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.

behavior · community · creativity · Mental · psychology

How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts – News – GOOD

Prisoners show off their knitting progress. Photo courtesy of the program.

Creating something with your hands, learning a craft, and being successful with something even as simple as crochet can have huge positive effects on people. That effect that be even more significant if you’ve been a screw-up your whole life, as many people behind bars feel they have been. This story about bringing knitting workshops to prisons is a great example, similar to the Puppies Behind Bars program or helping to raise endangered frogs, of how doing something as simple as a pearl and stitch can have huge psychologically positive impacts.

In late 2009, Lynn Zwerling stood in front of 600 male prisoners at the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup, Maryland. “Who wants to knit?” she asked the burly crowd. They looked at her like she was crazy.

Yet almost two years later, Zwerling and her associates have taught more than 100 prisoners to knit, while dozens more are on a waiting list to take her weekly class. “I have guys that have never missed one time in two years,” Zwerling says. “Some reported to us that they miss dinner to come to class.”

Zwerling, 67, retired in 2005 after 18 years of selling cars in Columbia, Maryland. She didn’t know what to do with her time, so she followed her passion and started a knitting group in her town. No one came to the first meeting, but the group quickly grew to 500 members. “I looked around the room one day and I saw a zen quality about it,” Zwerling says. “Here were people who didn’t know each other, had nothing in common, sitting together peacefully like little lambs knitting. I thought, ‘It makes me and these people feel so good. What would happen if I took knitting to a population that never experienced this before?’”

Her first thought was to bring knitting to a men’s prison, but she was turned down repeatedly. Wardens assumed the men wouldn’t be interested in a traditionally feminine hobby and worried about freely handing out knitting needles to prisoners who had been convicted of violent crimes. Five years passed before the Pre-Release Unit in Jessup accepted her, and Knitting Behind Bars was born. “I [wanted to teach] them something that I love that I really believe will make them focus and happy,” Zwerling says. “I really believe that it’s more than a craft. This has the ability to transform you.”

via How Knitting Behind Bars Transformed Maryland Convicts – News – GOOD.

architecture · behavior · brain · design · emotion · environment · happiness · health · mental health · Nature · psychology

Using Nature Therapy in Prisons and Hospitals

I’m seeing lots of different examples of people using nature to help heal, from the physically injured to those with aggression issues cut off from the rest of the world.

For example, I was just listening to a program this weekend on the local NPR station about a biologist at Evergreen State College who is greenifying a local prison, as well as working with inmates to grow new prairie grass and frogs (I can’t find the original story but here’s some similar coverage):

The frog rearing program here pairs inmates with scientists from the Evergreen State College as part of the Sustainable Prisons Project. So far, the frogs grown at Cedar Creek Correctional Center are doing better than those grown by professional zoologists.

LIESL PLOMSKI, graduate student, The Evergreen State College says, “They have a lot more time here to care for the frogs that a zoo wouldn’t have. I mean they’re here all day with them, so they change the water frequently. They feed them more frequently than a zoo could ever do.”

And then this morning stumbled upon this story:

Henning Larsen Architects recently won an international design competition with their plans for the new Odense University Hospital in Denmark. Situated close to the city center amidst a scenic old-growth forest, the OUH will use the surrounding landscape as a way to heal its patients. The holistic facility features a light footprint that incorporates nature at every turn to create an environment replete with peace and serenity. Daylight floods in through the glass-lined buildings, and rainwater will be collected to feed the many ponds and surrounding landscape.

more via Denmark’s New Odense Hospital is a Healing City of Glass Amid the Forest | Inhabitat – Green Design Will Save the World.

I am blown away by all the different applications of nature into therapy and recovery practices.