anthropology · behavior · creativity · design · environment · happiness · play · work

Bring More Joy To Your Workspace, Yes You!

adult chill computer connection
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I wanted to share this great article from IDEO alum and design Ingrid Fetell Lee about the importance of having a joyful work environment, and what you as an individual can do about it!

She starts with all the important reasons why joyful work spaces are needed:

…Research shows that feeling joy at work not only increases our wellbeing, but also our performance across the spectrum. Joy increases our working memory and cognitive flexibility, which in turn leads to better problem-solving. Take doctors, for example: Those who have been primed to feel joyful make a correct diagnosis earlier than those in a neutral mindset. Joyful businesspeople consider a wider range of scenarios and make more accurate decisions. Joyful negotiators are more likely to achieve win-win agreements. And it turns out it’s infectious: Joyful leaders spread positivity to their teams, increasing rates of effort and cooperation; and when salespeople exhibit joy, customers respond by spending more time in a store, giving higher satisfaction ratings, and expressing a greater likelihood to return.

Read her full article for her easy-to-implement tips for bringing joy into your workspace.

Full disclosure, right after reading this I did an audit of my desk at work and found I had already implemented a couple of these, including based on the same research she cites, but I missed a couple I am definitely going to add! 🙂

 

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · design · environment · family · happiness · play · technology

How Play Can Modernize Cities

There has been a lot of focus recently about designing and updating cities through technology, rethinking old infrastructures, and so on. IDEO put out some of its own ideas, and the one that stuck out for me the most (no surprise), was Nazlican Gosku’s take on the value of play in a city’s ecosystem:

Play! In the last year, I have started chasing and capturing playful moments in the streets— from graffiti, to a group of kids playing in the water from a broken pipe, to lovers dancing on a street corner. This journey of capturing playfulness in the streets made me more aware and even obsessed with the idea of how we can design the right conditions for playfulness in the city. Why playfulness? Because playing means engaging, engagement brings care. If we are more caring and careful about the streets of the cities we live in, we might build stronger connections for healthier communities. Being playful on the streets requires courage, builds trust, allows for discovery, create communities. Playfulness is fundamental to our social nature, so it’s a useful framework for thinking through how we can build stronger cities and communities.

Thank you Ms. Gosku! So much yes in this!

  • If we are playing with something, we are engaging and care about it, or will care about it more.
  • Humans use play as the framework for our social structures, both in hunter-gatherer groups and on the children’s playfield.
  • Play builds trust and community.
  • It therefore also develops “buy-in” from communities who are more willing to invest in their cities.

Play NEEDS to be part of community planning, whether it is a small community or a huge metropolis!

 

behavior · community · design · environment · happiness · health · mental health · play · Social

A Cost-Effective Way to Treat Depression: Greening Vacant Lots

This is yet another great example of how adding some intentional green can go a long way in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression in urban areas. From the article:
“In many low-income communities, vacant and dilapidated spaces are “unavoidable conditions that residents encounter every day, making the very existence of these spaces a constant source of stress.” Furthermore, these neighborhoods with vacant lots, trash, and “lack of quality infrastructure such as sidewalks and parks, are associated with depression and are factors that that may explain the persistent prevalence of mental illness.”

Conversely, neighborhoods that feel cared for — that are well-maintained, free of trash and run-down lots, and offer access to green spaces — are associated with “improved mental health outcomes, including less depression, anxiety, and stress.””

Personally, I would love to see a study about the different effects and impacts of having community gardens or community involvement in the development of the green spaces vs. an independent team coming in to a space and cleaning it up. There is value in both approaches, for sure.

THE DIRT

Before: An empty lot in Philadelphia / JAMA Open Network

After: A Green lot in Philadelphia / JAMA Open Network

A tree, some grass, a low wooden fence, regular maintenance. With these basic elements, an unloved, vacant lot can be transformed from being a visual blight and drain on a community into a powerful booster of mental health.

According to a new study by five doctors at the University of Pennsylvania, residents of low-income communities in Philadelphia who saw their vacant lots greened by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society experienced “significant decreases” in feelings of depression and worthlessness. And this positive change happened at a cost of just $1,500 per lot.

For lead author Dr. Eugenia South and her co-authors, this is a clear indication that the physical environment impacts our mental health. And planning and design offers a cost-effective way to fight mental illness in light of the sky-rocketing costs…

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behavior · children · cognition · education · emotion · mental health · play · Social

How Playing Superheroes Can Stop Bullying

red robot hero pose at windowEspecially with the increased output of Hollywood superhero movies these days, it can be easy to think of them as nothing more than shallow entertainment. However, the powerful storytelling and archetype of the superhero is something that appeals to many of us on a deeper level; it teaches us about standing up for those in need. My husband and I used this archetype recently with our own kids.

My elder son and daughter attend the same preschool, and unfortunately there was an increase in bullying behavior recently. This is developmentally typical for this age, and it also provides a good opportunity for learning how to deal with bullies in the “real world.” Kids have to learn how to respond to mean or bullying behavior, just like they need to learn how to say no when a friend wants to play house or play fight and they don’t (and don’t get me started on how adults need to learn the difference between bullying and roughhousing! That is for a later post). Kids who are not the target of bullying also need to learn how to respond when they see it. Often they will ignore it so as not to become a target themselves, or they will join in. It does not mean they are malicious kids, they are simply trying out behaviors they see.

But we asked our kids to go a step further, and not just ignore but try to help.

When we heard this was going on, we sat down with them and talked with them about why the behavior wasn’t okay, were they targets, were they participating, and did they feel safe. Then my husband told them, “You are both very strong, and I want you to try something; I want you to stand up to anyone you see picking on a kid in your class who may not feel strong, who is getting bullied. I want you to support them, even if they are not your best friend. Can you do that?”

My daughter nodded her head in understanding, but my son, who is only 3, wasn’t exactly sure what Dad meant. My husband tried to explain it again, but started getting more complicated in his wording, and I could see Keir’s eyes start to glaze over in confusion. But I realized my husband was describing something very familiar to our son.

“We want you to be a superhero,” I interjected. My son loves superheroes (and bad guys like Darth Vader, but it’s hard to have one without the other). His eyes lit up. My husband immediately caught on to where I was going.

“That’s right. Superheroes stand up to bad guys and bullies and protect their friends, even people who are not their friends,” he explained. “Even if nobody else is, in fact because nobody else is, they stand up for those who need help. Can you be like a superhero?”

green lantern duckie hero toyMy son seemed frankly a little shocked by the idea that HE, a little guy, could be a superhero in real life. But he also seemed willing to give it a try.

By reading stories and playing superhero (and bad guys), both my kids understood what it meant to stand up to bullying and supporting and defending your friends without even really “knowing” it . The hero archetype is a valuable one; through reading about it and playing one we learn to be brave for ourselves and others, and that sometimes we fight the battles nobody else wants to.

The next morning, I helped my kids bundle up against the cold morning, saying, “all right, let’s get our superhero outfits on.” As they trundled out the door to school with their dad, I called out, “good luck, little superheroes!” At pick-up that day, I asked the usual questions – what did you work on? Who did you sit with at lunch?

My daughter answered, “I asked [kid often being bullied] to play with me, and [kid who often bullies] to sit with me at lunch.”

I think she’s embodied being a compassionate superhero better than I have. But then, she and her brother play/practice being superheroes a lot.

 

 

behavior · brain · happiness · health · learning · play

Driven By Play – Framing Challenges & Resolutions as Play

Happy New Year! You may be wondering “where has Beth been?” Well, I have been having a baby! My whole family is thrilled, and my older kids can’t wait to play with their new baby sister once she’s big enough. My posting here will still be a little sporadic over the next few weeks as we all get into the groove of new baby life, but I am also aiming for this new addition in my life to provide me inspiration and momentum to post more about play and human development.

As we start our own new adventures in 2018, several people may be thinking about new year’s goals and resolutions. I think any time of year is a good time to start something new, but sticking with a new habit or ritual has been proven to be quite hard for most folks.

While some goals need discipline and structure – quitting smoking, getting more organized – there are also many opportunities to “gamify” your challenges for yourself.

Rafe Kelley, founder and lead coach of Evolve Move Play (and co-creator of said new baby) presented a fantastic TEDx Talk last fall about this very topic. Listen to his take on how to integrate play into both mundane and daunting challenges:

Rafe’s talk was focused primarily towards a high school and college-aged audience, but the messages are valuable for people of all ages starting out on something new or holding themselves accountable to new goals.

In the talk, Rafe discusses how it is also important to build in rewards or fun elements into your bigger to-do list when working toward your goals.

As a great example of this, I happened to stumble upon this video of a bunch of traceurs challenging each other to do vertical back-flips. These grown men are challenging each other in a seemingly frivolous activity, but it in fact helps inform multiple aspects of their broader parkour training, and is therefore valuable from a fitness & training standpoint. It also encourages problem-solving and camaraderie/accountability, two things which are vital when trying to hold yourself to new habits or goals.

While very few of us will ever be able to do what these traceurs do, I want it to inspire people (me too!) that adding play to your training – whether you’re training for a marathon or starting a new business – is not a “distraction” it is essential to maintaining your motivation and drive.

Enjoy your new year’s resolutions! Mine are crafting more, writing more, and hiking more.

behavior · community · happiness · health · mental health · psychology · Social

Practice the “Inside Scoop” to Combat Loneliness at Work

I read a fantastic article written by former U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy about the physical and cognitive damage brought on from isolation and loneliness, which many of us suffer, especially at work. We’re so focused on working, and for long hours, we often forget to stop and check in with each other and learn about each other *raises guilty hand*.

loneliness_working_from_home

Murthy discusses this in his article in the Harvard Business Review, “Work and the Loneliness Epidemic.” He shares some statistics and the impact this loneliness has on our individual work productivity and how that effects businesses’ bottom line.

For example:

Rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. Today, over 40% of adults in America report feeling lonely, and research suggests that the real number may well be higher. Additionally, the number of people who report having a close confidante in their lives has been declining over the past few decades. In the workplace, many employees — and half of CEOs — report feeling lonely in their roles…

During my years caring for patients, the most common pathology I saw was not heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness…

Loneliness and weak social connections are associated with a reduction in lifespan similar to that caused by smoking 15 cigarettes a day and even greater than that associated with obesity…

At work, loneliness reduces task performance, limits creativity, and impairs other aspects of executive function such as reasoning and decision making…

Researchers for Gallup found that having strong social connections at work makes employees more likely to be engaged with their jobs and produce higher-quality work, and less likely to fall sick or be injured…

He also offers a suggestion to combat this: setting up time at work for an “Inside Scoop” session, either as part of the weekly team meeting or other routine meeting.

People were asked to share something about themselves through pictures for five minutes during weekly staff meetings. Presenting was an opportunity for each of us to share more of who we were; listening was an opportunity to recognize our colleagues in the way they wished to be seen.

These sessions quickly became many people’s favorite time of the week, and they were more enthusiastic about participating at staff meetings. People felt more valued by the team after seeing their colleagues’ genuine reactions to their stories. Team members who had traditionally been quiet during discussions began speaking up. Many began taking on tasks outside their traditional roles. They appeared less stressed at work. And most of them told me how much more connected they felt to their colleagues and the mission they served.

This experience rings very true for me on my own team; during our team meetings, one of our senior managers on my team would always make sure there was time in the meeting for everyone to go around the room and share what their weekend plans were. People could say as much or as little as they wanted. But it gave us all a glimpse into their outside lives and helped us all feel closer. We learned about shared interests in music and art, got to hear about personal successes like their cover band scoring a gig or going to a sister’s wedding. We all became closer and would ask each other on the progress of our personal projects, and offer support or gentle teasing if we felt a project wasn’t getting the attention we all thought it deserved, whether it was finishing their degree or sewing a dog bed. It made us all closer and feel more connected.

As the team ebbed and flowed after awhile we stopped doing this practice, and although the change went unnoticed (until now), the change in team dynamics, camaraderie, and effectiveness has shifted.

It would be worth bringing it back.

In an age with more population density and a literally globally connected world thanks to the Internet, we are all experiencing more loneliness. The good news is we also have the power to combat it. It doesn’t have to be formal; as Murthy says:

I share what my office did not as the antidote to loneliness but as proof that small steps can make a difference. And because small actions like this one are vital to improving our health and the health of our economy.

There are other practices that can help combat loneliness too, like offering to help out others, and be willing to accept help when offered. Being proactive is hard, but worth it. And it doesn’t have to be big.

We can start simply by asking how somebody’s weekend was, and actually stopping and being present to listen.

 

behavior · children · community · emotion · health · mental health · play · psychology

Clowns bring laughter, positive psychological benefits to children in refugee camps

From the BBC3 article:

Ash [Perrin] and his team of clowns, musicians and dancers are ‘play specialists’ who work with children in refugee camps across Europe. The aim is to allow the kids “to feel good, feel daft, and feel playful”.

They are part of The Flying Seagulls Project, a band of clowns and performers who believe in the power of play. They have traveled to numerous refugee camps across Europe to help entertain and support children and their families via play.

This kind of outreach and human interaction is so powerful, not just from the viewpoint of lifting up people’s spirits, but especially for children’s mental well-being. It is incredibly beneficial to everyone but especially children to provide play and laughter as a respite from a really scary situation, at a time when they need a village of support at the exact time they have lost that village, as their parents try to cope with their new situation as well.

This kind of outreach is crucial especially as the refugee crisis intensified and continues to grow and more families are displaced and their lives put into turmoil. Play is how children process their emotions, explore and understand the world, and this kind of work can help children process trauma.

Unstructured play is crucial as well, but having guided play like this is important in a situation where the rules and conditions have changed for children – they need guidance from others to say “this is allowable here.” It is okay to laugh, to sing, to feel silly.

There are clowns who also work in children’s hospitals in the U.S. and around the world, providing similar services. Being able to go to where the children are, in their time of need, and say, “let’s play!” can be incredibly healing.

behavior · community · education · emotion · play

Gamification of Compassion as Education

It’s a cheesy idea in many ways: practice compassion. pay it forward. Do unto others. It seems nice, but in a society where trust has been broken and kindness can be seen as weakness – whether that is a prison or school or work or a city – it can be hard to practice.

However, if there IS an immediate reward – a points system that helps people keep score of their kindness and gives them some immediate positive return – then it makes more sense for people to engage and feed into the compassion system.

Similar programs like dog training and tutoring provide a similar immediate benefit – the trainer is rewarded for training others.

Of course there are long-term personal benefits – less mental stress, larger social network, etc. – but humans typically work for the “right now” and being able to demonstrate the “right now” benefits can be pretty powerful.

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcompassiongames%2Fvideos%2F1399773396809748%2F&show_text=0&width=560

It also shows the power of gamification to teach other complex, complicated concepts.

anthropology · behavior · children · creativity · design · play

Photographer captures small moments of a child’s exploration and discovery of the world

Originally from The Huffington Post:

San Francisco photographer Melissa Kaseman knows that imaginative art can come in tiny packages. That much is evident in her latest photo series, “Preschool Pocket Treasures,” which depicts the small objects she finds stuffed in her son’s pockets each day when he comes home from preschool.

“The magic of childhood is so fleeting, and these objects I kept finding in Calder’s pockets represent a chapter of boyhood, his imagination, and the magic of finding a ‘treasure,’” Kaseman told The Huffington Post, adding, “I like the idea of the photographs being a taxonomy report of a child’s imagination, specifically Calder’s. I hope he carries the wonderment of discovery throughout his life.”

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Ms. Kaseman has captured a fascinating phenomenon of children preschool age to want to create and keep collections of things they find fascinating. It is both a fascinating way to understand what they are interested in exploring – colors, shapes, textures, size, specific themes like shells or rocks or dinosaurs – and how that interest changes or shifts over the days, weeks, and months.

She is also taking a wonderful, respectful, and playful approach to her son’s pocket treasures by treating them with the same respect and fascination he did, capturing them and cataloging them in a way that showcases them and makes them fascinating to us the viewers.

“Preschool Pocket Treasures” applies an archival idea to capture a child’s growth and evolution.

Kaseman hopes people who look at the photos see “the magic of discovery in a child’s imagination.” She added, “A simple object can hold so much weight in one’s mind.”

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View more of Ms. Kaseman’s work from the series “Preschool Pocket Treasures

In the meantime, take a new look at the things your child brings home from school, or how he has lined up all of his cars. Are they all the same size, color, side by side or in a row? This can provide some insight and wonder into your young child’s developing brain.

behavior · brain · community · health · mental health · Nature

Vermont Physicians Will be Prescribing Day Passes to State Parks – Champlain Valley News

Healthcare providers already recommend this in Japan and Korea, so glad to see it getting picked up in North America too.

vt20gov20council20photo201_1496178303788_22174713_ver1-0_640_360
Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. Photo: Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

This summer, Vermont physicians will be prescribing active play in Vermont State Parks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation gave doctors free day passes to state parks to give to patients.

These “prescriptions” follow the principles of Exercise in Medicine (EiM), a global health initiative to promote physical activity.

In some ways this is just a promotion for Vermont’s state parks, but so what?! In an era when we are taking less vacation, park budgets are being slashed and use is being restricted in other ways, including parks potentially being shut down permanently, this is a great way to encourage people to get out into nature and just breathe fresh air, stretch their bodies, and move!

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and a member of the VT Governor’s Council.

“The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” Dr. Fontaine continued.

In addition to handing out state park pass prescriptions, the VT Governor’s Council is also encouraging doctors to talk with patients about the importance of exercise.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit,” said Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple.

“And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time,” Whipple added.

For more information, visit www.vtstateparks.com.