesture of kindness towards her loyal and dedicated fans. Grande’s next show is scheduled to take place on Sunday in Kentucky, but it’s unclear whether the singer will feel well enough to attend.

Grande is no stranger to health issues. The 26-year-old singer has previously shared her battles with PTSD, brought on by traumatic events including the presence of a suicide bomber at one of her shows in Manchester in 2017, who killed 22 people and injured hundreds more. On Instagram, she posted an image of a scan of her brain purportedly showing how it had been affected by the trauma she experienced. Though the presence of Grande’s PTSD is likely genuine, experts argue that it is impossible to determine whether somebody has PTSD by looking at a scan of their brain. The singer has also been open about her struggles with anxiety and depression, and has spoken frequently about her years-long therapy practice, which she considers to be tremendously valuable. As such, Grande has used her platform as a celebrity to work as a mental health advocate, as her openness about her psychological conditions helps to destigmatize mental illnesses and encourage more people who need help with psychological problems to seek treatment.

Burlesque

Bringing Burlesque to the Main Stage

Burlesque dance school ‘Sapphira’s ShowGirls’ is celebrating its 10 year anniversary and in light of its huge success over the years, founder Priscilla Silcock, more widely known as ‘Sapphira’ in the world of Burlesque and is also a singer-songwriter, has been sharing her inspirational story which first led her to discover her love for entertainment.

Over the past decade, she has helped inspire and empower countless women across the globe through the work of Sapphira’s Showgirls, her book ‘Burlesque or Bust’ (Trigger Publishing) and through creating the annual Ibiza Burlesque Festival. 

Having been brought up in a very restrictive religious upbringing and although loving her family and respecting the Christian Brethren Community she was part of, Priscilla struggled to hide a side of herself that she wished could shine and was eventually excommunicated by the Church in her late teens.

As a young woman, Priscilla never felt like she truly fitted in and by her early 20s, a series of life events led her to experience a severe mental breakdown which required hospitalization. Despite such dark times, this ended up being a pinnacle moment in her life and led to her totally transforming her life, her career and her future. 

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After making a full recovery, Priscilla made a momentous life decision to move from her hometown of Australia to the UK to pursue a career in singing and dancing. It was in London that Priscilla was first introduced to Burlesque, a dance genre which would capture her personality and enable her to dance and dress exactly how her heart desired. 

Priscilla’s love for Burlesque grew, thriving as her alter ego Sapphira, so much so that she started her own dance school ‘Sapphira’s Showgirls’ where people are not only taught to dance but embrace and empower themselves within music, costumes and identities.  Sapphira’s Showgirls now has a presence in London, Melbourne and Ibiza, with many followers and supporters across the globe. 

Sapphira’s Showgirls has built a safe and secure environment for people to share their insecurities and feel truly liberated. Whether they have experienced body confidence issues, mental health problems or simply felt restricted creatively, so many of our girls have experienced complete transformations since taking up Burlesque. It is such a privilege to be able to share this artform with others, as it personally helped me to battle my own demons and make a full recovery from my own mental health illness,” explains Sapphira. 

“Our ultimate goal is for people to just be happy in their own skin, fully accepting of themselves, and beaming with self-confidence.”

Sapphira’s Showgirls is also known for their continuous support to several charities and for its regular fundraising activities including #BurlesqueAPeel. Sapphira also offers sound healing sessions as a certified Soul Voice® Practitioner.

Reflecting on over a decade in the business, Sapphira says “Sapphira’s Showgirls is relatable to everyone in today’s world. It helps people to love the body they are in and encourages others to share their battles/stories within the growing Burlesque community. Our ultimate goal is for people to just be happy in their own skin, fully accepting of themselves, and beaming with self-confidence. Even just helping one person to achieve this makes all of the hard work worth it.”

In addition to her success in Burlesque, Sapphira is also a singer-songwriter. She recently joined the tributes and fundraisers across the country to late frontman of the UK band The Prodigy, Keith Flint, by releasing her single Dark Angel and donating all proceeds from MP3 sales in 2019 to leading independent charity Help Musicians UK who offer a mental health support line for the whole music industry.

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The Prodigy have always been a strong influence on Sapphira’s creative direction, and she was, in fact, supported by The Prodigy’s singer Maxim, who donated his artwork to one of Sapphira’s fundraisers to help raise £1,500 for charity.

“I was utterly devastated to learn of Keith’s passing,’ Sapphira says.  “His persona and songs made him seem invincible and he motivated me to be fearless in expressing my fiercer side through music which had an immense cathartic effect in my life. To realize a man I admired so much was struggling to the point of taking his own life has shocked me completely. It shows that even with the heights of success in the entertainment industry no-one is immune to being affected by depression and facing a mental health crisis. It has made me more resolved to keep speaking out to reach others before it’s too late.’

Dark Angel was produced by Tonestepa, who is also Sapphira’s husband, and was released to coincide with World Bipolar Day. It has already gained the support of leading drum and bass DJ Kenny Ken, who planned to incorporate the track into his set for a Keith Flint Tribute.

Sapphira, who is an unsigned artist, is using Universal music’s platform, Spinn-up to self-publish her song. All sales from the MP3 will go to the Music Minds Matter helpline. To buy, stream or listen to Dark Angel visit: https://sapphiramusic.bandcamp.com/track/dark-angel.