anthropology · behavior · community · culture · environment · happiness · health

Los Angeles has Cancer — Stephen Corwin on Medium

This is a scathing opinion piece looking at the negative influences of space and place, specifically cars and car culture. Corwin argues passionately against the takeover of cars in to the city space and how it is anything BUT enriching. It is full of examples of what NOT to do, and therefore offers suggestions on how to solve it.

Our experiences driving cars in this city are, for the most part, fleeting. We drive somewhere, we get out of the car, we close the door, and we walk away. But to think that we can escape the world that cars have created as easily as we escape the car itself is foolish. In fact, when we leave our cars, we walk into that world. We have to live in that putrid mess.

Let’s talk about how Los Angeles is a city where construction projects can fence off whole blocks, including the sidewalks, without offering people on foot an alternative. Let’s talk about how when that happens, no one even considers converting one of the two car lanes into a temporary sidewalk, because dear god, that might cause slight inconvenience to people in cars. And let’s talk about how ironic it is that inconveniencing people in cars is the end of the world, but doing the same to people on foot is a non-issue. Then let’s talk about how when frustrated walkers decide to use the car lane rather than take the ridiculous detour, the city’s totally acceptable solution to that problem is not to concede space to those people, but rather to bolt permanent, metal signs into the middle of the sidewalk to keep them from doing so. That is cancer.

read the whole thing via Los Angeles has Cancer — Medium.

It is worth a read.

behavior · environment · health · mental health · play · work

Creating playful and holistic spaces for healthier employees

The Clinton Foundation recently teamed up with my employer as part of the Clinton Health Matters Initiative (CHMI) to create more healthy, and healthier, employees in a corporate environment. There were five winners chosen, and these two were my personal favorites:

  • Make Work Active
  • Concept: Gamify holistic health and wellness. Design a points based rewards program to incentivize employees for adopting a healthy lifestyle at work, with programs tailored to industry specific wellness issues.
  • Workspace Design
  • Concept: Design workplaces that require regular movement physical activity. Create “motion enhancing workplace” certification. Create certification of “Motion Enhancing Workspaces” if sufficient requirements are met (Similar to Leed Certified buildings).

 

While some of the other ideas were also great – have fresh food on hand, make a team goal to improve health – I love these ideas in particular because they engage with employees on an individual level, and force the employee to engage with wellness, i.e. via a game and/or their environment.

I know gamification is a super “buzz” term right now, almost to the point of being passe, but I have found it to be a surprisingly powerful tool. A few years ago I organized a walking challenge at work, and bought cheap pedometers for everyone who wanted to participate. The winner ended up being the facilities manager, which surprised everyone but totally made sense since he was on his feet all day, and was a great example of how a lot of little walks add up.

Where have you seen either of these types of initiatives in action, whether at work, school, or in your neighborhood? Do you know of any group working on creating certifications for “healthy workspaces”? Share them in the comments below.

 

architecture · behavior · community · creativity · design

Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

I am often focused on efficiency walking from place to place. But cyclists, runners, and other athletes talk about taking the more scenic route on their commutes or exercise routes, and maybe we should all follow suite.

Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact

We’ve all [probably] taken a detour because the path is pleasant and scenic, even if it takes longer. But Google Maps and the like aren’t set up for that. They’re solely about speed and efficiency.Recent research led by Yahoo Labs shows how a planner-for-happiness might work. Using crowdsourced impressions of streets, Flickr data, and survey responses, it looks for a balance between “people’s emotional perceptions of urban spaces” and getting them to a destination in a reasonable amount of time.

more via Route Planning For The Happiest Walk, Not The Quickest | Co.Exist | ideas + impact.

children · environment · happiness · health · learning · mental health · Nature · neuroscience · play

IS PLAY THE KEY TO ECO-ACTION? : Children & Nature Network

Environmental Psychology and conservationists have, for awhile now, been advocating the importance of letting children get out and play in and with nature to educate them on the value of preserving their environment and benefiting from natural surroundings. It’s nice to see pediatricians also start to embrace and advocate for the need for everyone, including children, get outside and get dirty.

Dr. Lawrence Rosen writes that throughout his practice, seeing children on a daily basis, “I’m often reminded of Winslow Homer’s 1872 painting, “Snap the Whip,” depicting boys playing with abandon in a field outside their rural schoolhouse.”

So eloquently portrayed is the simplicity of another time, kids out in the natural world for no other purpose than to play, freely and without a care in the world.Contrast this with contemporary schoolyards with their meticulously designed jungle gyms and artificial surfacing, often empty throughout the day as more and more schools abolish recess or replace free play with highly structured, adult-supervised activities. I’ve realized, as I see increasingly anxious and depressed children come to my office looking for guidance, that the answers often lie not in my prescription pad but outside my window.

One very recent publication from Dr. Kirsten Beyer and associates at the Medical College of Wisconsin described the influence of green space on mental health outcomes, concluding that “higher levels of neighborhood green space were associated with significantly lower levels of symptomology for depression, anxiety and stress” and that “’greening’ could be a potential population mental health improvement strategy in the United States.”

read more from Dr. Rosen via IS HAPPINESS THE KEY TO ECO-ACTION? : The New Nature Movement.

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 · culture · disease · happiness · health

Statistics Say We Should Take Friday Off From Work. All The Fridays, Forever And Ever.

This is a great visual follow up to my post from a couple of weeks ago about the value of not overworking, and making time for play.

It’s nice that they also offer a possible solutions visual.

Statistics Say We Should Take Friday Off From Work. All The Fridays, Forever And Ever.

Statistics Say We Should Take Friday Off From Work. All The Fridays, Forever And Ever.

more graphics via Statistics Say We Should Take Friday Off From Work. All The Fridays, Forever And Ever.

behavior · design · emotion · environment · happiness · health · mental health · psychology

Modular Glass Bedroom Helps Researchers Investigate Light’s Infinite Health Benefits – PSFK

Do you notice you have different moods depending on how bright or dark it is outside? Do you notice the warmth or cold feeling emitting from a light bulb? Whether you consciously notice them or not, they do have an effect on your brain and body. Since these days most of us don’t get to work outside and absorb natural light, scientists are working on the right kind of artificial light for us.

The light emitted from our lamps and fixtures at home doesn’t just spruce up a room; it has the power to significantly augment our mood and lift our spirits.To explore further the link between lighting and personal wellbeing, glass engineering company Cantifix and Oxford University have collaborated to create the Photon Project. This scientific study comes to life at this month’s London Design Festival in the form of the Photon Pod, an all-glass living space that will help the Photon Project gather data and insights on the links between light and health.Resembling a futuristic bedroom, the pod invites visitors to experience what life is like in a completely translucent living space, as well as take part in simulations that measure levels of alertness or relaxation under varied light conditions.

more via Modular Glass Bedroom Helps Researchers Investigate Light’s Infinite Health Benefits – PSFK.

design · Mental · mental health · Nature

Serious New Funding for Innovative Research on Restorative Urban Nature

So many studies have found natural spaces to be beneficial for healing and mental health, so it is crucial as we become more urbanized to allow space for nature to sneak in.

THE DIRT

greenspace
According to the TKF Foundation, more than 80 percent of the U.S. population and 50 percent of the global population now live in urban areas. To ensure people can live in dense environments packed with people, parks and open space are critical. Without those, people flee to the suburbs to get away and have access to more nature.

So to green cities, landscape architects and planners are now “comprehensively integrating ecology and nature into built environments using systems approaches, such as green infrastructure, low impact development, and urban landscape ecology.” The cost of these efforts is justified by “call outs of better air and water quality; reduced heat island effect; and reduced carbon emissions.” While those benefits are clearly very valuable to quantify, there has been a recent movement to quantify the human health and well-being benefits of all this urban green in “stress recovery, improved mental health, faster healing…

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anthropology · culture · emotion · happiness · health · Social

The UN Embraces the Economics of Happiness — YES! Magazine

Should happiness and well being be considered a metric to measure overall success of a country? The UN just voted yes:

Imagine you open the paper tomorrow, and the headlines are not about the “sluggish economy,” but our nation’s quality of life. You turn to the business section, and find not just information about a certain company’s profitability, but also about its impact on community health and employee well-being.

Imagine, in short, a world where the metric that guides our decisions is not money, but happiness.

That is the future that 650 political, academic, and civic leaders from around the world came together to promote on April 2, 2012. Encouraged by the government of Bhutan, the United Nations held a High Level Meeting for Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. The meeting marks the launch of a global movement to shift our focus away from measuring and promoting economic growth as a goal in its own right, and toward the goal of measuring—and increasing—human happiness and quality of life.

Not just for dreamers

Some may say these 650 world leaders are dreamers, but they are the sort that can make dreams come true. The meeting began with an address by Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley of Bhutan, where the government tracks the nation’s “Gross National Happiness.”…

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited Aristotle and Buddha in calling for the replacement of our current economic system with one based on happiness, well-being, and compassion. “Social, economic, and environmental well-being are indivisible” he said.

Read more at: The UN Embraces the Economics of Happiness by Laura Musikanski — YES! Magazine.

Pretty exciting stuff. Bhutan has been using happiness as a metric for several years. so it’s nice to see the idea get picked up on. I believe emotional well-being and happiness is a very valuable metric. What about you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

creativity · youtube

Superbowl ad actually encourages us to exercise (sorta)

Superbowl Sunday is almost upon us, and the Superbowl ads are already being released. Volkswagen has released an ad that features a dog getting in shape for his sport. While it’s obviously meant in jest, in some ways it’s great because it arguably sends the message that anyone can train for their personal goals, whether it’s chasing cars (and vaulting through trees), fitting through the doggie door, or whatever.
What are your goals? I’m participating in a 5k on Saturday, but what physical movement and enrichment do you hope to accomplish over the weekend?