Tag Archives: Lifestyle

Music Therapy: Tune in and chill out

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Music Therapy: Tune in and chill out – studies, research and findings

Image: musicgerication dot comMUSIC is a truly magical thing. It has the power to play on our moods, fine tune our brainwaves, pluck at our heartstrings, and unite entire nations under song. It has even proven to have a positive effect on livestock.

Last year a ten year old farm boy from Georgia won first place in a regional science fair for a project on how music improved milk production in cows. Daniel McElmurray tested the effects of classical, country and rock music on his father’s 300 cows. The experiment showed that their livestock preferred classical music over country and rock by producing 450 kilograms more milk.

Music possesses the power to reach parts of the brain that are not yet accessible to us, at least not on a conscious level. It almost makes one understand why so many artists and creatives turn to recreational drug use for inspiration.

We all know the effects that music can have on reducing stress and promoting relaxation, but music itself is becoming increasingly popular in the modern medical industry — a concept being dubbed as “music therapy”.

Music therapy studies and research

Research has shown that music has a profound effect on our bodies and psyche. Those who practice music therapy are finding it beneficial in helping cancer patients, children with ADD, helping ward off depression, promoting movement, calming patients, easing muscle tension and helping with pain management.

Guitar therapyMany experts suggest that it is the rhythm of the music or the beat that has the calming effect on us, although we may not be fully conscious of it. One theory, found at www.holisticonline.com, suggests that we were likely influenced by the heartbeats of our mothers while still in the womb. The idea is that we respond to soothing music at later stages in our life — perhaps associating it with the safe, relaxing and protective environment we once lived in.

Several studies have found that selections of Celtic, Native American as well as various music containing loud drums or flutes are extremely soothing. More interestingly, any music listened to live, even at moderately loud volumes, seems to have the most beneficial response. Equally beneficial is the effect of playing or creating music oneself.

“The entire human energetic system is extremely influenced by sounds. The physical body and chakra centres respond specifically to certain tones and frequencies. Whenever the proper sounds were experienced, an amazing right/left brain hemisphere synchronization occurs” — www.holisticonline.com

Music therapy findings

Even if you are not a believer in holistic medicine and chakra centers, music therapy has yielded several measurable results in recent years, such as:

  • An increase in deep breathing when hearing a particular tune
  • The body’s production of the happy hormone serotonin accelerates
  • Music has been found to reduce pain during dental procedures
  • music notesPlaying gentle background music while working or studying has been found to reduce stress and improve concentration
  • Music therapy can help counteract or prevent the damaging effects of chronic stress
  • It has even been shown to lower blood pressure, boost immunity and ease muscle tension
  • Music can also be used to bring a more positive state of mind, helping to keep depression and anxiety at bay
  • It can help keep creativity and boost optimism levels higher
  • Certain music has been found to reduce heart rates and increase body temperature — an indication that the body is entering a state of relaxation
  • Memorable music from our youth appears to be a very good choice.

According to stress.about.com, “the change in brainwave activity levels that music can bring can also enable the brain to shift speeds more easily on its own as needed, which means that music can bring lasting benefits to your state of mind, even after you’ve stopped listening.”

I can’t live a day without listening to my own brand of tunes. If you are feeling stressed out, uninspired or down in the dumps lately, don’t pop a pill; why not rather put on your favourite golden oldie.

Time to chair up

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ULTIMATE V3: It’s death by comfort

THEY say that we spend a third of our lives sleeping (presumably in a bed). Well, I reckon that we spend another third of our lives sitting in a chair, especially if you work in an office. Think about it. You get out of bed, sit at the breakfast table, drive seated to work, sit at your desk, drive home again, maybe sit and watch some television, perhaps sit at your computer and do some writing or surf the web and climb back into bed.
 
Some are more disciplined than that. I had a Swiss-German friend at varsity who couldn’t even sit through a movie because it involved too much sitting. It must be his German blood.

I find nothing more satisfying than sitting (even better — lying) on a comfortable couch. The funny thing about couches is that it is always the most stuffed, unattractive-looking couch in any house that is everyone’s favourite — the couch that is probably worth less than the amount of loose change that has fallen into it over the years.

An artist's impression of my dads favourite chair

An artist

My dad has a favourite couch back home, which I’m sure is a source of some embarrassment when visitors arrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother has tried to incinerate it in a freak “coal-leaping-out-the-fire” accident. I’m sure it would go up in flames pretty quickly with the amount of body oil that has seeped into it over the centuries.

This off-white relic has coffee stains, tobacco burns and an imprint of my father’s behind in the centre. Yet, when seated in its mould, in front of an early winter’s fire and after some of Mother’s good home cooking, Father is as happy as Larry (however happy he is), usually fast asleep. He probably sleeps more in that couch than in his own bed.

So, if we do spend such a significant amount of our lives in beds and chairs, then why not make them decent ones. I’m always willing to spend a little extra on something that I know I’ll use every day and probably have for a lifetime.

I thought it was high time for me to chair up and buy myself a decent gaming chair — one that I could swivel around in freely and lean back and forth in. It’s a rather simple piece of furniture, although it was one heck of a science putting the thing together.

It came in attachable parts with a set of tools, a spider diagram, some Chinese instructions, and a note of encouragement. I half expected to find a small key, some coded message, a strange map and an enchan­ted ring. Without those one definitely needs a degree to put one of these pieces of technology together.

Although I now swivel contently in my “leather” chair, I still wanted to see what else was available on the market. This is what I found …

Ultimate Game Chair V3

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

There are a lot of fancy and alien-looking chairs out there — most of which have been designed for home entertainment. The simplest home theatre chairs have speakers mounted on the headrest and are basically REALLY comfortable and pleasant-smelling.

The most common gaming chairs, on the other hand, are designed to enhance the experience of simulators such as Flight Simulator. These have joysticks protruding out the armrests, which I imagine one could use to play a variety of games.

Racing chairs come with an adjustable chassis and have foot pedals and a steering wheel as part of their anatomy. The seats are designed to mimic the feeling of being in a Formula One car, and many even go the extra mile by vibrating as you ‘drive’ over rough roads.

Yet those chairs are old school now. You can get a close-enough experience at your local arcade. I was more intrigued by the Ultimate V3. This baby is co­vered in plugs and ports and is compatible with just about everything. To name a few, you can jack it up to your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. One reviewer had this to say:

“The V3 quite literally rocks your face off! From our experience from it, we were simply stunned. It is like getting a back massage while playing all your favourite games in a comfortable leather chair. It is simply amazing.” — ultimategamechair.com

It has 12 “strategically distributed” feedback monitors, adjustable 3D stereo speakers and a headset jack. It also vibrates and has “variable output on all three vibration sensation levels”. There are three vibration sensation levels? That takes the sensation of sitting in those vibrating chairs at the mall to a whole new le­vel.

 I imagine that one would never get out of this chair if seated in it. It would be death by comfort. So, I imagine that V3 owners have to be just as disciplined as those who are not fans of the couch.

The reality of the virtual

Just when one thought it was possible to escape the confines of real life by emerging oneself into a virtual world, Second Life as a popular example, is becoming rife with destructive practices from child abuse to prostitution, and is now becoming a site for religious convergence.

Catholic missionaries have trekked the Earth to spread the word of God since the colonial era, and are now finding ways to Christianise the virtual world. An article set to appear in the August addition of the Vatican approved journal – Civilta Cattolica, is aimed to encourage Catholic missionaries to immerse themselves into the virtual world of online computer games in an attempt to convert cyber souls.

If you are not yet familiar with Second Life it is basically a vast computer-generated online world in which players can create virtual versions of themselves (known as Avatars) and can buy or sell virtual…stuff and interact with other users in several ways. The game is huge, ‘housing’ roughly 8 million ‘residents’ at present.

A Vatican priest named Father Spadaro, has been quoted in several online publications saying that “sin has flourished in the various towns which make up Second Life”. According to the same publications, acts of gambling and prostitution have become rife within the game. To give a fact closer to reality, $1.5 million (R105 million) is exchanged in the online world each day, according to Linden Labs – the creators of Second Life.

Spadaro has also said, however, that “while the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment”.

Angle AvatarThus there appears to positive light on either side of the ‘Christianising of the virtual world’ argument. However, the penalties for such virtual sin is becoming very real in some countries where virtual misdemeanours constitute real crimes. Germany as an example has already called authorities to investigate cases of paedophilia and virtual child abuse in the online world. In other countries virtual gambling has been completely banned.

The erotic dimension of Second Life may be a little extreme, offering players the opportunity to buy unique genitalia for their avatars, but just how dangerous is a virtual act of prostitution or paedophilia? It might not say much for the mindsets of the ‘sinful’ players, but what real damage do such acts constitute?

Second Life has already been penetrated by commercial conglomerates such as Adidas, Nike, Calvin Klein, BMW, Mercedes and Vodafone, which are seizing the commercial prospects the game offers. But is there really still room, or a necessity, for religious penetration too? If the virtual world is as close to reality as it appears, then what’s there to prevent the formation of religious cults? Or the outbreak of religious wars from occurring within the game as they do in real life? To me it seems that the real danger is a blurring of reality with virtuality.

Related post:
Experience the Internet in 3D

Links
The New Game Plan: Virtual Reality
10 ways online gaming will change the future
Jesuits say take word of God to Second Life – REUTERS

Fitness that’s fun – Wii!!

MY first experience with a Nintendo Wii saw me breaking a sweat after playing a few rounds of virtual boxing and losing a tennis match. Now people around the world are getting on board one of the first gaming platforms that actually encourages family fitness and health.

Wii Fit is a video game developed by Nintendo for the Wii console and has been dubbed as an example of ‘exercise gaming’. Inspired by sumo wrestlers’ needing to weigh themselves with two scales, Wii Fit uses a unique platform called the Wii Balance Board which senses both weight and shifts in movement and balance, and can calculate a person’s body mass index (BMI) when provided with their height. It then tracks a user’s “Wii Fitness Age” through a daily body test basing the result on the user’s current age, weight, and athletic ability.

Working out on Wii Fit
Working out on Wii Fit

The unique balance board has taken almost two years to develop, and the Wii Fit game today has about 40 different activities. Training on Wii Fit is divided into four categories: aerobic exercise, muscle workouts, yoga poses, and balance games. The activities provide a core workout, emphasising controlled movements rather than overexertion.

The featured muscle workouts are what you might find yourself doing at the gym. These include press-ups, rowing squats, stretching and the like. The aerobic exercises might find you jogging, hula-hooping, or punching the air with rhythmic boxing.

It gets more fun with the balance games, which range from ski jumping to tight-rope walking, and features a game called Penguin Slide – whereby the player has to catch fish whilst balanced on a piece of ice. When you’re done pretending to be the penguin from Surf’s Up you can pose as your favourite Anime character by doing the Half-Moon, Cobra, Warrior, or Palm Tree yoga poses.

New activities can be unlocked by gaining “Fit Credits” which are accumulated in a “Fit Bank”. Each minute of Fit Credits is equal to the number of minutes doing an activity rather than the number of minutes of overall gameplay. At certain stages, new yoga poses or muscle workouts are unlocked based on the total time spent working out. Being the best at an activity with a 100% score, or playing an activity a certain number of times, unlocks more rigorous versions of that activity.

Wii Fit also allows a player to keep track of their activities outside of the game, such as gardening, walking, and playing real sports matches, which are then added on to the player’s activity log, but not included in the daily exercise time.

Some of the games allow the player to watch TV while getting instructions or rhythm through the Wii remote speaker. You can even get your own personal virtual trainers to talk you through the different activities and make suggestions for improvement. Furthermore, different people in the same household can use Wii Fit and track their progress separately.

Wii Fit has sold more than 2 million copies since it’s release in Japan at the end of 2007, and was launched in the States (where it is perhaps needed most) on 19 May 2008 with an exclusive release at the Nintendo World Store in New York City.

Wii is also the first video game system ever included in the President’s Challenge – a program of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports that encourages all Americans to make physical activity a part of their daily lives.

There is little information regarding how Wii Fit has been received in South Africa, but it has at least reached out shores and is available in stores for R1000.

Related post:
Wii Music launched in SA
Gateway to Nintendo Week
Nintendo Wii – Enter the Electronic Fist

For more information visit:
www.nintendo.com or
www.mybroadband.co.za