Tag Archives: brain

The Magic of Music

pianist460

“Musical” wrote the piano examiner and I nervously represented my teacher at a pupils concert.  When I was a baby I had a piece composed for me because I would stop crying whenever my parents’ friend played the grand. Today I was reminded what an emotional difference it can make.

My parents were being negative at each other and I’d tried unsuccessfully to intervene. Suddenly I decided why not play some tunes. I’m not talking aboutimages (2) turning on the radio and cranking it up – our tastes are completely different and this would probably have exacerbated tensions. But we all love the sound of the piano. So while they separately sulked I played dad’s favourite composer – Mozart. Then I played one of mum’s favourite tunes by Ludovico Einaudi, who I am exited to be seeing live next week. 2549108_f520

By the end of the pieces mum and dad were still in different rooms but both were smiling and looked more relaxed. The power of music astonishes me. When you’re tense it helps you relax, you can express your feelings and it’s a tremendous release. But it also has a ripple effect amongst your audience – as the sound washes through them you often see them sharing the mood. It allows you to take a step back from your busy life and lose yourself, even just for a moment.

Playing an instrument has been proven to be good for the brain, increasing intelligence. It has been shown to increase IQ by seven points, so it’s good not just for relaxing your mind when you study. The piano is my constant companion. Unlike man’s best friend the dog, it needs no feeding or expensive vets bills, just the occasional tuning. It may be but an object, but it is always there for you no matter how you’re feeling. Reading music is a skill for life and an instrument can be yours forever. When I was younger, piano lessons and practice were chores. But now I am pleased my parents encouraged me. The foundations were laid for me to build on and the better you get, the more engaging the manuscript.

Music can unite, it’s a common language and says so much more than words. So if you’re feeling angry, if you’re feeling upset, listen to some upbeat music or play a piece you can get lost in. It won’t solve deep-rooted problems but it will help you deal with them better.

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Liebster Blog Award Nomination

I have recently had pleasure in accepting a Liebster Blog Award. I couldn’t find anything official about it but nevertheless I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth.

I have found that inspiration has been squeezed out of me like an orange in the juicer since I started work. Training has reminded me of lectures at university. I was glad for the chance to write on this topic, as ideas have not come to me daily as when I was unemployed. After work all I have room for in my overloaded brain is the satisfaction that can be gained with food and sleep.

The award is for those with less than 200 followers and comes from the German for “beloved” and “favourite” – liebe is to like, if my beginners German is correct…I am glad to have the chance to advertise other blogs which I enjoy reading and which I hope you will.

Here are the rules to accepting the award:

1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you.
2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator.
4. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed
5. Create 11 questions for your nominees.
6. Leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
7. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

Facts about myself

1. I have blonde hair

2. I have blue eyes

3. I am badly long-sighted. The optician recommended thick lenses and I made a massive fuss so he gave me lenses that look thin at a discount!

3. The first picture of me reading is at 5 months. I was holding the book the right way up and it was a story about a kitten. cuteness

4. I wanted to be a clown when I was 5 – I wanted to make people laugh like they did at the parties I attended. I still make people laugh, but usually unintentionally.

5. I read the Famous Five Series by the time I was 6.

6. I started learning the piano when I was 7.

7. I wrote a trilogy when I was about 7 called Twinkleberry the Elf. Sadly it was lost when we gave it to a family friend as a present. I remember one chapter where Twinkleberry gets locked in a cage in a lion pit and has to magic his way out…

8. I read the Lord of the Rings when I was 11. My favourite bit was where Frodo got stabbed, I had adrenaline going! I didn’t understand most of it but liked the fantasy of it.

9. I watched my first horror film aged 14 and was scared of sleeping in the dark for a while after!

10. I was too scared to try snails in France – the black slug peeping out of the baguette was more than I could take and I started crying! I was about 11…

11. I have never had a TV, which explains most of the above…

Here are some of the blogs I follow. Apologies if I have missed you out or if you have more than 200 followers – as I’m new to the blogging game I haven’t been able to see the number of followers on some blogs, especially given it’s getting late and I’ve worked today…

I would like to present the Liebster Blog Award to (in no particular order)…

1. http://ladybuglizziegail.wordpress.com/ The lovely lady who nominated me – she blogs on a variety of topics from anime to vampires.

2. http://davidanaturephotography.wordpress.com/ A photographer with great perspective, focussing on still life and nature shots.

3. http://wtpho.com Amazing travel photos, the latest ones of Vancouver reminded me of my lovely trip last year…

4. http://itsaneuthing.wordpress.com/ Engaging opinions on EU news.

5. http://eyespeak4u.wordpress.com/ Interesting insights into daily life – I particularly liked it when she wrote a post showing the perspective of her child on an issue, it was refreshing. WordPress is full of dull diaries but this stands out, as does the following link:

6. http://missyhren.wordpress.com/engaging witty writing of an unemployed graduate.

7. http://lifeonabranch.wordpress.com/diary of a graduate on minimum wage, as I am! I like the latest post on how to spend in thrift stores.

8. http://happilyeversingle.wordpress.com/If any of my readers are unhappy about being single I refer them to this blog, this lady looks on the bright side of life.

9. http://theonlyenglishmaninthevillage.wordpress.com/ I once considered English language teaching abroad, here is someone’s experience of it.

10. http://eharmono.wordpress.com/A laugh-out-loud look at online dating.

11. http://chinupchesthigh.wordpress.com/ As described on his blog “a 30 something’s guide to self discovery” a bravely written psychological eye-opener.

Eleven Questions for Me

1. What superpower do you wish you had?

I wish I had the superpower that the main character of Limitless has and of course without the side effects. That is, to be able to understand everything and for all information to just sink into your spongey brain. Right now mine feels more akin to a brick.

2. Favorite television show?

As stated before, I’m not bothered about TV and I still don’t have one so I watch Iplayer occasionally. My guilty secret? I enjoy Don’t Tell the Bride! Entertaining programmes don’t have to be intellectual. I’m not someone that has dreamed about their wedding since they were little! I like the comedy of a hapless boy of a man being given £12 000 to spend on a wedding which he has no idea about. Oh the drama. Oh the dress disasters.

I’m looking forward to watching the one I have linked, about a guy who gambles on whether to do the wedding in Las Vegas. He wins and so the decision is made, but will his fiancee marry him in Vegas at a tacky ceremony?? or will he be down on his luck??

3. Cats or Dogs?

Neither, both seem a pain to look after although I don’t mind other people’s.

4. What was your favorite subject in elementary school?

English

5. Zombies or Vampires?

Neither, they’re both ridiculous.

6. What is one book you can not live without?

JK Rowling’s Harry Potter – any of them. She’s the most skilled writer ever.

7. Are you a morning or a night person?

Night owl!

8. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

I don’t think I’ve seen enough of the world to know. I liked New Zealand’s laid-back lifestyle though!

9. Superman or Batman

Superman, I prefer predictable hero to troubled tortured soul.

10. Android or Itunes

?? No technology at all preferably, it always breaks.

11. Who is your hero ??

My boyfriend 😀

My 11 questions to you, my esteemed bloggers (many of whom are also my followers, I salute you for that)

1. If you could be invisible what would you do?

2. If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?

3. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you?

4. What’s a quirky fact about yourself?

5. What do you find most enjoyable? e.g. hobby

6. What does success mean to you?

7. How do you save money?

8. Do you live life for now or save for the future?

9. How did you meet your other half OR what’s the best thing about being single?

10. What makes you feel confident?

11. If you were Prime Minister what would be the first thing you’d do?

I also welcome answers to these questions from other readers.

Thank you again to LadyBugDreams who made my dream of winning a blogging award come true! Thank you also to all my followers who inspire me to keep writing. Now I must go, as my brain has returned to nudging me about sleep, now that the food part is content.

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Ecstasy? I’m high on life!

Shy FX doing his magic

Shy FX doing his magic

On Friday I went to a drum and bass night.

The most popular reaction I have when I tell people I appreciate this genre is that I “don’t look like someone who likes d ‘n’b”. By this people mean that I’m not a hoodie-wearing law-breaking drug taker.

Unfortunately these events are dominated by illicit substance fans. It seems people are either addicted, feel peer-pressured, or claim that ecstasy helps them to appreciate the music, that sound turns into colour.

I have always appreciated the genre and have never needed anything extra to enjoy it. I sometimes went out with people who dosed-up beforehand. Most of them respected my choice not to mess with my internal wiring. One asked me why. I told him that I want to avoid the damage it causes, and he still did it. Takers will boast about its effects, but they rarely talk about how they were up  for two days or how they bit their tongue so badly it needed stitches. Like smokers, they seem to ignore its ill effects.

alcohol-composite

Then there’s alcohol, another misused substance, and a massive problem with my generation. When I was younger it was cool to drink in excess and then tell proud stories about what you or others did under the influence. You had a badge of respect if you’d manage to blag a beverage underage. At university there would be drinking competitions. In my halls the annual challenge involved running to the four corners of the main square and drinking as much as you could as fast as you could of different beers. Losers would start gagging and run off. The winner got their name on a silver plaque. People did “Centurions” where a group would drink all day aiming for 100 units. A member of my family tried it and “lost”  – luckily he threw up.

Alcohol

I’ve heard of a heavy drinkers who got cirrhosis – liver damage in their 20s. The government thinks they can help by raising taxes on it and imposing limits, but it’s the culture that needs to be addressed. With 10.5 million of us drinking to excess, alcohol misuse costs the NHS billions every year. It has been suggested that teenagers should be introduced to alcohol early on in small amounts, so that it’s not seen as something forbidden and therefore exciting. This was an attitude I encountered among drug users. I think if it was legal like it is in the Netherlands perhaps it would not be so popular or exciting, and could be better regulated. It was good that drug testing kits were available, just as needle exchanges are.

I wonder why Brits feel that we need alcohol and drugs to release ourselves and have a good night out. I was enjoying the beats on nothing but Red Bull. Everything in moderation though – I had 7 in a row once and ended up twitching as if I’d been electrocuted, and was wide awake until the sun came up. I never did it again, just as someone who knocked himself unconscious on a weed never did. Hopefully if we do overdose on a substance we know not to go back there. But sadly in a BBC series, Junior Doctors an A and E doctor told how regular users sometimes returned.

I took this watching DJ Fresh in his home town of Leeds

I took this – DJ Fresh in his home town of Leeds

I like the drama and atmosphere of drum and bass, its melodies interlaced with a beat I enjoy dancing to – it’s all about jumping to the snare! Its liveliness, energy and frivolity appeals to me. I like most aspects of a beats night. Most ravers are friendly and non-judgemental. You can dance however you like and plenty of people do.

It’s like no other music night and that is what keeps me coming back, other than the talent of the DJs. If you have ever tried beat-matching at that speed you may understand (beat-matching is where you get two records running at different speeds playing at the same time, one record in each ear). You have to be careful of flying elbows and people standing on your feet, and if someone’s had too much it’s best to stay away as they have very little control of their body. I’m also different from most ravers in that I always wear ear plugs, and wax ones. That way I hear the bass clearer and don’t get tinnitus, which a friend got after one too many club nights.

I took this - Andy C,, widely regarded as one of the founders of drum and bass.

I took this listening to Andy C, widely regarded as one of the founders of drum and bass.

From a non-substance perspective, the dance floor was heaving with enthusiastic, bug eyed, love-sharing, sweaty swaying ravers. They probably didn’t know who was playing and perhaps they wouldn’t care.

I have been to raves since 2005 and this was the first time I had seen it. There I was bouncing away to Shy FX when there was a commotion next to me. A guy was on the floor. At first I thought he’d fallen over, until I saw the convulsions. He was white and his eyes were shut. I was looking for a bouncer when one came charging over. They put him in the recovery position. He was then carried off unconscious. A pill-head asked me what had happened. When I told him he yelled “there’s always some that take it too far”. I shouted “I don’t understand it, I don’t need drugs to have a good time”, and he looked at me like I was from another planet. To think that I could just go to enjoy the music seemed like an alien concept to him.

Again it’s the culture. Drugs seem on a level footing with alcohol now. They’re taken socially to enjoy the night.

smokers-lungs-comparison1

Where is the line between social drug-taking and addiction? It’s similar to “social smoking” perhaps. But a smoker can laugh about the tar collecting in his/her lungs and say that life is short and that everything kills you in the end. An ecstasy user has made changes to their brain. Why do both feel so good? Because they’re altering chemical levels in the brain. Smokers become dependent on nicotine, the relaxant and ecstasy users to serotonin, a “happy” chemical. I’ve seen both smokers and ecstasy users being jumpy and twitchy in anticipation of their next fix. Ecstasy depletes serotonin meaning that users can suffer depression. Regular users are more likely to get it for longer.

The question is, what can we do to treat substance misuse problems in the UK?  We were all taught about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, but education is clearly not enough to impact on a culture which seems here to stay, and more prevalent than ever. A Leeds taxi driver told me he had seen a sharp increase in cocaine users in the past 5 years and that they were from all walks of life, from CEOs to students. He was shocked that people were taking this substance which electrocutes the brain as if it was normal. Cocaine is one of the most addictive drugs out causes permanent damage. It also alters personality. I once dated a guy who earned more money than he knew what to do with. His brother took coke so he thought he’d try it.

Side_effects_of_chronic_use_of_Cocaine

Before long he was going out to parties doing it every weekend, and became depressed and tired. When I asked him why he did it, and told him how damaging it was he said “yes but have you tried it”. I told him that as you can get addicted from two goes I wasn’t going to chance it. I prefer to live in reality.

I once saw a video on YouTube by a Buddhist monk where he said that the Westerners’ love of drink and drugs was because we were scratching an itch. They were temporary pleasures, in doing it people scratched the itch but it didn’t cure it, it just made it worse. He suggested that people need to look at why they need to take drugs/drink in the first place, what were they trying to escape from?

Trying to escape from a feeling or a thought means that it’s still there in our mind. The saying goes “turn the dogs of fear on fear itself”. When I worked in law a client took heroin partly to escape memories of her traumatic childhood. This caused her to lose her children and sucked her into an addiction spiral. Have the courage to solve your problems or move on, don’t try and deal with them by distraction.

But my point is this. Is a night of pleasure really worth the risk and damage, permanent or impermanent, to the body and mind?

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