Tag mindfulness

{ Mindfulness Meditation }

I first was introduced to mindfulness meditation while interning in an in-patient psychiatric facility with schizophrenic and bipolar patients. One of my jobs there was to help my boss do a literature review on mindfulness for a pilot intervention study she was conducting to see how mindfulness meditation could improve the well-being of her patients.

While I did not stay at the internship long enough to see through her study, I’d expect that she’d find positive results. Mindfulness – or the “nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment” has been demonstrated to increase feelings of well being and help with psychiatric issues. Research has suggested it does this through attention regulation, body awareness, emotion regulation, and changes in perspective of self (Holzel et. al, 2011). Further studies have shown that this type of meditation can decrease stress, improve working memory and test scores, and help veterans deal with symptoms of PTSD, among many other positive health outcomes.

How does it work? Coming from the Buddhist tradition, mindfulness meditation involves cultivating a relaxed focused mind. It can be extremely difficult at first, but those who practice mindfulness meditation tell me that it gets easier over time. Personally, whenever I try to sit and meditate, my experience tends to be a lot like this:

My mind is either wandering or I am falling asleep.

…*

However, in an inspirational TED talk, Andy Puddicombe urges us all to take 10 minutes out of each day to practice mindfulness meditation. When is the last time you took 10 minutes to do absolutely nothing? Andy explains that in the “go-go-go” world we live in, we do not take the time to care for our minds. A Harvard study suggests that we spend on average 47% of each day mind wandering, which is actually linked to unhappiness. We are not living in the present moment. Mindfulness meditation helps us to get back into the here and now.

He says that at first meditation can feel a lot like having a wobbly tooth – you know it’s wobbly and it hurts but you can’t resist poking it with your tongue. Eventually, you learn to have focused relaxation, where you allow thoughts to come and go without getting agitated or stuck on them. You begin to see patterns in your own cognitions and are able to untangle them.

Ultimately, meditation offers the opportunity and potential to step back and get a different perspective on your thought processes. As Andy reminds us, “we can’t change everything that happens but we can change our experience of it.”

After listening to his talk, I am inspired to try mindfulness meditation again. I also imagine that teaching students mindfulness in the classroom could have major beneficial effects on their stress levels and attentional skills. Could you take 10 minutes out of your day to meditate? Could you take 10 minutes out of your school day to meditate with your students?

I’ll let you know how my little mindfulness meditation experiment goes this week. Let me know if any of you try it yourself.

Namaste.

Frame Your Day Using This Little Rethink to Increase Gratitude & Mindfulness …*

Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 1.32.53 PM

A new Indian restaurant recently opened near where I live and while I am thrilled with all the added delicious vegetarian options available in my neighborhood, I find my favorite part of ordering from them to be my encounters with their deliveryman. Each time he comes, he beams with a giant smile and shares tidbits of wisdom handed down from his mother. This weekend he told me about his mother’s 25-hour day and I thought it was a brilliant way to shape one’s frame of mind to increase gratitude and mindfulness in one’s life.

His mother would tell him, “I have twenty-five hours in my day.” When he asked how that was possible when everyone else only had twenty-four, she replied that she saved an extra hour, because no one ever knows about tomorrow.

I absolutely love this. Nothing is promised; tomorrow is not given to us. That’s something that we all know but most of us fail to fully appreciate. Most mornings I wake up to the jarring sound of my alarm, or the insistent meows and head-butts of my hungry needy cat and I get out of bed annoyed and groggy. I’m not a “morning person”, I generally wake up on the wrong side of the bed and anyone who has shared a roof with me has quickly learned not to speak to me until I’m done with my first cup of coffee (earning me the nickname of “bear” from my mother). But in the past few days, since hearing the 25-hour day anecdote, I’ve made a conscious effort to wake up and be grateful. When I open my eyes, I really take a moment to appreciate how lucky I am to be waking up to a new day. It may sound a bit cliché but really, it’s anything but. Life is unpredictable, circumstances change overnight and without notice. In claiming and savoring that moment, I feel I have added an hour to my day, it makes me less grumpy, more energized, happy, even.

The other aspect of this story that I really enjoyed was that the motivation behind adding another hour to each day had nothing to do with trying to be more productive or cram more things into a single day. It was about being present; about enjoying as much as possible what one is given. In the age of chronic busyness, stress and not-enough time, I found this focus on presence and gratitude greatly refreshing and inspiring.

Try it out and let me know how the 25-hour day works out for you …* 

Kicking Off National Simplify Your Life Week by Embracing Essentialism …*

“In the end, in the final analysis, anything less than the disciplined pursuit of the essential, will lead to the undisciplined pursuit of the non-essential. And that’s a price I don’t think many of us would deliberately choose.” – Greg McKeown

Today, August 1, marks the beginning of National Simplify Your Life Week. Obviously, ‘simplify’ can mean a lot of different things to different people. Are we talking about time, relationships, objects, all of the above? Ultimately, that’s for each one of us to decide. One avenue into simplifying–which is primarily focused on time, but applies equally well to relationships and objects–that I found particularly interesting is the idea of Essentialism, or the disciplined pursuit of less, coined by Greg McKeown.

To learn more about Essentialism and get some tips on how to become “absurdly selective” in how you use your time, head over to the Harvard Business Review and check out the 15 minute podcast where McKeown discusses more strategies to do things better by doing less.

In the meantime, here are two exercises, mentioned in the podcast, that McKeown suggests doing as you embark on your Essentialist journey:

  1. The Rule of 3 – Every three months, we should take three hours to identify what the three most important objectives are for us for the next three months. There’s lots of threes in there. But to me, it’s a very helpful rule of thumb. Because if we don’t do this, we are just buried now in the day-to-day.
  2.  OK. If I had just a week left to live, what would I do? If I had a month left to live, what would I do? If I had a year left to live, what would I do? And then finally, if I have a full rest of my life left to live, what will I do? And that exercise, which can easily be done with one hour, might be the most important hour of our life. Because it’s helping to address this error of judgment we make about short term versus long term. It’s helping us to see really what is essential to us. And when you go through the exercise, what happens, I think, is that the fog of our day-to-day life starts to lift. Because in a normal life, every day we tend to think everything’s important, and it’s almost as if it’s all equivalently important. But actually, it’s not. We’re just tricked by the urgency. We’re tricked by the latest email, the latest tweet, the latest text, to make us think that this thing should garner our primary attention. But when you go through this exercise, it’s very obvious that that isn’t the case. And so it helps us to make sure our day-to-day tactics are aligned with what we want our intended lifelong strategy to be.

simplify & rethink …*

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being …*

6 Easily Implementable Positive Psychology Interventions to Enhance Mental & Physical Well-Being ...* | rethinked.org

Over the last several weeks I have been exploring and writing about the field of Positive Psychology. In many of my posts, I shared small and easily implementable interventions suggested by Martin Seligman in Authentic Happiness to translate the findings of Positive Psychology into tangible benefits in your daily life. I have been experimenting with most of these in my own life over the past few weeks and starting next week, I will share my discoveries, insights and opinions about the benefits of each of these interventions. In the meantime, I’ve assembled all of the exercises in one place in case you want to try them for yourself.

rethink & design your well-being …*

1. GRATITUDE NIGHT 

Select one important person from your past who has made a major positive difference in your life and to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks. (Do not confound this selection with newfound romantic love, or with the possibility of future gain.) Write a testimonial just long enough to cover one laminated page. Take your time composing this; my students and I found ourselves taking several weeks, composing on buses and as we fell asleep at night. Invite that person to your home, or travel to that person’s home. It is important that you do this face to face, not just in writing or on the phone. Do not tell the person the purpose of the visit in advance; a simple “I just want to see you” will suffice. Wine and cheese do not matter, but bring a laminated version of your testimonial with you as a gift. When all settles down, read your testimonial aloud slowly, with expression and with eye contact. Then let the other person react unhurriedly. Reminisce together about the concrete events that make this person so important to you. (If you are so moved, please do send me a copy at Seligman@psych.upenn.edu) (74)

2. GRATITUDE JOURNAL

Set aside five free minutes each night for the next two weeks, preferably right before brushing your teeth for bed. Prepare a pad with one page for each of the next fourteen days. The first night take the Satisfaction with Life Scale and the General Happiness Scale and score them. Then think back over the previous twenty-four hours and write down, on separate lines, up to five things in your life you are grateful or thankful for. Common examples include “waking up this morning,” “the generosity of friends,” “God for giving me determination,” “wonderful parents,” “robust good health, and the “Rolling Stones” (or some other artistic inspiration). Repeat the Life Satisfaction and General Happiness Scales on the final night, two weeks after you start, and compare your scores to the first night’s scores. If this worked for you, incorporate it into your nightly routine. (75)

3. REACH – PRACTICE FORGIVENESS 

R stands for recall the hurt, in as objective a way as you can. Do not think of the other person as evil. Do not wallow in self-pity. Take deep, slow and calming breaths as you visualize the event. (79)

E stands for empathize. Try to understand from the perpetrator’s point of view why this person hurt you. This is not easy, but make up a plausible story that the transgressor might tell if challenged to explain. To help you do this, remember the following:

  • When others feel their survival is threatened, they will hurt innocents.
  • People who attack others are themselves usually in a state of fear, worry, and hurt.
  • The situation a person finds himself in, and not his underlying personality, can lead to hurting.
  • People often don’t think when they hurt others; they just lash out. (80)

A stands for giving the altruistic gift of forgiveness, another difficult step. First recall a time you transgressed, felt guilty, and were forgiven. This was a gift you were given by another person because you needed it, and you were grateful for this gift. Giving this gift usually makes us feel better. But we do not give this gift out of self-interest. Rather, we give it because it is for the trespasser’s own good. Tell yourself you can rise above hurt and vengeance. If you give the gift grudgingly, however, it will not set you free. (80)

C stands for commit yourself to forgive publicly. In Worthington’s groups, his clients write a “certificate of forgiveness,” write a letter of forgiveness to the offender, write it in their diary, write a poem or song, or tell a trusted friend what they have done. These are all contracts of forgiveness that lead to the final step. (81)

H stands for hold onto forgiveness. This is another difficult step, because memories of the event will surely recur. Forgiveness is not erasure; rather, it is a change in the tag lines that a memory carries. It is important to realize that the memories do not mean unforgiveness. Don’t dwell vengefully on the memories, and don’t wallow in them. Remind yourself that you have forgiven and read the documents you composed. (81)

Learn to Cultivate Gratitude & Forgiveness to Enhance Satisfaction About the Past …*

4. DISPUTING PESSIMISTIC BELIEFS ABOUT SETBACKS USING THE ABCDE MODEL

During the next five adverse events you face in your daily life, listen closely for your beliefs, observe the consequences, and dispute your beliefs vigorously. Then observe the energy that occurs as you succeed in dealing with the negative beliefs. Record all of this. These five adverse events can be minor: the mail is late, your call isn’t returned, or the kid pumping your gas doesn’t wash the windshield. In each of these use the four techniques of self-disputation. (98)

Do it in your daily life over the next week. Don’t search out adversity, but as it comes along, tune in carefully to your internal dialogue. When you hear the negative beliefs, dispute them. Beat them into the ground, then record the ABCDE.

  • Adversity:
  • Belief:
  • Consequences:
  • Disputation:
  • Energization:

(100)

Cultivating Optimism & Hope to Enhance Well-Being, Performance & Positive Emotions About the Future …*

5. HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY – AN INTERVENTION FOR ENHANCING THE PLEASURES

I assign you (as I do my students) to have a beautiful day. Set aside a free day this month to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Pamper yourself. Design, in writing, what you will do from hour to hour. Use as many of the techniques above as you can. Do not let the bustle of life interfere, and carry out the plan. (111)

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …*

6. IDENTIFY YOUR HIGHEST, WEAKEST & SIGNATURE STRENGTHS

Head over to the Authentic Happiness website, and under, the tab labeled “Questionnaires” you will find the VIA Strengths Survey. You will need to create an account on the website and there is a fee to take the test, I did it and thought it was worth it. You will receive a 30 page detailed report of your character strengths in rank order. You will also learn about the benefits of each of your signature strengths, ways to cultivate them and avoid the pitfalls of mismanaging your aptitudes. 

Once you have taken the survey, Seligman’s next exercise is to evaluate your results–do the strengths the survey identified feel authentic to you?

Typically you will have five or fewer scores of 9 or 10, and these are your highest strengths, at least as your reported them. […] You will also have several low scores in the 4 (or lower) to 6 range, and these are your weaknesses.

Look at the list of your top five strengths. Most of these will feel authentic to you, but one or two of them may not be the real you. My strengths on this test were love of learning, perseverance, leadership, originality, and spirituality. Four of these feel like the real me, but leadership is not one. I can lead quite adequately if I am forced to, but it isn’t a strength that I own. When I use it, I feel drained, I count the hours until it is done, and I am delighted when the task is over and I’m back with my family.

I believe that each person possesses several signature strengths. These are strengths of character that a person self-consciously owns, celebrates, and (if he or she can arrange life successfully) exercises every day in work, love, play and parenting. Take your list of top strengths, and for each one ask if any of these criteria apply:

  • A sense of ownership and authenticity (“This is the real me”)
  • A feeling of excitement while displaying it, particularly at first
  • A rapid learning curve as the strength is first practiced
  • Continuous learning of new ways to enact the strength
  • A sense of yearning to find ways to use it
  • A feeling of inevitability in using the strength (“Try and stop me”)
  • Invigorating rather than exhaustion while using the strength
  • The creation and pursuit of personal projects that revolve around it.
  • Joy, zest, enthusiasm, even ecstasy while using it.

If one or more of these apply to your top strengths, they are signature strengths. Use them as frequently as you can and in as many settings. If none of the signature criteria apply to one or two of your strengths, they may not be the aptitudes you want to deploy in work, love, play, and parenting. (160)

Learn to Identify, Cultivate & Deploy Your Unique Character Strengths to Live A Full & Authentic Life …*

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …*

One aspect of Positive Psychology that I find most exciting, is the way in which it nuances our understanding of happiness. We tend to view happiness as a single, static entity– something to possess or to be. Positive Psychology frames happiness as a multifaceted and dynamic process involving a wide range of emotions and magnitudes. It is not an all or nothing endeavor, happiness is a process–the journey is the destination— and it comes in many shades and intensities. So far, we’ve examined some scientifically vetted ways to increase happiness about the past and enhance positive emotion in the future, today we’ll turn our attention to understanding happiness in the present. Positive emotion in the present is divided into two main categories, what Seligman terms the “pleasures” and the “gratifications:”

The pleasures are delights that have clear sensory and strong emotional components, what philosophers call “raw feels:” ecstasy, thrills, orgasm, delight, mirth, exuberance, and comfort. They are evanescent, and they involve little, if any, thinking. (102)

The gratifications are activities we very much like doing, but they are not necessarily accompanied by any raw feelings at all. Rather, the gratifications engage us fully, we become immersed and absorbed in them, and we lose self-consciousness. Enjoying a great conversation, rock climbing, reading a good book, dancing, and making a slam dunk are all examples of activities in which time stops for us, our skills match the challenge, and we are in touch with our strengths. The gratifications last longer than the pleasures, they involve quite a lot of thinking and interpretation, they do not habituate easily, and they are undergirded by our strengths and virtues. (102)

For those of you familiar with Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s work, you will no doubt have noticed that the gratifications are interchangeable with the concept of flow. Seligman devotes an entire section of Authentic Happiness to the gratifications, which we will look at next Tuesday.

For today let’s focus on the pleasures, what they are and how we can enhance and amplify them in our daily lives. The pleasures can be divided into two categories–the “bodily pleasures” and the “higher pleasures.” The distinction between the two has to do with the degree of concscious thought that they require:

THE BODILY PLEASURES These delights are immediate, come through the senses, and are momentary. They need little or no interpretation. The sense organs, for evolutionary reasons, are hooked quite directly to positive emotion; touching, tasting, smelling, moving the body, seeing and hearing can directly evoke pleasure. (103)

THE HIGHER PLEASURESThe higher pleasures have a lot in common with the bodily pleasures. Like the latter, they have positive “raw feels,” are momentary, melt easily, and habituate readily. But they are considerably more complex in what sets them off externally. They are more cognitive, and they are also vastly more numerous and more varied than the bodily pleasures. (104)

The high-intensity pleasures include rapture, bliss, ecstasy, thrill, hilarity, euphoria, kick, buzz, elation, and excitement. The moderate-intensity pleasures include ebullience, sparkle, vigor, glee, mirth, gladness, good cheer, enthusiasm, attraction and fun. The low-intensity pleasures include comfort, harmony, amusement, satiation, and relaxation. (104)

3 PATHWAYS TO ENHANCING THE PLEASURES

As Seligman notes, no one is more expert on the things that bring you pleasure in your life than you are. What Positive Psychology can offer are tools for enhancing the pleasures that you enjoy.

{ COUNTERING HABITUATION }

When I was seven years-old, my family moved to the Netherlands and I discovered a veritable passion for Gouda cheese. I simply couldn’t get enough of it and decreed, with the characteristic pomp of young children, that it was all I wanted to eat for lunch. My mother complied and everyday, along with fruits and vegetables, I would find a Gouda sandwich in my lunchbox. My love affair with Gouda lasted a full month until one day, I opened up my lunchbox and found I had lost my appetite. My beloved Gouda now looked like plasticky orange slabs and I longed for the Brie and Camembert of my homeland. I went home that evening and proclaimed the Gouda age over. The issue with all external stimuli from which we derive pleasure–whether it be cheese, the smell of lavender, or a Fragonard painting–is that we are neurologically wired to stop responding to it once we are repeatedly exposed to the stimulus.

Rapidly repeated indulgence in the same pleasure does not work. […] this process called habituation or adaptation, is an inviolable neurological fact of life. Neurons are wired to respond to novel events, and not to fire if the events do not provide new information. At the single-cell level, there is a so-called refractory period such that the neuron simply cannot fire again for a time (usually a few seconds). At the level of the whole brain, we notice events that are novel and disregard those that are not. The more redundant the events, the more they merge into the unnoticed background. (105) 

Luckily, Seligman shares two potent antidotes to our innate tendency to habituate to external stimulus: strategic spacing of the pleasures and engineering surprise.

– STRATEGIC SPACING –

One key way to keep habituation at bay is to engage in strategic spacing and diversification of your pleasures:

Inject into your life as many events that produce pleasure as you can, but spread them out, letting more time elapse between them than you normally do. If you find that your desire to engage in a particular pleasure diminishes to zero (or below, to aversion) when you space it far enough apart, you are probably dealing with an addiction and not a pleasure. (106)

Try to find the optimal spacing that keeps habituation of your pleasures at bay. If you love the music of Bruce Springsteen, experiment with listening both more and less frequently. You will discover an interval that keeps his music freshest. (106)

– ENGINEERING SURPRISE – 

The second tool that Seligman proposes to keep yourself from habituating to your pleasures and losing the positive emotions that they create is one that I found particularly interesting, which is to engineer surprise for yourself and others:

Surprise, as well as spacing, keeps pleasures from habituating. Try to take yourself by surprise—or, even better, arrange it so that the people you live with or otherwise see frequently surprise each other with “presents” of the pleasures. It does not need to be on the scale of a dozen roses from the florist. An unexpected cup of coffee will do, but it is worth five minutes each day to create a pleasing little surprise for your spouse, your children, or a coworker: his favorite music on when he arrives home, rubbing her back while she is recording receipts on the computer, a vase full of flowers on your officemate’s desk, a simple note of affection. Such acts are reciprocally contagious. (107)

What an excellent design thinking challenge that is: how might we engineer more surprise into our daily lives and those around us?

{ SAVORING

Savoring, which is divided into four mechanisms: “basking (receiving praise and congratulations), thanksgiving (expressing gratitude for blessings), marveling (losing the self in the wonder of the moment), and luxuriating (indulging the senses)” (109) is about enhancing our experience and awareness of the present moment. There is a nascent field of study focused on better understanding the mechanisms of savoring, pioneered by Fred B. Bryant and Joseph Veroff of Loyola University, and their research gives us five tangible techniques to cultivate our capacity for savoring:

5 TECHNIQUES TO PROMOTE SAVORING

  1. Sharing with others – You can seek out others to share the experience and tell others how much you value the moment. This is the single strongest predictor of level of pleasure.
  2. Memory-building –Take mental photographs or even a physical souvenir of the event, and reminisce about it later with others.
  3. Self Congratulation – Don’t be afraid of pride. Tell yourself how impressed others are, and remember how long you’ve waited for this to happen.
  4. Sharpening perceptions- Focusing on certain elements and blocking out others.
  5. Absorption – Let yourself get totally immersed and try not to think, just sense. Do not remind yourself of other things you should be doing, wonder what comes next, or consider the ways in which the events could be improved upon. (108) 

{ MINDFULNESS

Much like savoring, mindfulness enables us to be fully aware and engaged with the present moment and counters our innate tendency to “act and interact automatically, without much thinking.” There are loads of available resources and articles on mindfulness and if you’re interested in learning more about its benefits and tools for enhancing your capacity for it, I highly recommend a visit to Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center website. As a preview, Seligman sites the following study from Ellen Langer on the effects of mindfulness:

Ellen Langer, a Harvard Professor and the leading academic in the field of mindlessness, had people try to butt into a line of office workers waiting to copy material. When the would-be-queue-jumpers asked, “Would you mind if I cut in front of you?” they were refused. When they asked, “Would you mind if I cut in front of you, because I have to copy something,” they were allowed to cut in. Langer has developed a set of techniques for making us more mindful, allowing us to see the present moment anew. Underlying these techniques is the principle of shifting perspective to make a stale situation fresh. Tenth graders, for example, are assigned a history chapter about Stephen Douglas and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. One group reads the passage from the perspective of Douglas, asking what he would think and feel, and from the perspective of his grandchild as well. This group learns much more than one that is just assigned to learn the material. (110)

Mindful attention to the present occurs much more readily in a slow state of mind than when one is racing future-mindedly through experience. The Eastern practice of meditation comes in many forms, but almost all of them, done regularly, slow down the speeding Western mind. (They almost all are well documented to dampen anxiety as well.) This in turn supports a mindset that is attentive to the present. (110)

HAVE A BEAUTIFUL DAY – AN INTERVENTION FOR ENHANCING THE PLEASURES

In Authentic Happiness, Seligman proposes the following exercise to practice the various mechanisms that he shares for enhancing your pleasures:

I assign you (as I do my students) to have a beautiful day. Set aside a free day this month to indulge in your favorite pleasures. Pamper yourself. Design, in writing, what you will do from hour to hour. Use as many of the techniques above as you can. Do not let the bustle of life interfere, and carry out the plan. (111)

Why don’t they assign things like that in k-12?!

*

Source: Seligman, Martin. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential For Lasting Fulfillment. New York: Free Press, 2002. Print.

Pleasures vs. Gratifications – Understanding & Enhancing the Various Types of Happiness In the Present …* | rethinked.org

My cat, B, a natural expert on enhancing the pleasures …*

Friday Link Fest…*

Friday  Link Fest...* | rethinked.org | Photo by Elsa Fridman

READ

When Empathy Hurts, Compassion Can Heal ~ A new neuroscientific study shows that compassion training can help us cope with other people’s distress. Research suggests you can cultivate a compassionate mindset through encouraging cooperation, practicing mindfulness, refraining from placing blame on others, acting against inequality, and being receptive to others’ feelings without adopting those feelings as your own. via Greater Good Science Center, published August 22, 2013

Closing the Chasm Between Strategy and Execution ~ Strategy and execution is a false dichotomy, unnaturally sheared apart in order to divide labor in increasingly complex organizations. It’s an efficient approach. Alone, the shearing isn’t a problem. The problem is that both sides don’t see it as their responsibility to intelligently pull the two sides back together again. They leave a chasm, hoping that it will miraculously close on its own. The best strategists and executors don’t see a hand-off between strategy and execution. They see an integrated whole. They continuously hand ideas back and forth throughout all phases of a project, strengthening them together. via Harvard Business Review, published August 22, 2013.

How Four Years Can (and Should) Transform You: Mark Edmundson’s Essays Ask, ‘Why Teach?’~ Mr. Edmundson reminds us of the power strong teachers have to make students rethink who they are and whom they might become. This is what a real education is all about. via New York Times, published August 20, 2013.

The Real Neuroscience of Creativity ~ The latest findings from the real neuroscience of creativity suggest that the right brain/left brain distinction is not the right one when it comes to understanding how creativity is implemented in the brain. Creativity does not involve a single brain region or single side of the brain. Instead, the entire creative process– from the initial burst of inspiration to the final polished product– consists of many interacting cognitive processes and emotions. Depending on the stage of the creative process, and what you’re actually attempting to create, different brain regions are recruited to handle the task. via Scientific American, published August 19, 2013.

An Inventor Wants One Less Wire to Worry ~ A great profile of Meredith Perry who has the mindset and habits of a true rethinker…* via New York Times, published August 17, 2013.

Growing shoes and furniture: A design-led biomaterial revolution ~ En Vie (Alive), curated by Reader and Deputy Director of the Textile Futures Research Center at Central Saint Martins College Carole Collet, is an exposition for what happens when material scientists, architects, biologists, and engineers come together with designers to ask what the future will look like. According to them, it will be a world where plants grow our products, biological fabrication replaces traditional manufacturing, and genetically reprogrammed bacteria build new materials, energy, or even medicine. via Ars Technica, published August 18, 2013.

Make Your Work More Meaningful ~ You learn to make your work more meaningful yourself. While it helps enormously to have conditions in place that facilitate work meaning (like autonomy in deciding how you do your work), it’s important to realize that meaning is ultimately something you create on your own. Indeed, even in jobs that may look dismal from the outside, there are always steps you can take to build the kind of meaning that will make you feel better and work better. via Harvard Business Review, published August 16, 2013.

10 of the Most Counterintuitive Pieces of Advice from Famous Entrepreneurs ~ Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in what we ‘should’ be doing that we forget there are others who have gone against the grain and had it work out for them. via Creativity Post, published August 19, 2013.

What A Mallard’s Feet Can Teach You About Learning Tools ~ Often I see amazing educators using tools, apps and programs to create the most fantastic learning experiences for the students. These educators make it look easy. It is like watching a duck as it gracefully glides across the pond. The thing to remember is the graceful glide of that duck is powered by the fervent paddling of webbed feet under the water. via Teach Thought, published August 20, 2013.

“I Approached Business the Way a 6-Year-Old Would.” ~ Fast Company has an outstanding piece on the revitalization of Detroit, and all of the do-ers that are making it happen, many with little or no experience. It’s a must read for anyone launching a project. Andy Didorosi is one of the people profiled, and he shared how he started a bus company to help fill in for Detroit’s gutted public transportation system. via 99u, published August 20, 2013.

Google’s New Chat Service Connects Information Seekers With Experts ~ Helpouts by Google is a new way to connect people who need advice with experts in different fields. It consists of face-to-face video chats powered by Google+ Hangouts, where people can pay to get help from people who are able to monetize their knowledge and skills by covering areas like cooking, gardening, computers and electronics. via PSFK, published August 22, 2013.

The Magic of Metaphor: What Children’s Minds Teach Us about the Evolution of the Imagination ~ Metaphorical thinking — our instinct not just for describing but for comprehending one thing in terms of another, for equating I with an other — shapes our view of the world, and is essential to how we communicate, learn, discover, and invent. Metaphor is a way of thought long before it is a way with words. via Brainpickings, published August 19, 2013.

LOOK

7 Essential Life Lessons From Kids’ To-Do Lists ~ These sometimes-hilarious, always-adorable to-do lists written by children serve as refreshing life lesson reminders. via Mashable, published August 22, 2013.

Smart Interaction Lab Presents: TOTEM: Artifacts for Brainstorming ~ How can interactive objects encourage inspiration and dialog during brainstorming sessions? We worked together as a team of multidisciplinary researchers and designers to explore how we can improve people’s experiences of the ideation process through tangible interaction. Our solution was TOTEM—a family of three unique objects that help people get inspired and stay engaged in creative conversations and debates in order to generate new ideas. It is composed of a stack of three separate but complementary objects: Batón, Echo and Alterego. via Core77, published August 21, 2013.

Feeling brain-dead? Go for a walk: Your brain on walking, in fMRI ~ fMRI scan indicating increased brain activity associated with happiness after a 20-minute walk vs. 20 minutes in sedentary mode. via Explore, published August 12, 2013.

249 Bloom’s Taxonomy Verbs For Critical Thinking ~ Bloom’s Taxonomy’s verbs–also know as power verbs or thinking verbs–are extraordinarily powerful instructional planning tools. via Teach Thought, published August 18, 2013.

Play & Learn: A new interactive board game, laXmi, designed by Akshay Sharma, aims to teach illiterate Indian women about financial literacy in a fun and engaging way ~ via Design Indaba, published August 19, 2013.

Torafu’s Haunted Art Gallery for Kids at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art ~ In an attempt to better engage the youngest visitors to the Museum of Contemporary Art in TokyoTorafu Architects created a special art gallery just for kids called Haunted House. On entering the exhibition a few familiar artworks appear hung in frames around a large white cube, but something is clearly amiss as everything appears to be moving. via Colossal, published August 18, 2013.

How To Draw Out Your Worst Fears ~ For her Fear Project, Julie Elman asks people about their fears and then lets her illustrative mind go wild gathering and visually interpreting their fears. And in committing to the project, she confronts her own creative fears in a circuitous way. via NPR, published August 15, 2013.

Off Ground: Playful Seating Elements For Public Spaces ~ Exploring different playful elements and seating alternatives, ‘off-ground’ by amsterdam-based designers Jair Straschnow and Gitte Nygaard is made from recycled materials. The public installation is a different approach to the way public space is used and perceived, basing the design on fun and play for adults. ‘Play is free, is in fact freedom. Play is essential to our well being. Why does play most commonly associated with children? Why do all playing facilities in public spaces get scaled-down to kid’s size? Why do all seating facilities in public spaces sum-up to rigid benches?’ via Designboom, published August 5, 2013.

Matali Crasset Creates Living Pods for Modern Artists in the Forests of France ~ Parisian designer Matali Crasset has produced a series of low-impact living pods in which modern artists can spend a summer residency while working in a natural setting. via Inhabitat, published August 22, 2013

WATCH

Carol Dweck on the power of “Yet” ~ It’s just one little word, but says world-renowned Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, it has the power to inspire your child to do incredible things. via Great Schools, published June 26, 2013.

David Kelley on Creative Confidence, Building to Think, Defining Innovation, Multidisciplinary Teams & So Much More…*

David Kelley, founder of IDEO consultants and Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, shares his thoughts and experiences on a wide range of topics in this engaging hour-long conversation and Q & A with longtime television journalist, Richard Sergay. From building creative confidence, embracing failure, learning by building, multidisciplinary teams, defining innovation to facing his own mortality and his friendship with Steve Jobs, Kelley’s pointed and valuable insights are sure to resonate deeply with anyone interested in rethinking…* how we approach the challenges of the 21st century. I have transcribed some of my favorite stories and insights from the conversation, which took place at the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships 8th Reunion & Conference at Stanford, July 11-14, but the full video is well worth a watch.

d.school founder taps into humankind’s innate creativity | via Knight Foundation, published July 18, 2013.

{ CURIOSITY } As a designer, you kind of do everything in your life with intention. You know, like I decided to wear these shoes, or this wall is painted exactly or not painted the way exactly because of intention. And so, when you’re that way, you’re always wondering why things are because you’re about to have to design the future and so being curious about the way things are now and being empathetic to people is the way that you […] you know, if you’re responsible for painting a picture of the future with your ideas in it, being hyper diligent about understanding what makes things stick.

{ CREATIVITY } Everybody is wildly creative–go into a kindergarten class, go into a first grade, just don’t go into a fifth grade class. But as long as you go early enough, it’s really clear that everybody is wildly creative. When we started working on this notion of building creative confidence in people, we were thinking we would have to do some remedial work, it’s just not true. I mean hundreds of students come through this building and they’re all wildly creative. We just have to remove some of the blocks. What happens is, somewhere along the way, you opt out of thinking of yourself as creative–a teacher said that wasn’t a very good drawing, or you don’t pick up the piano in the first lesson. I mean, I know what this is because I opted out of athletics. I said, “I’m not athletic,” and that allowed me to play sports for the rest of my life but I told everybody that I wasn’t athletic so they lowered the bar. If you say, “I’m not creative,” that’s a strategy for having people not judge you. Because when we look at it, the big fear is this fear of being judged. The reason you move from thinking of yourself being creative, to thinking of yourself as not creative, is really a fear of being judged–that other kids can draw better than you or your idea is not going to be up to snuff.

{ MULTIDISCIPLINARY TEAMS & THE GENESIS OF THE D.SCHOOL } People have been talking about multidisciplinary teams for like 25 years and at Stanford, I can tell you, that meant that faculty from different departments came together, they had a meeting, they fought a little bit and they said, “I’m never coming back to this meeting again.” And then we said, “check, we’re multidisciplinary.” But what I saw after I got tenure and I started teaching classes with different professors–I taught with an art professor, I taught with a computer science professor, I taught with a business school professor–is that when the students from the different departments came together, it was kind of easier to come up with innovations because they were coming from different places IF there was a glue that held them together. The problem with the meetings, where they didn’t work, is that there was no common methodology. So what everybody wanted to do is to do the same thing that they are doing now and have everybody else do it that way. And so the idea for the d.school came from the fact that I noticed people would sign up for our methodology. […] What we saw early on was that design, for whatever reason, was a methodology, was nonthreatening. It’s all so human-centered, so when you got people from different backgrounds together and you said, “Ok, let’s go out and build empathy for the people we’re trying to help in Africa or waiting for the train, or checking in to the hospital,” for some reason, all these various disciplines, these big shot professors who had been trying to win a Nobel Prize, going in in their way, we’re willing to do that. So I felt like I was just, luckily, in the discipline that had a methodology, we call it design thinking, that people would sign up to do. And so I decided that I had to try to touch as many people at the university as possible and I proposed this notion of an institute that could bring all seven schools together and that we would do it in this way that I had seen prototyped in these other classes. […] It’s really about this notion that in this multidisciplinary world, I think diversity is the number one thing that correlates to better innovation. So different people, with different ideas, from different backgrounds–if you can get them to have a methodology where they can build on each other’s ideas, you, by definition, get to places, to breakthrough ideas because those brains have never done the mind-meld to the result in that new thing. The reason that I ended up at the center of this is that our methodology seems to be a universally acceptable way to do innovation, problem-solving, and that kind of stuff.

{ DEFINING SUCCESS AT THE D.SCHOOL } Our success, if you can call it that, has to do with finding a way to get these students to think of themselves in a creative way. And it’s through this confidence that they build by doing–everything is a project, everything is a real world project, and so they see that they have this sense of the world and that they can do what they set out to do.

{ DEFINING INNOVATION } Somebody, I’m trying to remember who, said, “innovation is creativity plus implementation.” I think that resonates with me. Being creative is this notion of having an open mind and trying different things and not having this fear of being judged or failing or that kind of stuff. But innovation is doing something that has real impact on the world. So taking those new ideas and sorting them and synthesizing them and deciding what to do and measuring its impact is really innovation. I usually try to stay away from the word creativity, because it has this meaning associated with talent and artistic that I don’t really mean when I say “creative,” and try to use the word innovation most of the time.

{ FAILURE } The trick is to kind of fail early on so that you get to a new place. […] We reward a spectacular failure and a spectacular success in the same way in the early stages of the project. That allows you to have insights and build a point of view that comes from a wider range of possibilities because you’re not fearful about failing. But then, as we start to converge, we’re not looking for failure, as it were. […] It’s actually hard to fail in our process because it’s so iterative. So, you basically come up with ideas, you show them to everybody that is a stakeholder, including the person who is going to use it, they tell you what’s wrong with it and then you go back and redesign it or even redefine the problem. […] And so, if you do enough iterations, it’s hard to have a failure in the end, because it’s built in that we’re going to cycle through and improve and improve and show it to the people. So we’re not surprised when the product or service goes out into the world because we’ve messed with a lot of people before that.

{ BUILD TO THINK } We really believe, at IDEO and the d.school, that the kind of fastest way to get to an innovation is to not do a lot of strategizing and planning–you know, cash flow analysis out ten years and stuff like that–and that all that planning is useful but AFTER you’ve done what we would say ‘building’. We call it a bias toward action. So, if you want to improve the experience of taking the train to San Francisco, you could start analyzing the train and all that stuff but what we would do is just go talk to Caltrans and have them give us a car and try a bunch of stuff. You know, like tear the seats out, serve coffee on the platform or try to get our bikes on–do a bunch of stuff. We think it’s a way of thinking. This building, this doing, prototyping, whatever we’re going to call it, is a way of thinking. As opposed to the kind of grubby thing manufacturing does after all the decisions are made. We spend a lot of time getting the students and at IDEO, to kind of think about how can you be really clever about jumping right in and finding out as much as you can from building. And we don’t mean like in a machine shop, we mean by doing something in the real place, with the real people and it really works for us because then you start to have real empathy, you start to have real understanding of the situation–what’s really going on on that platform when people are waiting for the train and what’s really going on when they find their way out of the station or how they book their seat in the first place.

[ H/T ] d.school founder taps into humankind’s innate creativity via John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships at Stanford, published July 18, 2013.

Friday Link Fest {December 14 -21, 2012}

Friday Link Fest {December 14 -21, 2012} (Photograph by Elsa Fridman)

An enchanted tree grows in Brooklyn…*

ARTICLES

The Power of Concentration ~ Mindfulness may have a prophylactic effect: it can strengthen the areas that are most susceptible to cognitive decline. via The New York Times, published December 15, 2012.

Meet Migaloo, World’s First “Archaeology Dog” ~ Australian dog trainer Gary Jackson of Multinational K9 has trained a black lab mix named Migaloo as the world’s first “archaeology dog,” able to locate bones that are hundreds of years old. via National Geographic, published December 10, 2012.

Creativity Happens When You Least Expect It ~ When you have to be creative, working at your non-optimal time of day may actually be optimal. via The Creativity Post, published December 7, 2012.

A Conversation with S. Matthew Liao: Studying Ethical Questions as the Brain’s Black Box Is Unlocked ~ In a world of proliferating professions, S. Matthew Liao has a singular title: neuroethicist. Dr. Liao, 40, the director of the bioethics program at New York University, deploys the tools of philosophy, history, psychology, religion and ethics to understand the impact of neuroscientific breakthroughs. via The New York Times, published December 17, 2012.

The New Nonprofit Is Transparent, Open, And Engaged ~ Beth Kanter, whose blog is a clearinghouse for information on how organizations can use new technology for good, is rethinking…* how a nonprofit acts in the digital world. via FastCo.Exist, published December 12, 2012.

 

VIDEOS

What Architecture Has to Say About Education: Three New Hampshire Schools by HMFH Architects ~ How can architecture help children develop the early skills, creativity and inquisitiveness needed to become the independent and inspired adults of future generations? via Arch Daily, published December 18, 2012.

(via HMFHArch on Youtube, published November 29, 2012)

Jennifer Aaker: What Makes Us Happy? ~  via Stanford Business on Youtube. Published November 29, 2012.

 

Beetbox: a Musical Instrument Powered by Vegetables by Scott Garner ~ Conceived as an exploration of perspective and expectations by American designer Scott Garner, ‘Beetbox’ is an instrument that allows users to play drum beats by interacting with vegetables. powered by a raspberry Pi with a capacitive touch sensor and  an audio amplifier in a handmade wooden enclosure via Design Boom, published December 18, 2012.

(BeetBox from Scott Garner on Vimeo.)

IMAGES

A Table that Folds Out Like a Map ~ Swedish designers Sigrid Stromgren’s and Sanna Lindström’s collaborative work, the Grand Central Table. via Lost At E Minor, published December 17, 2012.

The Noun Project: Using Iconic Design Tools for Social Change ~ The Noun Project, a platform for creating and sharing a global symbolic language, hosts a library of ever-growing and iterating icons on their site that anybody can access, use, and contribute to. via GOOD, published December 16, 2012.

Brooklyn-Made Furniture Built From Sandy’s Scraps ~ Reclaim NYC invites local artists and designers to create furniture using material reclaimed from storm cleanup sites, then auctions off the work to benefit Sandy relief efforts. “We hope our fallen trees and storm-damaged building materials can be reborn as objects that represent the city’s recovery,” write the group’s founders. On December 19, Reclaim NYC will host its first auction, with work made by 24 artists and designers. via FastCo.Design, published December 14, 2012.

LEGO House by James May in the UK ~ via Design Milk, published September 1, 2009.

NASA’s New Spacesuit Looks Just Like Buzz Lightyear’s ~ via Design Taxi, published December 22, 2012.

A Behind the Scenes Look at How Hobbit Legos are Made ~ The extensive design required for producing specialized Legos, like the ones for “Star Wars” or this year’s “The Hobbit,” requires months of engineering. A behind-the-scenes look at the design and production process. via the Wall Street Journal, published December 19, 2012.

%d bloggers like this: