What’s New in Mindfulness: Indigenous Wellness, Quilts of Compassion, and More

Learn about a contemplative science site, a hotline to support those in mental health crisis, and more news from the world of mindfulness.

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Since the 1940s, bird, insect, and small-mammal populations have been in decline, partly due to modern-day farming practices, but a new study shows that farmers can reverse these effects by dedicating small areas of unproductive land to create wildlife-friendly habitats—and that, in turn, creates thriving crops. Researchers at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology monitored for a decade the impact of 1 km x 1 km wildlife habitats on Hillesden Estate, a 1,000-hectare commercial farm. The authors of the study saw dramatic increases in species of seed-eating
birds and butterflies, which increased pollination and natural pest control, ultimately increasing crop yield. Marek Nowakowski of the Wildlife Farming Company says, “The Hillesden study shows that it is possible to balance wildlife conservation with efficient food production.”

New Insights

For anyone who (like us) can’t get enough of the science and wisdom of personal and collective wellbeing, here’s a new gem to explore. In fall 2022, Mind & Life Institute launched Insights: Journey Into the Heart of Contemplative Science, a multimedia website sharing key insights catalyzed through their work over 35 years. “We have an important story to tell about the evolution of the field of contemplative science—and the relevance of the knowledge generated for addressing the unprecedented challenges of our time,” explains Sheila Kinkade, advancement strategist for Mind & Life. The site features essays by Richard Davidson, Rhonda Magee, Judson Brewer, Sona Dimidjian, and many other luminaries, with powerful artwork and Mind & Life podcasts and video, “to both educate readers and inspire action toward a world that truly embraces our shared humanity,” says Kinkade.

Downward-Facing Dogs

Many libraries host programs where children can read stories to therapy dogs—at least one study has shown this can help to boost the confidence and skills of reluctant readers. Recently, Kerri Lanzieri put a new spin on this formula at her library in Greenville, Rhode Island: For the Mindful Mutts program, children could sign up to read books about stress reduction, practice deep breathing, or demonstrate yoga poses to Lanzieri’s therapy-trained King Charles Cavalier, Gillette. Lanzieri, an elementary school social worker and children’s book author, told the Valley Breeze, “The end goal is to master and show their families mindful strategies needed in life now and later.”

Kin to It

Shayla Oulette-Stonechild of Muscowpetung Saulteaux First Nation takes inspiration from the Cree word “wahkohtowin, which means kinship,” she told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Oulette- Stonechild’s online wellness platform the Matriarch Movement helped her win an Indspire Award this year (“the highest honor the Indigenous community bestows upon its own people,” says Indspire’s website) for her dedication to Indigenous representation and wellness. Oulette-Stonechild adds that wahkohtowin “reflects on an individual’s responsibilities and relationship to the systems they’re a part of—realizing we have a set of obligations, accountability, and responsibility to one’s role within our own communities.”

Flower Power

Those traveling by car into Long Newnton, a village in Gloucestershire, may not be stopping to smell the roses, but they seem to be slowing to appreciate the wildflowers. Village council recently planted wildflowers along the road that leads into the village—on which, their data shows, about 90% of cars move faster than the speed limit. They intended the wildflowers to aid biodiversity in the area, and soon noticed drivers were slowing to appreciate them. They’ll now use funding from the UK government to care for the flowers over the next three years, and to use the data from their roadside speed sensor to evaluate the impact of the flowers on speeding drivers.

Call for Help

Somewhere between the ten digits of the National Suicide Prevention hotline, and the three digits of 911, lies a gap in which someone who needs mental health help might fall. One study found that people in a mental health crisis are 16 times more likely to be killed in an interaction with police than people who are not. The Substances Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has launched a new hotline, 988, to connect people in crisis to resources they need. The hotline replaces the National Suicide Prevention number, which fielded 3.6 million calls and chats in 2020. Officials say the hotline will better serve Black, brown, and Indigenous people, who face more disparities in accessing health care, and LGBTQ+ youth, who are more at risk for dying by suicide than others.

Acts of Kindness

Sew Kind

In celebration of an Ontario quilt shop’s fifth birthday, quilters across Canada are sewing blankets for women transitioning out of homelessness. “Quilts symbolize warmth. They’re like a big hug,” Michaelanne Hathaway, owner of Stache Fabric & Notions, told CBC. The quilts will be given to the women as housewarming gifts.

Healing Space

Late-stage colorectal cancer patient Aaron Banfield used some of his remaining time to turn an underused hospital chapel into a welcoming, neutral space that supports connection and mindfulness. “Anyone that has spent time in a hospital knows you get into a limbostate,” he said. His hope for the space is that it will facilitate psychological, emotional, and spiritual well-being for patients at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in British Columbia, where Banfield himself spent time.

On Track

When Diane Akers’ train to Norwich, England, halted because of an injured giant tortoise on the tracks, she tweeted to alert the Greater Anglia train company, and local officials. It turns out, Clyde the tortoise escaped from his cage at a pet store nearby, likely searching for female companionship. He was quickly located and taken to a vet to recover.

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