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 · 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. 😛

behavior · brain · cognition · happiness · health · Mental · mental health · Nature · psychology

Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American

I’m working on an article for work, and came across this article as part of my research for the article. It pretty much sums up everything I wanted to say (darn it!).

Americans and their brains are preoccupied with work much of the time. Throughout history people have intuited that such puritanical devotion to perpetual busyness does not in fact translate to greater productivity and is not particularly healthy. What if the brain requires substantial downtime to remain industrious and generate its most innovative ideas? “Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets,” essayist Tim Kreider wrote in The New York Times. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration—it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

In contrast to the European Union, which mandates 20 days of paid vacation, the U.S. has no federal laws guaranteeing paid time off, sick leave or even breaks for national holidays. In the Netherlands 26 days of vacation in a given year is typical. In America, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong workers average 10 days off each year. Yet a survey by Harris Interactive found that, at the end of 2012, Americans had an average of nine unused vacation days. And in several surveys Americans have admited that they obsessively check and respond to e-mails from their colleagues or feel obliged to get some work done in between kayaking around the coast of Kauai and learning to pronounce humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

more via Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime – Scientific American.

The article focuses on mental downtime options like naps and meditation, which are awesome, but I would argue that being awake and aware, but also not actively engaged, like going for a walk or just sitting down and observing a garden, are good options too, especially since getting outside has also shown to be mentally reinvigorating.

behavior · children · creativity · education · health · learning · psychology

The Sometimes Overwhelming Power of Play

This is one of the best descriptions of the power of pretend play, especially dissecting how pretend play is hard work, and can be overwhelming, especially to someone who doesn’t have practice, which is why lots of play is important for practicing real-world feelings and situations like power, restraint, and questioning assumed priors.

Power is intoxicating.

It is also dangerous.

And it is especially dangerous when applied to four-year-olds.

Four-year-olds lack the experience to wield power responsibly. They have no idea what to do with it or how to control it.

The dinosaur costume was the greatest thing that had ever happened to me.

…All I knew was that being a dinosaur felt very different from being a person, and I was doing things that I had never even dreamed of doing before. …Of course, I had always had the ability to do these things — even as a person — but I didn’t know that. I’d just assumed that I was unable.  As a dinosaur, I didn’t have any of those assumptions.  It felt like I could do whatever I wanted without fear of repercussions.

read the whole comic via Hyperbole and a Half: Menace.

  • Menace (hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com)
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.