Dr Elise Bialylew Mindful In May – Sit for Something Interview

Dr Elise Bialylew Mindful In May – Sit for Something Interview

Dr Elise Bialylew Mindful In May – Sit for Something Interview

In today's hyper-connected world, where most people are overcommitted, overstimulated, overworked and overwhelmed, it can be hard to look after our own health and wellbeing, let alone find the time to help others in need.

Enter Mindful in May, a global mindfulness challenge during the month of May with two game-changing goals: to teach participants how to find calm and clarity through ten minutes of mindfulness meditation each day, and to raise money to improve access to clean drinking water in developing countries.

Mindful in May is the brainchild of Australian psychiatrist and mindfulness meditation expert, Dr Elise Bialylew. Dr Elise is determined to bring the transformative power of mindfulness to people around the world, while at the same time improving the lives of those living in poverty.

The universities of Harvard, Monash, Oxford and John Hopkins have all undertaken research that has shown that mindfulness meditation can lead to structural changes in the brain, reduce stress, improve physical and mental wellbeing, enhance immune function, reduce genetic ageing and increase happiness.

The benefits of Mindful in May extend beyond your own health and community. One in 10 people on our planet lives without clean water and every 20 seconds a child dies. The global challenge is helping to raise money to overcome this humanitarian crisis. More than 20,000 people from 35 countries have taken part in previous challenges; raising over $500,000 to build clean water wells in developing countries.

Individuals, businesses, schools and social groups can get involved and create their own virtual meditation team. Participants register at www.mindfulinmay.org from 3 April, and get sponsored or donate to be kept accountable to the daily challenge and make a positive difference in the world.

From 1 May participants will then start the month-long meditation journey and learn simple, yet transformative skills for better living. Participants have included actor and comedian Magda Szubanski and companies including Google.

Dr Elise, who has also trained with some of the leading mindfulness teachers in the world, has the unique east-meets-west expertise to guide participants through this 31-day online mindfulness meditation program, which involves daily inspirational emails containing weekly guided meditations and exclusive video interviews with global experts.

The program offers an evidence-based approach to mindfulness and includes interviews with worldwide experts in well-being, mindfulness and the brain, including: researcher Dr Richard Davidson (named one of the world's top 100 most influential people in 2006 Time Magazine), expert in Emotional Intelligence Daniel Goleman, one of the Wests first mindfulness teachers Joseph Goldstein and Monash University-based mindfulness researcher Dr Craig Hassed.

'Mindful in May is not only life-changing for individuals, it's also creating change on a global scale. The fact that we're tackling two incredibly important issues at the same time – mental wellbeing and access to clean water – means we're really making a difference. Every year participants say how surprised they are that only ten minutes a day of practice can be so transformative," said Dr Elise.

Magda Szubanski has been an ambassador for Mindful in May and has experienced the benefits of meditation first-hand.

"I think Mindful in May is fabulous! Anything that promotes peace of mind and benefits people who are in need at the same time is a brilliant idea. I am prone to shocking anxiety, and meditation has really helped me with that. I just passed my 300th day mark since I started meditating regularly after taking part in Mindful in May. Being guided to meditate for ten minutes a day is very doable and you get real benefits," said Magda.

The benefits of mindfulness meditation really are too good to ignore, so with health and happiness on the horizon, and clean water flowing, there's never been a better time for us all to take a stand and sit for something and give Mindful in May a go.

How It Works:

Step 1: Register at www.mindfulinmay.org for the ten-minute-a-day one month meditation challenge before May 1st (registration fee to provide access to the online program)
Step 2: Contribute to the cause by donating and get sponsored by friends and family to keep you accountable to the daily 10-minute meditation challenge
Step 3: Receive a meditation program delivered daily to your inbox starting May 1st
Step 4: Make a positive impact in the world and create more focus, clarity and calm for yourself

The Stats:

Around 663 million people, about 1 in 10 people on the planet, don't have access to clean, safe drinking water
Around 315,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That's almost 900 children a day!! One child every 2 minutes…
Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
Clean water and proper toilets at school means teenage girls don't have to stay home for a week out of every month.
Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa. When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back. They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.
42% of healthcare facilities in Africa do not have access to safe water.

Interview with Dr Elise Bialylew

Elise Bialylew is the founder of Mindful in May, the world's largest online global mindfulness campaign raising funds for global poverty. Mindful in May teaches thousands of people each year to meditate whilst raising funds to build clean water projects in the developing world. A doctor trained in psychiatry, turned social entrepreneur and mindfulness expert, she's passionate about supporting individuals and organisations to develop inner tools to flourish and offers workshops and training at The Mind Life Project and Power of Presence online mindfulness program. Her work has featured in the Huffington Post, New York Times, and on Australian Television.

Question: How did the initiative come about?

Dr Elise Bialylew: I'd been meditating for many years and was discovering that meditation was supporting me to live a healthier, happier life.

Although I knew meditation was so valuable, like many people it was not uncommon for me to fall out of the routine especially at times of high stress, when I actually needed it the most. I imagined that there were many other people who could relate to that experience and I wanted to create a supportive community that could come together to learn something valuable for themselves and at the same time contribute to a greater cause through fundraising.

There are so many issues that need addressing in the world but I wanted to connect it to a global issue that could unite people all around the world, something that was not too political, that would help men, women and children, and something fundamental and basic. Apart from breath, water is one of our most basic needs and for one in ten people on the planet it remains a daily struggle to access.

I had travelled in West Africa many years ago and I was deeply impacted by the extreme levels of poverty, people dying of treatable diseases often caused by water related illnesses. At the same time, I was truly amazed by the spirit of generosity amidst absolute poverty. I lived in a shanty town with a family who had the bare minimum, yet who would always offer me food, and take care of my needs often before their own.

Conversely, in the developed world we have so much yet so many of us are unsatisfied, isolated and depressed. It made me think about how these two issues could be addressed. How could I bring more contentment, meaning and connection to those in the developed world, and support those in the developing world to get better access to their most basic needs like clean, safe drinking water. Mindful in May emerged as an answer to these two global issues.

I got curious about the water issue and here's what I learned:

Around 315,000 children under five die every year from diarrhea diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That's almost 900 children a day!
Diseases from dirty water kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
In Africa alone, women spend 40 billion hours a year walking for water.
Women are responsible for 72% of the water collected in Sub-Saharan Africa. When a community gets water, women and girls get their lives back. They start businesses, improve their homes, and take charge of their own futures.
42% of healthcare facilities in Africa do not have access to safe water.

Together through previous campaigns, we've reduced the suffering of over 10,000 other people by raising over $500,000 to bring clean water to developing countries including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Nepal.

Question: Why did you create Mindful In May – Sit for Something?

Dr Elise Bialylew: See above and this animation  and see this video to see the incredible impact we have had in Uganda and other countries.

Question: What is Mindful In May – Sit for Something?

Dr Elise Bialylew: Mindful in May is the world's largest online mindfulness challenge with two game-changing goals: to teach participants how to find calm and clarity through ten minutes of mindfulness meditation each day, and to raise money to bring clean drinking water to developing countries, where one in 10 people cannot access safe water. (http://www.mindfulinmay.org).

The online program offers an evidence-based approach to mindfulness and brings together the world's best mindfulness teachers and wellbeing experts to teach people how to bring the benefits of mindfulness into their life.

When you register you get:
A world class online mindfulness program delivered to your inbox starting May 1st. Weekly downloadable guided meditations from the world's best meditation teachers Exclusive video interviews with world leaders in the field of mindfulness including Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, Daniel Goleman, Tara Brach, James Doty, Mark Nepo, Sara Lazar and many more…
Daily emails to support you in making meditation a habit with inspirational quotes and links to meditations and videos
Access to our private Facebook online community to keep you accountable and regularly meditating, and to answer any questions you have about your meditation practice A digital meditation journal to keep track of your practice

Dedicate your efforts to making the world a better place by donating or fundraising to bring clean water to those in need in developing countries. It's a clear mind for you and clean water for others.

Question: What do you hope to achieve from the Mindful In May – Sit for Something initiative?

Dr Elise Bialylew: I started Mindful in May because I was deeply interested in using my skills and passions to contribute to the world in some meaningful way. I truly believe that being connected to ourselves and to each other with more awareness and kindness, is the key to increasing our individual wellbeing and the wellbeing of the planet.

The mission of Mindful in May is to teach 1 million people the skills of mindfulness and to raise 20 million dollars by 2020, which will transform the lives of 600,000 people living without access to life's most basic need - clean, safe, drinking water.

Meditation has taught me to be with life one breath at a time. So I'll keep breathing and working and hopefully by 2020 we will have transformed lives and spread the mindfulness ripple far and wide.

Question: What is mindfulness meditation?

Dr Elise Bialylew: Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool that can help us upgrade our inner technology – the mind, to keep up with demands of our increasingly complex world. Just like our bodies, our minds need training to function at their best.

Mindfulness meditation is a form of mental training that supports the mind to be more focused, clear and effective. It's often described as the practice of bringing your full attention, in an open, non-judgmental way to the present moment.

Mindfulness is sweeping across the globe and training has now been implemented in many different sectors including in schools, hospitals, corporations, and government. There is now compelling evidence supporting the fact that mindfulness meditation when practiced regularly, can improve our physical and psychological health.

Question: Why should we be adding mindfulness meditation to our day?

Dr Elise Bialylew: There is now compelling evidence supporting the fact that mindfulness meditation when practised regularly, can lead to:
Structural changes in the brain associated with enhanced mental performance
Reduced stress and it's negative impact on the body and mind
Improved physical and mental well being
Reduced genetic ageing through it's protective impact on gene expression and degeneration
Increased happiness.
Enhanced immune function

Here are five compelling scientific reasons why we should be adding mindfulness to our daily routine.
1. Enhanced immune function.
Dr. Richie Davidson, from the Center For Investigating Healthy Minds concluded in a study in 2003 that a short term mindfulness training program resulted in participants developing a stronger immune response when challenged with the flu injection. And a healthy immune system often results in optimal physical health, overall.

2. Parts of the brain correlated to positive emotion are activated.
Research has demonstrated that people who suffer from depression and negative mood states have more electrical brain activity on the right side of the brain, compared with those who have more a positive, resilient attitude in life.

There was a study that demonstrated that with regular mindfulness practices, the electrical brain activity shifted from right to left, 'left-sided anterior activation," indicating a transition to more positive emotional states. Simply put, meditation leads to greater happiness.

3. Growth in higher-functioning regions of the brain.
A study by Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, revealed a correlation between regular mindfulness meditation and growth in the thickness of the pre-frontal cortex, a high-functioning area of the brain responsible for functions like focused attention and regulating the emotional responses. This research also suggested that meditation may impact reduce age related decline in brain structure.

4. Protection against age-related DNA damage.
A groundbreaking study by Elizabeth Blackburn, PhD explored the effects of mindfulness meditation on an enzyme in the body called telomerase, which functions to protect DNA from age and stress-related damage. Interestingly enough, telomerase was increased in the group of regular meditators, suggesting that meditation can protect the cells from age-related damage.

5. Overall mental health is improved.
A rigorous study by Teasdale and Segal revealed that mindfulness meditation could reduce the rate of relapse of depression by up to 44% in people who had suffered previous episodes. This effect was comparable with staying on a maintenance dose of anti-depressants.

Question:   How can we bring mindfulness into everyday life?

Dr Elise Bialylew: Mindfulness can be practised through meditation but it can also be brought into everyday activities. Here are five ways you can bring mindfulness into your every day life.

Be mindful of your breath
The breath is a powerful indicator of our stress levels. When we are stressed the breath becomes short and shallow and is often located in our chest. When we pay attention to our breath we can help calm it down and bring our whole nervous system back into balance. Take time during the day to tune into your breath. Notice where you feel the breath. Is it in the chest or belly? Take three deep breaths and allow each inhalation and exhalation to be slower and longer than normal. Notice how this changes how you feel.

Be mindful when eating
We can often eat on the go and not only fail to taste the food but also overeat or not chew our food properly. To eat mindfully, decide you are going to make eating your sole focus. Notice the food on your plate, pay attention to colours, shapes and smells. Bring your awareness to the sensation of chewing and the flavours, textures and temperature in your mouth. Notice any urge to eat quickly or swallow your food without chewing it completely. Be aware of your attention getting hijacked from the experience of eating and gently bring it back to the flavour of the food.

Be mindful when drinking tea
Taking a mindful tea break is a powerful way to stop the racing mind and come to the present moment. Make a tea and as you drink it bring your attention fully to the experience by tuning into your senses. Feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, taste the tea with each sip, notice the sounds around you. When you feel your mind wandering, let go of thoughts and come back to the sensation of the warmth of the tea cup in your hands.

Be mindful in supermarket queues
Waiting in lines can often be a frustrating experience as we feel held up in our day. We can use these 'waiting" experiences to practice mindfulness. Be mindful in the supermarket queue by tuning in to your body. Sense your feet on the ground and scan the body for any tension that might be present. Let that tension go. Check in with how you are feeling, notice any irritation or impatience in the body and us the breath, see if you can let it go.

Be mindful on social media
Social media can be a time wasting hazard as we mindlessly scroll through the feed and lose touch with the present moment. Be mindful on social media by bringing a conscious intention to the amount of time you are intending to spend on it before starting. Whilst you are using social media sense into the impact it has on your emotional state – does it make you feel good, bad, bored, interested? By tuning in to the impact of activities mindfully we can start to make more conscious decisions which support our wellbeing.

Be mindful while driving
These days driving can become a dangerous mindless activity, with people texting while driving and being increasingly distracted. To drive mindfully, bring an intention to be present to driving and commit to not using your phone. Tune in to your body – notice your hands on the wheel, feel your posture. Notice any tension in the body and actively relax the body, let your shoulders be soft, perhaps turn off the radio and be in silence. Allow driving to be space where you can tune into the present moment and take a break from your 'to do' lists and rushing.

Question: Why is mindfulness meditation even more important for new mothers?

Dr Elise Bialylew: Motherhood is an exhilarating spiritual journey of epic proportions where each day we are faced with the privilege of witnessing our most creative project flourish.

That's on a good day.

On a bad day it's an exhausting, frustrating ride where we are tested beyond our limits through sleep deprivation, mastitis, stress, relationship tension, and self doubt.

Mindfulness has been a crucial part of my motherhood survival tool kit, not only in managing the emotional dips but also in enabling me to appreciate the daily magic. Although motherhood brings significant challenges to a regular mindfulness meditation practice, it can be integrated into daily life in a way that supports greater wisdom, presence and ease.

Question: How can Australians support Mindful in May (MIM)?

Dr Elise Bialylew: The idea of Mindful in May is that it is a global campaign that supports people to learn the life transforming skill of mindfulness AND makes a positive difference in the world by donating and getting sponsored to take the challenge of meditating for 10 minutes a day for a month in May.

The best way to support Mindful in May and transform your own life is to register for the program!

For a limited time you register to get access to the one month program which will bring you more calm, focus and ease in daily life while also help reduce the suffering of those in developing countries.

Get Mindful in May – Register at www.mindfulinnmay.org now to commit to 10 mins of mindfulness a day and help bring clean water to the world. Clear mind for you - clean water for others.

Interview by Brooke Hunter