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 · emotion · mental health · Nature · psychology

Trees are like friends

My husband recently posted an ode to one of his favorite trees that sadly caught a root fungus and finally died after 4 years and was cut down slowly this winter.

He was not the only one moved by the loss of the tree. Neighbors of the park, visitors, and other movers also expressed their sadness over the loss of the tree.

It seems strange at first of mourning a tree, but this phenomenon of bonding with and becoming fond of a tree, or multiple trees, is very common, and very human. Trees provide humans food, shelter from the elements, landmarks during travel, and safety from (most) animals. But they also provide us a level of consistency and reliability in our world – that tree doesn’t go anywhere – while also marking the changing of the seasons and change over time. It provides enjoyment whether you are climbing the tree or just resting at its base. Being in or near nature, even a single tree, has profound, positive effects on our physical and mental states.

In Melbourne, Australia, a few years ago people started using the park system’s email alert system to express their fondness for some of their favorite trees.

At my daughter’s  outdoor preschool the kids have slowly been naming the trees in the park during their daily hikes – grandfather tree, silly tree, spaceship tree, and others. These names help the kids orient where they are in the park, but they also represent a kinship with the tree, a familiarity and reliability that provides consistency and joy for the kids.

When a tree dies or is cut down, we feel its loss and we mourn. It is only human.

behavior · brain · children · cognition · emotion · environment · family · happiness · health · learning · mental health · play · psychology

Why I Play-Fight with my Kids

In some ways this seems like an overly obvious, unnecessary post. Of course parents play fight with their kids! Right? Yet I am surprised by how few MOMS play fight with their kids.

I do. And I love it! I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do, but I do. Here are my top reasons why.

1. It teaches them body awareness – How hard do I have to push to make something happen? How strong am I before I get pushed over? How do I get myself back upright? How hard is too hard to hit? Also being aware of how strong they are now versus a month from now is important too as they grow and get bigger and stronger; I’ve known too many bigger little kids that don’t know their own strength.

2. It teaches them spatial awareness – How far away is that body I am playing with? Where are my legs and arms while I’m wrestling? Oops, now I’m upside down, how does that make me feel?

3. It makes them feel loved and given attention.

4. It’s fun! I’ll bet almost everyone at one time or another has played slug bug, tickle time, or wrestled with your sibling, or started a real fight with your sibling that by the end you two were both on the floor laughing.

5. They feel safe acting out being big and strong and knocking me down or punching me and knowing that I can take it.

6. Kids who play fight with their dads are being shown that men are big and strong. For somewhat feminist but mostly totally selfish reasons, I want them to know that women (i.e. ME!) can be big, strong, and tough too.

7. Along those same lines, grown-ups who play fight with kids are demonstrating that when people play or play fight, they are being respectful of each other’s boundaries, and if you don’t feel safe you can and should ask the other person to stop. If the other person doesn’t respect your boundaries then kids learn that’s not okay and they get time out or kids or grown-ups stop playing with them. This is a super-critical skill that is missing in so much rhetoric, both physical and verbal, in our society today.

8. As their mom, it is so fun to watch my kids get stronger, faster, more coordinated, and more creative in their physical play. They mix strategies, including saying silly things to catch me off guard, which is all part of the art of play.

9. Finally, I want to promote physical play of all kinds with kids and grown-ups alike. Whether that’s boxing, hiking, jump rope, tricycles, making forts, tree-climbing, or just going for an exploratory walk around the neighborhood, I support it.

I’m sure there are other reasons I’m forgetting, but those are my main ones.

My husband teaches natural movement classes, and before that parkour and martial arts. Slowly more women are joining the adult classes in all of those fields. But especially in the kids’ classes, the moms are just as likely to join their kids, but almost none participate given the opportunity. Why?! Some women (and men) don’t like physical contact activities. And that’s totally fine. But more often than not women are intimidated. I say no more fear! Get in there and push someone.

Why do you play fight with your kids? Or why don’t you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATE: I wrote a follow-up post about safe ways to roughhouse with your children that you can find here.

behavior · play · psychology · work

6 Ways to Integrate Play Into the Workplace | Inc.com

I could, and will, write a whole blog post about just the first sentence of this article.

But I’ll just let you read the whole piece and save that for another day.

Play has a PR problem. Some think of play as frivolous –- a distraction, or worse, a waste of time. In the office, play is often regarded as a break from “real work.” But what if the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s boredom? What if work could actually benefit from play?

As a partner at IDEO, I help instill a playful culture, not only in mindset, but also in our daily behaviors. Play allows us to experiment, empathize and take creative risks. Ask anyone who works at IDEO — having play engrained in our culture makes it an incredibly satisfying place to work. It keeps us engaged in our projects and makes us better innovators.

In preparing to teach a new online course on IDEO U, I’ve been thinking about the behaviors of play that have allowed our team to be successful in developing and executing ideas to meet the needs of a particularly tough group of consumers: kids and their parents. These six behaviors not only manifest themselves in the products we create, but also in our interactions as designers, and I believe they can have a profound impact on every organization’s ability to innovate.

read what they are and how to incorporate them into the work space via 6 Ways to Integrate Play Into the Workplace | Inc.com.

What have you done to incorporate play into your own work life?

anthropology · architecture · behavior · community · creativity · culture · environment · health · mental health · psychology · Social

To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric

To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric

A million times yes! This article focuses on one of my biggest pet peeves and challenges as a play advocate; play not being taken seriously.

The author, Hilary O’Shaughnessy, and also the producer of the Playable City Award, discusses her play competition and the usual rub of people asking whether this is really all “worth it.” I’m quoting over half of her article, but she very eloquently covers an entire blog post I was planning on writing (I will still write it, I promise):

Amongst the usual squeals of anticipation [around the competition], there are questions about the value of these ideas to the “real” world. Fun is all well and good – but surely fun is the stuff we get to when the grown up work of building hospitals and roads is done with? When we’ve fixed the economy, let’s play. Cities are full of problems, why are we not fixing them first?

Herein lies the real issue. When we see play simply as fun, a whimsy for those of us lucky enough to have the time to engage in it, we underestimate the transformative power of play and it’s role in our lives.

Fixing problems, making our living and working spaces more livable and resilient, designing better cities, starts at every level with the people that Iive in those cities. Increasingly we are realising that our cities are designed for exclusivity, so it makes sense that we don’t feel part of shaping the future. This is revealed in the language we use to describe our relationships to the services and organisations that our cites are made of. We want them to fix it, they don’t want us to have a say, they give money to them to exclude us: the language is divisive and separating, and that’s the problem. Even the descriptions of the projects fail to deliver what they promise, because a playable city is experienced, not described.

The idea of what our cities should mean, how public money is spent, what we imagine as good for us and who is involved in designing them, is only ever addressed when we have a complaint or we feel excluded. We talk to the city council when the road is road is torn up or the lights won’t come on. We complain that our voices are unheard, but we never seize opportunities to speak, fearing that if we do we will be ignored or shouted down by the loudest ones.

This feeling of separation cannot be undone overnight. We need new approaches, new tools, and new ways to talk to one another about how to live together in cities.

From a different article, but an example of using play as political protest: a device placed in large potholes that tweets whiny complaints when it is run over in order to publicly shame govt. into action.

Conversations about the future, about how we want to live, have to begin from a level playing field, and crucially that level playing field may not be where we expect. Play is a leveler: when we play, we play as humans, first. Traditional status markers like wealth, celebrity, or qualifications are not really much use when invited to dance with your shadow or conduct lights like a demi-god.

Addressing problems and finding solutions that work for us all begin with inviting everyone into conversation. Play as unexpected interventions in familiar places act as invitations to connect, an offer to begin to talk about those parts of our cities that we feel excluded from. To new eyes and ears, some projects can seem esoteric – but that is because we have become numbed to dull public announcements, badly designed flyers and clunky websites which act as information dumps that no-one reads, let alone takes as an invitation to work together. Yet, this is important stuff: we need to talk about the kind of future we want or it be will be decided for us while we look the other way.

via To make our cities inclusive, we need to make them playful again | CityMetric.

You can read about this year’s shortlist and the final winner at the Watershed website.

behavior · community · creativity · health · mental health · psychology

An Artist’s Brainstorm: Put Photos On Those Faceless Ebola Suits : NPR

This is an example of how a small addition to a working environment, even a scary working environment, can make things a little less scary.

Last summer, Mary Beth Heffernan, who is an art professor at Occidental College, became obsessed with Ebola — particularly the images of the health care workers in those protective suits, or PPE as they’re called for short.

“They looked completely menacing,” says Heffernan. “I mean they really made people look almost like storm troopers. I imagined what would it be like to be a patient? To not see a person’s face for days on end?”

And what really got Heffernan is that as far as she could tell, there was an easy fix.

“I found myself almost saying out loud: ‘Why don’t they put photos on the outside of the PPE? Why don’t they just put photos on?'”

Here was her idea: Snap a photo of the health worker with a big smile on their face. Hook up the camera to a portable printer and print out a stack of copies on large stickers. Then every time the worker puts on a protective suit they can slap one of their pictures on their chest, and patients can get a sense of the warm, friendly human underneath the suit.

via An Artist’s Brainstorm: Put Photos On Those Faceless Ebola Suits : Goats and Soda : NPR.

I agree with one of the commenters from the original story I would have liked to have heard a little bit more from the patients’ perspective, since the nurses and doctors all commented on its benefits. But overall I think this is great and wish more people would be willing to take risks like this to help, even if it doesn’t “change the world” it made the world, and in this case a scary, grueling, impoverished world, a little better.

behavior · environment · play · psychology

40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative | Sorry That It’s Buzzfeed

Need some creative inspiration? How about a creative, inspiring environment? Not a lot of patterns here, although I’d love to see a behavioral scientist try and spot one?

Mark Twain, author.

Ruth Reichl, food writer.

From tiny writing desks to giant painting studios, the only thing all of these creative studios have in common is that they inspired their successful inhabitants to create greatness.

Georgia O’Keefe, painter.

Alexander Calder, sculptor.

see all forty via 40 Inspiring Workspaces Of The Famously Creative.

anthropology · behavior · brain · children · community · culture · education · environment · happiness · health · learning · play · psychology · Social

Plug for the NGO Right to Play

I tweeted about this short film yesterday, but I really feel like this is worth giving some space on the blog for.

The value of play is important for teaching life skills like conflict resolution and collaboration, health lessons, healing from trauma, building community and just overall survival as a child and human being, the work this organization does seems simple but is hugely important.

This short video highlights some of the incredible impact that play can have on a child, or group of children.

You can also visit the organization’s website at Right to Play.

Play matters!

 

behavior · brain · children · cognition · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · psychology · Social

20+ Drawing Ideas and Activities | picklebums.com

Staying playful and creative sometimes requires going back to your roots, or at least your crayons. Drawing, scribbling, doodling, and coloring have all been found to help with destressing, thinking out ideas and problems, and keep brains active into old age.

Drawing is also a great learning activity with lots of fine motor skill and development, problem solving, language development and social learning opportunities… (Editor’s note: all of which tie into the above-mentioned benefits, and these skills are all useful for both grownups and kids to practice and refresh on a regular basis).

Drawing is a way for children everyone to process their world, to represent and share their ideas and to explore new skills and information.

Drawing with Geometry Tools
Drawing with Geometry Tools
Graph Paper Drawing
Graph Paper Drawing
Collaborative Doodle Drawings
Collaborative Doodle Drawings

see all 20+ Drawing Ideas and Activities at picklebums.com.

If you think this is just “kid’s stuff” I dare you to try some of these, especially the collaborative drawing exercise. It’ll (potentially) expose some growth areas of yourself and/or others very quickly. 😛