behavior · creativity · design · health · mental health

Don’t stop knitting! It keeps you healthy. : TreeHugger

Taking time to destress and be creative has great benefits, both physically and mentally. Take knitting, for example:

It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.

1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.

2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”

read more reasons, like social connection and confidence boosting, via Don’t stop knitting! It keeps you healthy. : TreeHugger.

I have always felt like I SHOULD learn how to knit, but I actually find the idea of having to keep count and keep track of where I’m at stressful, but maybe I should just give it a try. Thoughts? Leave them in the comments below.

behavior · creativity · culture · happiness · health · mental health · play

Adults are reclaiming playtime

Dr. Norman Bethune (centre) watching a game of...
A lively game of checkers among friends (Photo credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives)

From Dodgeball to pillow fights to roller derby, adults are reclaiming time to play in their lives:

It was all fun and games until someone smacked Don Norman in the head — hard — with a feather pillow. Walking into his first two-hour “Playing in the Deep” session, a weekly organized event in Portland, Maine that engages stressed-out grownups in childlike activities, Norman, a 48-year-old database administrator, didn’t know what to expect. Then he saw the pillows, a big pile of them, stacked high. Everyone around him grabbed one and was suddenly roughhousing like over-caffeinated kids at summer camp. Someone handed him his own pillow, but he simply held on to it, too inhibited to let his freak flag fly. He considered bolting.

“And then I got hit!” Norman recalls. “I figured, ‘If they’re going to hit me, I’ll hit them!’ By the end of the night, I was running around like a madman, and I forgot all about my self-consciousness. I forgot about everything. It was liberating.”

“I’ve seen a steady increase in invitations for adult play,” says game designer and self-proclaimed “fun theorist” Bernie De Koven, author of The Well-Played Game. “Now that we no longer have the same sense of community at work or in our neighborhoods as we did twenty or thirty years ago, these opportunities for play are filling the gap.”

The events may consist of kiddie games, but there’s often a serious psychological, even spiritual purpose behind them. “People need to feel they’re connected to other people,” says Cary Umhau, the cofounder of Spacious, who says she was inspired by the adage “Love Thy Neighbor.” “Most people are trying to numb themselves out from just the pain of life. If they don’t have addictions, they spend much of their life watching TV. They need places to come together, to step out of the box and out of their social silo.”

more via Stories: Playing For Keeps – Life Reimagined.

More and more adults are understanding the psychological benefits to playing and making time to let their hair down (or pull it up into a ponytail and go hog wild!), from less sick days to a larger community to helping solve a project problem at work. Even if it’s something as small as giving the barista a silly name the next time you order coffee (I am Batman!), it’s enough to get your brain cells firing and keep it healthy.

How do you squeeze in playtime for yourself? Share your ideas in the comments below.

anthropology · community · creativity · culture

Critical City Upload, Edgeryders create games for urban public spaces

Augusto Pirovano, in Milan, Italy with 2 other friends we made a project called Critical City Upload:

A game of urban transformation that uses a web platform and asks its players to perform creative missions. So far CCU is not very different from Edgeryders, the fact is that the missions are – instead of stories and reflections to write and share with others as it is on Edgeryders – creative actions that are generally performed in the public spaces of cities. The player picks the mission, shuts down the computer, gets out on the street, plays the mission, collects the necessary proof of his experience and then, after returning home, publishes the mission attaching photos and videos. As the player gets points, he levels up until he reaches level 7 and wins the Mechanical Box (a mysterious box that is delivered at his home).

Some examples of missions:

more via We create games for urban public spaces | Edgeryders.

architecture · children · community · creativity · design · health

Energy drink maker Red Bull proposes skate-able art investment for Myrtle Edwards Park


The Seattle City Government Parks & Recreation site recently hosted a public meeting to gather input on a proposed public art piece in Myrtle Edwards Park that will be used for skateboarding.

Energy drink maker Red Bull has approached Seattle Parks and Recreation about making a community investment that would include commissioning an artist to design and fabricate a unique piece of skate-able art. At the meeting, Seattle Parks presented the history of the proposed project, followed by an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the idea.

Myrtle Edwards Park is located at 3130 Alaskan Way on the shoreline of Elliott Bay, north of the Olympic Sculpture Park.

The Citywide Skatepark Plan, developed in 2006 and 2007 with extensive public process, designated Myrtle Edwards as a recommended site for a skatedot [editor: which is apparently smaller than a skatepark]. Since 2007, Seattle Parks and Recreation has constructed eight new skate parks and skatedots. Two more are in construction and design.

4Culture is administering the Call for Artists associated with this project. The artist will coordinate the design with Seattle Parks and Recreation.

A second follow-up meeting is planned in June.

I love the idea of creating public art that is actually usable, whether it’s by skaters, kids, or even animals. I understand that some art is best appreciated by not messing with it, but especially in a public space sometimes it’s hard to not want to interact with sculptures or murals. I also appreciate Red Bull’s focus on supporting play in all its forms, although private sponsorship of public spaces is always a touchy, tricky gray area.

Is there a public art piece, or artistic skatedot, fountain, whatever, that you really enjoy sitting on, playing on, or just watching others play? Let me know about it in the comments below.

community · culture · environment · happiness · health

Parks, bikeways, other natural playful landscapes are good for the economy

English: Ritner Creek Covered Bridge near Pede...
Ritner Creek Covered Bridge near Pedee, Oregon, used as a rest stop during the Watermelon Rides organized by the Salem Bicycle Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Friday. I hope you get a chance to go outside this weekend. Not just because it’s good for you, but because it also helps the economy. No really, at least according to one study, and anecdotally, Oregon is seeing  ahuge economic benefit by encouraging outdoor recreation, specifically bikeways and bike tourism:

During a special hearing on bicycle tourism at the House Transportation and Economic Development Committee in Salem, OR, on May 9th, representatives from Travel Oregon released a major new report on the economic impact of bicycle-related travel. The Travel Oregon study, The Economic Significance of Bicycle-Related Travel in Oregon Detailed State and Travel Region Estimates, 2012 (PDF), looked at bike tourism’s impact throughout the state during 2012. The big number — which garnered a headline in The Oregonian and has been adjusted up since our story in March — is $400 million. That’s how much people “involved in bicycle-related activities” spent in Oregon last year.

One key reason for the ascension of bike tourism in Oregon are initiatives like the nation’s first State Scenic Bikeway program.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department named two new Scenic Bikeways that same day. They’ve got the right idea about increasing revenue by making their state fun to hang out in!

You can read more about the economic impacts, but it’s so far a pretty effective strategy to promote tourism.

behavior · community · creativity · happiness · play · youtube

Take a Seat – Make a Friend? – YouTube

SoulPancake hits the streets to see what happens when two strangers sit in a ball pit… and talk about lifes big questions.

via Take a Seat – Make a Friend? – YouTube.

community · creativity · happiness · Social

Matthew Silver, The Great Perfomer is simply silly for a living

I read about this street performer on Mashable. Based in Manhattan, he sounds like a guy with the same passion and vision for a play-filled world that I have, so I just had to share:

Photo image courtesy of Flickr, charlesdyer.

Matthew Silver just wants people to smile.

Silver, “The Great Performer,” can be seen throughout Manhattan using dance, song and oversized props to ease the tension of everyday life — because, as he says on his website, “it’s OK to be silly from time to time.”

Matthew describes his work on his website as an antidote to seriousness:

My role as a clown, trickster and village idiot is to parody excessive seriousness by playing with taboos, rules, and social norms.  My inspiration comes from my heart.  I perform for smiles and laughter, loosening people’s armor, and opening up a portal for imagination, creativity and love.

Silver reaching out to his audience, literally. Photo from his website.

Glad there is somebody out there who spends his time encouraging people to be silly.

Check out Matthew Silver on his website or Facebook page.

anthropology · behavior · children · community · creativity · Social

Halloween, the most playful time of year

Cute Kids in Children's Costumes
Kids in Halloween Costumes (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Ah, Halloween, originally considered the betwixt and between time of year when ghosts and souls past could pass over into our world and scare the crud out of their relatives.

But these days, Halloween is really a celebration of play. No, really! When else is it perfectly acceptable to dress up in funny costumes, stay up late on a week night running around banging on peoples doors, play tricks on people, and create food that looks spooky or gross but is really just lots of sugar?

The tradition of dressing up and playing for Halloween is alive and well in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos, for example. To deal with and make light of mortality, grown-ups and kids will put on make-up and costumes that represent death and the dead. They’ll make and eat sugary confections, parade down the street, play music, sing songs, and overall try to make a party out of a normally scary and sad phenomenon. Yes, there is some sadness involved, such as visiting relatives’ graves and setting up alters to reflect their passing, but for some even the act of creating the alter, i.e. being creative, is cathartic and helps with the loss of a loved one.

In the play deprived United States, Halloween has become one big kid’s night out for adults as well as kids. Children and grown-ups alike look forward to dressing up, pretending to be a character, and be silly with friends. Often the costume is a parody or commentary on something political, but that’s just as playful as covering yourself as marshmallows, although potentially socially sticky instead of just physically sticky.

That’s why it makes me sad that so many K – 12 schools have banned Halloween for fear of these socially sticky situations or fear of kids bringing weapons to school as part of their costumes, plus some religious groups find Halloween offensive. While I understand and respect all of these concerns, I disagree with the idea that we should just get rid of it outright. How are we going to learn to get along and get over differences if we just avoid them? Play and school are both supposed to be about learning, so why not turn Halloween into a learning opportunity?

As a proponent of play, I feel like Halloween is an important holiday, not because of what it originally stood for, but for what it stands for now. Being socially allowed to play and pretend, even for one day, is important for humans’ mental health. It also creates bonds between people who share in the activity, not just from sharing the experience but learning more about each other through their costumes.

I will definitely be buying candy and supporting Halloween this year, not for the sweet tooth but for the costumes. Play on!

community · environment · play · Social

Fear, Traffic Largest Inhibitors of Outdoor Play in UK

This makes me sad to see that fear is stopping a lot of kids from playing outdoors in the U.K. From the national organization Play England:

Traffic and a fear of strangers are preventing children from playing outdoors, new research released for Playday 2012 has found. Almost half (49%) of parents report that fear of strangers stops their children from playing out, while 46% say traffic and almost a third (31%) highlight fear of accident and injury as barriers to outdoor play.

The findings of the survey have been released today as an estimated half-a-million children and families nationwide celebrate Playday- the national day for play in the UK, held this year on Wednesday 1st August. Around 500 community events are taking place across the UK to celebrate 25 years of the campaign, which raises awareness about children’s right to play and the importance of play for children’s health, wellbeing and happiness.

The Playday 2012 theme isGet out and play! The campaign, which is co-ordinated by Play England (part of the National Children’s Bureau), Play Wales, Play Scotland and PlayBoard Northern Ireland has gone from strength-to-strength since its conception in London in 1987, when the first events were held to raise awareness about the effects of cuts to local play services.

Cath Prisk, Director of Play England, said: “Simply playing outside should be a normal, everyday event for all children. If we want to foster the next generation of Olympians and sports stars, then we need children with confidence, who love being active and are confident in tackling challenges. If parents are too afraid to let their children play out – because of fear of strangers, traffic or their children having accidents – then we as a society need to address this fear. Whether that’s a community living in a cul-de-sac agreeing children will be playing out every day, a street applying to the council to close the road for play regularly, or residents volunteering to help local play projects reach more children, we can all do our bit to make sure every day is a Playday.”

Mike Greenaway, Director of Play Wales, said: ‘… As a society we have developed an irrational fear that our children are unsafe outside. Compound this with the domination of cars and their drivers, and the world outside the front door doesn’t look particularly attractive for anyone who wants to play there … and children regularly tell us that outside is where they want to play. Children value time, quality places and freedom to play in their own way; we need to support them, recognise that for their wellbeing, they need to play outside and that it’s safer than we think.’

Read the full release.

I am glad, however, that the U.K. seems to be taking play more seriously than the U.S.; just the fact that they have a Play Day (August 1), is pretty cool. And the Quote from Mike Greenaway is as accurate for the U.S. as it is for the U.K.: serious crime has actually been decreasing since the early 1990s.

Thankfully where I grew up was pretty rural, so as long as we were within whistle-shot (my mom would blow a whistle rather than yell), we could roam as far and wide as we wanted. What rules did your parents have about playing outside? What rules do you have for kids you are in charge of (kids, nieces and nephews, neighbor kids, grandkids, etc.)? Leave a note in the comment below.

behavior · brain · creativity · happiness · health · mental health · play

6 Tips to Stay Playful Your Entire Life

Stella meets a friend on the trail.
A good way to stay playful: be open to new creatures and experiences. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Friday! Lately on Fridays I’ve been sharing my next great adventure destination, but this weekend that destination is staying put! And boy am I gonna have fun doing it! 🙂

For those of you who are also staying home this weekend and don’t know what to do about it, or maybe you had a loooooong week and you know you need to inject some fun into your day but your brain is so fried you can barely talk or type straight, here are some great suggestions from Remembering to Play. In fact, they recommend these tips for living an overall playful life, not just a playful day or two (although that is certainly a good start):

1. Play with movement:  Children have a wider range of body expression than adults.  We tend to move our bodies in the same, often rigid and predictable way. When walking down the street try moving your body differently. Start in small ways. Swing your hands in a different way, bounce your head from side to side, or shift your shoulders back and forth, one at a time. After a while try something bigger. Zig zag or walk backwards or sideways, or skip over the lines on the sidewalk. Or while walking in your office hallway twirl around one time…or perhaps more than once, tap the walls, or strut like you just made a million dollars for your organization!  Walk like you are the bees knees…because you are!
 
2. Play with perspective:  Instead of always looking straight ahead, or in your usual direction, look up or down, and in a direction you would not normally point your eyes. You may notice something different that you have never seen before.  A bird, a lovely coloured leaf, a funny looking cloud, a happy couple cuddling. It is easy, especially in big cities, to point our nose to ground and plow forward. Let’s remember that life is not about getting there but rather enjoying the ride. As you point your eyes in new directions, you never know what you might see, and what may come about from this new perspective.
 
3. Play with words/conversation: Whether it is, How’s it going, How was your day, or our conventional ways of starting a Monday morning meeting, we have many verbal or conversational routines.  It takes awareness and creativity to inject something new and fresh into the mix. For instance, instead of saying Hello to your friend, you could say Hey Hey, what do you say!?  Instead of calling your friend by their name, give them an unexpected nickname. Call them Sunshine or Peaches. (For over three years, a friend and I have consistently called each other Steve. It still brings us and others a good chuckle!) Or start your meeting off by having everyone share the last time they had a really good laugh. Read Creative Connections for more ideas.
 
4. Play with your surroundings:  What you surround yourself with either feeds or depletes your creative, authentic Self.  How often do you watch the news? Is the TV blaring in the background? What books do you read?  Do they inspire you?  What colour are your walls and what pictures do you hang from them. What music do you listen to?  Could you play more music in the background, say when cooking dinner or cleaning your home?  Do you have plants, or earth coloured tones in your home? Who do you spend your time with? Do your friends support your playful, authentic Self?  Can they hold space for the fullness of You?  Part of living a playful life is creating the container for playful living, and this means being clear on what supports or does not support authentic living.
 
5. Play with diverse activities:  As creatures of habit, it is easy to always order the same food, buy the same groceries, visit the same theatre and run the same route. Play means looking up when we normally look down, turning left when right is our regular choice. As we expand our range of choices and travel down new paths, we improve our brain functioning by building new neural pathways, and open to new possibilities. So instead of always seeing a movie, go to a live show instead. Instead of always eating the same meals, try to make one new meal a week.  Join a class, take a spontaneous road trip, visit a local museum, volunteer your time for a good cause, talk to a homeless person, pay for your friend’s meal, stop to smell a flower, play with a dog that is waiting for its owner, organize a games night, or start a book club. Do one thing different and you never know who you might meet or what adventure may unfold!
 

6. Play with your smile:  A single smile can change someone’s day for the better. I have experienced this when feeling a bit down, someone offers me a warm smile and suddenly I can feel my heart again. Life is not so bad anymore. In the same way that a picture is worth a thousand words, so too is a smile. So share your smile freely and fully. And share your smile with You as well. When feeling down, close your eyes and imagine a soft, warm, loving smile slowly appearing inside you. Allow it to get brighter, filling you with joy and light. Let your inner, playful spirit smile at you from the inside.

Read the original article.

Have a play-filled day! It will help you be more productive at work overall.