behavior · community · creativity · culture · happiness · health · play · work

Quick ways to be happier at work

Obviously there is a lot that goes into a “good” job – coworkers, supportive managers, and work you believe in. But there is also a surprising amount you can do within your own environment and office surroundings that will make your day-to-day grind better.

Here are a few compiled by Mashable (P.S.: Manatees are awesome!):

  1. Beautify your work space. You personalize your home; why not personalize your desk? Make your cube or office a pleasant place to work with a few framed photos, a decorative pen holder or a tiny cactus. Image: Mashable/Vicky Leta

Read them all

 

architecture · design · environment · health · mental health · Nature

In Redesigned Room, Hospital Patients May Feel Better Already – NYTimes.com

I recently had a short stay at a hospital (just some minor surgery), and as I lay in my hospital bed I recall looking out my window at a green canopy of trees planted two stories below. I remember how peaceful and pleasant it was to be able to look out and watch the trees. I also noticed my anxiety went down, I was distracted from my pain, and just overall felt better.

More and more research is coming out that is finding the benefits of incorporating nature and natural environments into the healing process, for everything from surgery to PTSD to dementia, and a variety of other ailments. So it’s great to see hospitals incorporating this knowledge into new building designs as well as therapies.

The University Medical Center of Princeton realized several years ago that it had outgrown its old home and needed a new one. So the management decided to design a mock patient room.Medical staff members and patients were surveyed. Nurses and doctors spent months moving Post-it notes around a model room set up in the old hospital. It was for just one patient, with a big foldout sofa for guests, a view outdoors, a novel drug dispensary and a bathroom positioned just so.

Equipment was installed, possible situations rehearsed. Then real patients were moved in from the surgical unit — hip and knee replacements, mostly — to compare old and new rooms. After months of testing, patients in the model room rated food and nursing care higher than patients in the old rooms did, although the meals and care were the same.

But the real eye-opener was this: Patients also asked for 30 percent less pain medication.

Reduced pain has a cascade effect, hastening recovery and rehabilitation, leading to shorter stays and diminishing not just costs but also the chances for accidents and infections. When the new $523 million, 636,000-square-foot hospital, on a leafy campus, opened here in 2012, the model room became real.

read more via In Redesigned Room, Hospital Patients May Feel Better Already – NYTimes.com.

architecture · children · creativity · design · health · play

These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built

Having fun, exciting spaces to play is important for both kids and grown-ups, so it’s nice to see what’s out there for kids, and hopefully grown-ups will follow suit.

When you’re a kid, visiting an amazing playground is the greatest experience ever. And these fantasy-themed playgrounds around the world have us wishing that we were kids again so we could run around in them like small, crazy people.

more via These are the most fantastical playgrounds ever built.

All of these are in more urban settings, and it would be cool to see some more natural playscapes, but the ideas behind some of these parks are fantastic!

anthropology · behavior · cognition · work

Inspire Creativity at Work With All 5 of Your Senses | Mashable

Work IS  a fully engrossing experience, so why not enhance all of those experiences?

You’ve probably heard of the debate about whether open offices or the oh-so-dreaded traditional cubicles are better in the workplace. All these discussions revolve around layout and arrangement, but did you know that ambience is equally (if not more) important for inspiring workplace creativity?

If only the interior designer had known that people working in white offices are more likely to complain of nausea and headaches, or that dim lighting jump starts creative freedom, your office might be a much happier place. In fact, the best offices engage all five senses — everything from colors and music to smells and tastes — to maximize your productivity and creativity.

Read the infographic below to decode why your office might be holding you back, and discover small things you can do to unleash your team’s creative powers in no time.

more via Inspire Creativity at Work With All 5 of Your Senses.

architecture · design · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature · psychology

Dennis Bracale’s Garden Compositions

Creating organic, peaceful spaces can be arguably one of the most powerful, important acts for human wellness, both physically and mentally. These gardens are also peaceful just to look at, even if you can’t experience them firsthand.

THE DIRT

bracale
“It took me two years to find the stones for this project,” says Dennis Bracale, a landscape designer based on Mount Desert Island, Maine, while giving a lecture at his alma mater, the University of Virginia. Image after image showcased Bracale’s work on private gardens. The talk showed the audience the artistic heights landscape architecture can achieve when time and monetary constraints aren’t an issue.

The crux of Bracale’s philosophy is an image of a stone Buddha with a carved flowing robe framed by two stones, one of which accents the robes with its own layered flow pattern. That philosophy is the skillful combining of rough nature (found objects made through geologic and biologic processes) with refined nature (objects modified through craft) to create meditative spaces.

With a client base primarily on Mount Desert Island, Bracale knows his fellow islanders move to and stay on the island for the…

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behavior · brain · community · culture · emotion · environment · happiness · health · Social · technology

Crowdsourcing Quiet Spaces in the City

For the past month I have been staying in a surprisingly noisy apartment. The neighborhood itself is very quiet, but just my luck to be staying over a night club and all-night grocery store. After this month the importance of being able to find quiet, peaceful places in a city rings all the more true and important to me (and it’s not just the ringing in my ears). From Inhabitat:

Cities have always been bustling environments, and with more and more of us living in them it can be difficult to find a quite place to relax or contemplate. Sound Artist Jason Sweeney‘s winning proposal for the TED Imagining the City 2.0 Prize is a crowdsourcing project that seeks to locate and map the places that provide silence in the urban din. The Stereopublic Project will be a public guide for those who crave a retreat from the crowds.

Based in Melbourn’s city center, Sweeney found himself attracted to tucked-in corners, where the city’s sound fades into the background and where the built environment is experienced as a sound environment. Inspired by his own experiences, he’s looking to create a platform where others can geo-tag and share their favorite quiet space. Sweeney is interested in helping those who are sensitive to noises, with disabilities, or just seeking respite from the constant din of the streets.

The TED City 2.0 prize will help his team develop a digital tool for crowdsourcing those places, adding a new layer of awareness to the cityscape for its occupants.

Cities are large, complex environments and the project is a unique way to understand the acoustic dynamic of city life. Stereopublic is based on active users sharing their findings, but ironically, the project’s success will likely make those quiet spaces busier, further pushing inhabitants to explore new places. The idea may become a failed experiment if it becomes too successful, but it also very well might help create new venues that improve the “sonic health” of a city — adding a vital resource to urban life.

Know of a quiet place in your city? Add it to the list, or leave it in the comments below and I’ll add it for you and if it’s in the Pacific Northwest may just try it out first. You know, for research).
architecture · disease · environment · happiness · health · mental health · psychology

Biophilic Building Design Held Back by Lack of Data

Really interesting article about the concept of biophilic design, something I’ve brought up a lot on this sight. In summary, humans love natural environments, so why haven’t our buildings and other spaces moved more in that direction? It’s all broken out very nicely in this post:

THE DIRT


Biophilic design is still at the bleeding-edge of green building design and hasn’t taken off yet. The obstacle may be the lack of data on the impact of biophilic design on health and well-being. Or perhaps it’s because there still hasn’t been that one model site that makes current practice irrelevant. Other possible reasons: “collective ignorance” or a “lack of imagination.” At a session at the American Institute of Architects (AIA) conference in Washington, D.C., some of early innovators in this field, Bill Browning, Founder, Terrapin Bright Green, Jason McClennan, CEO, International Living Future Institute / Cascadia Green Building Council, and Bob Berkebile, a principal at BNIM and an early green building innovator, discussed the many obstacles preventing more widespread use of these approaches and argued for rapidly stepping up research and promotion efforts.

Biophilia, which has been defined in earlier posts, is “the innate emotional affiliation of humans with all living things.” Defined by famed biologist…

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Kinect Helping With Senior Health

Tiger Place, an independent living center in Missouri, uses technology such as Kinect to closely monitor seniors’ movement to help prevent functional decline that can lead to falls and decreased mobility. From Microsoft.

From a Microsoft press release, but still really interesting: a researcher is looking at using Kinect to track a senior citizen’s walking more regularly than the usual once or twice a year to make sure they’ve still got that pep in their step:

What if technology could help prevent falls, and in some cases even prolong lives?

Marilyn Rantz and her colleagues at the University of Missouri are researching just that, using Microsoft’s Kinect to measure and monitor subtle changes in the gait and movement of older people. Using technology to measure the way people walk more completely and daily, rather than at bi-yearly doctor’s appointments, can give healthcare professionals a chance to intervene sooner.

[Independent Living Center] Tiger Place focuses on monitoring its residents with a network of sensors placed in apartments, a monitoring network that now includes Kinect sensors in many rooms. What’s more, Tiger Place is an “age in place” facility, meaning seniors don’t have to move to different housing as they get older and require more assistance – the new services they need as they age are brought in to them, Rantz said.

Several apartments in Tiger Place have a Kinect mounted near the ceiling in the living room, where day after day the devices gather a mountain of data about the resident’s movement and motion.

Helping seniors is just one of a growing number of healthcare applications for Kinect.

Doctors are also using Kinect to help stroke patients regain movement. Surgeons are using it to access information without leaving the operating room and in the process sacrificing sterility. Healthcare workers are even using it to help with physical therapy and children with developmental disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Thus, the genesis of the so-called “Kinect Effect” – a term coined in the hallways and conference rooms of Microsoft to describe the device’s increasingly widespread appeal and diversity of uses.

Read the entire release at Kinect Effect Reaches Into Hospitals, Senior Centers.

I’m a huge fan of Kinect hacks, especially when a Kinect is modified to help people move better in their homes and everyday surroundings. It is relatively cheap compared to a lot of other medical equipment, and the hack is often fun to use as well as being practical.

architecture · community · creativity

Recycled houses from around the world

I saw this article about a house made out of plastic bottles…

With a serious housing shortage but no shortage of plastic bottles littering the streets, the Development Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) – an NGO based in Nigeria – decided to build this incredible two-bedroom bungalow entirely out of plastic bottles! Although many in Kaduna were dubious when the project began construction in June this year, the nearly-complete home is bullet and fireproof, earthquake resistant, and maintains a comfortable interior temperature of 64 degrees fahrenheit year round!

This led to further searches, and found some other cool houses made out of reused materials:

Architects and homeowners are gradually discovering the benefits of shipping container homes. It turns out that the strong, cheap freight boxes make pretty useful building blocks. They can be loaded with creature comforts and stacked to create modular, efficient spaces for a fraction of the cost, labor and resources of more conventional materials. Shipping containers can be easily insulated and climate controlled, and they are being deployed as disaster relief shelters and modest vacation homes. In stacking configurations they are appearing as student housing and even luxury condos.

 

Plus for all you survivalists out there, they would be a great start to a less conspicuous (if left au naturale on the outside), possibly fit with a grounding net against EMPs, and generally fire proof.

 

Salvaged wine corks, which are easy to come by, provide an inexpensive form of cork flooring.
This Boeing 727 carried in the past passengers for South Africa Air and Avianca Airlines (Columbia). Today it is suspended on a 50 foot pedestal on the edge of the National Park, in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.

Lots more here and here. What other houses made out of recycled houses have you seen?

One question I have, however, is how well some of these houses actually blend into the environments they’re built. Are they actually beneficial to the Earth because they keep this stuff out of the landfill? Does it make the families who live in these places’ lives better? Thoughts?