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Networks of Nature: Integrating Urban Farming in the city Fabric

Our programme Planting Seeds of Empowerment Mental Health and Well-being of the Communities starts this year with a new project created in collaboration with international organisations to emphasise the importance of nature in the mental health and well-being of people residing in heavily urbanised cities.

The project entitled: Networks of Nature Integrating Urban Farming in the city Fabric will introduce and educative platform that will provide knowledge about the importance of individual and community actions in urban farming activities as accelerators for positive environmental change in Indonesia, Philippines, and Singapore.

Joining efforts with two partnering organisations Binatani Sejahtera Foundation (Indonesia) and Technical Assistance Movement for People and Environment Inc (TAMPEI Philippines), Networks of Nature will provide a platform for empowerment towards nature actions to enable a shared sense of community and support. Three main educational modules will be developed focusing on: Urban farming, improving mental health through urban farming, and adaptable architecture infrastructures for urban farming. Our combined efforts from Indonesia, Philippines, and Singapore will bring different sets of skills and expertise that will also help those engaged in the Networks of Nature to feel supported and connected to a global community.

Networks of Nature Integrating Urban Farming in the city Fabric was selected among the best five projects during the Gobeshona Global Conference in January this year. We will be running this project with the financial support of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development (ICCCD), Climate Justice Resilience Funds, and Gobeshona Global conference.

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EASCAPE VR – our first Virtual Healthy Environment

EASCAPE VR – our first Virtual Healthy Environment launching soon!

Thanks to Virtual Reality technology, our mission of providing science-based mental health tools through bringing people closer to nature, and specifically Contemplative Landscapes, has taken life in the form of EASCAPE.

It’s our free VR app that enables you to enjoy Contemplative Landscapes from the comfort of your home.

Why EASCAPE?

Because it lets you escape from everyday stress to immerse yourself in the healing power of nature, to ease the mind and enjoy beautiful Contemplative Landscapes carefully curated by scientists, whenever and wherever you decide to – all you need is a pair of VR goggles. After an intensive season of work and scientific testing with our partners, EPIC VR and Brainstorm, we are ready to share this exciting news with you - our app is becoming available very soon!

Best part? It’s completely free!

To make sure you don’t miss the grand release, you can subscribe to our newsletter (https://eascape.org), like and follow our Facebook page (https://lnkd.in/eUdr7VD), and if you’re already a VR user, you can add EASCAPE to your Steam wish list (https://lnkd.in/ejGjAyU).
Ready to ease your mind with a virtual journey?

We are!
#mentalhealth #eascape #eascapevr #virtualreality

by Springer

Policy Briefs – Urban Health and Wellbeing Programme by Springer

In our most recent contribution to the Volume Two of the book series Urban Health and Wellbeing Systems Approaches, published by Springer and Zhejian University, we discuss the preliminary findings of our research project currently conducted in low-income communities in Medellin Colombia for our program Planting Seeds of Empowerment: Mental Health and Wellbeing of the Communities.

The book is intended for citizens and political decision-makers interested in systems perspectives of urban health and well-being seeking for inspiration to find solutions for the increasing complexity of cities and the environmental, social, and health impacts of urbanization.

In our paper entitled: Coping with Extreme Circumstances Through Community-Led Local Nature Interventions: A Science-based Policy Analysis, we discuss
the importance of the Local Nature Interventions Projects (LNIP) that are created by low-income communities as coping strategies to extreme events to help them sustain
health and well-being.

We present examples of the LNIP taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic and we argue that the LNIP are part of a secondary green network that could be acknowledged as part of the main city’s urban green infrastructure. Therefore, the internal capacities of the communities to create sustainable projects in the natural and built environment across time should be acknowledged and supported in future urban green projects. With these preliminary findings, we seek to draw attention towards LNIP initiatives as they could become alternatives to sustain community empowerment, environmental awareness, and health and well-being across settlements located in extreme urban environments.

Contents:

  1. COVID-19, Cities and Health: A View from New York  (Jo Ivey Boufford and Anthony Shih)
  2. Current and Future Human Exposure to High Atmospheric Temperatures in the Algarve, Portugal: Impacts and Policy Recommendations  (André Oliveira, Filipe Duarte Santos, and Luís Dias)
  3. Neuroscience-Based Urban Design for Mentally Healthy Cities (Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo)
  4. The Role of Money for a Healthy Economy (Felix Fuders)
  5. Developing Health-Promoting Schools: An Initiative in Government Schools of Indore City, India (Alsa Bakhtawar)
  6. Mobility and COVID-19: Time for a Mobility Paradigm Shift  (Carolyn Daher, Sarah Koch, Manel Ferri, Guillem Vich, Maria Foraster, Glòria Carrasco, Sasha Khomenko, Sergio Baraibar, Laura Hidalgo, and Mark Nieuwenhuijsen)
  7. COVID-19 Shows Us the Need to Plan Urban Green Spaces More Systemically for Urban Health and Wellbeing (Jieling Liu)
  8. How Lack or Insufficient Provision of Water and Sanitation Impacts Women’s Health Working in the Informal Sector: Experiences
    from West and Central Africa (H. Blaise Nguendo Yongsi)
  9. Planning Models for Small Towns in Tanzania (Dawah Lulu Magembe-Mushi and Ally Namangaya)
  10. Coping with Extreme Circumstances Through Community-Led Local Nature Interventions: A Science-Based Policy Analysis (Diana Benjumea and Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo)

Hardcopy of the book already available at:
https://www.springer.com/gp/book/

Access to the full book in pdf - here.

BBC Worls Service, My perfect City

NeuroLandscape featured in BBC “My Perfect City”

NeuroLandscape featured in BBC "My Perfect City" Series episode which was released on: 30 Dec 2020

New episode of the BBC World Service "My perfect city" features Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo among other experts.  They discuss Singapore as a city which attempts to improve residents' mental wellbeing through urban design.

Generally, people in cities are likely to experience mental health problems.  This counts for about 38% more than people living outside of big cities. Urban greening and creating therapeutic gardens with contemplative features can really help. But also, promoting high amenity public spaces,  physical exercise, housing security and social services are important too! These solutions can make a city more liveable but also reduce rates of disorders such as OCD, anxiety and depression.

But are these community-based, non-medical approaches enough to improve mental health among the population of the highly urbanized Singapore? Let's find out!

 

Listen to the end to find out if Singapore receives 3 ticks -  a perfect city mark.  This means that Singapore should be an example to follow by other cities!

Taking part in the podcast like this one was a great experience. Thanks to endeavours like this one we can share the knowledge from the scientists and inform the public!

Here are some other blog posts related to Singapore:

  1. Singapore Urban Sustainability MND Congress.
  2. IFLA Conference, Singapore
  3. Neuroscience data collection outdoors
  4. NeuroLandscape featured in BBC "My Perfect City"
NeuroLandscape Board

Annual Scientific Board Meeting 2020

4th NeuroLandscape Scientific Board Meeting took place online on Friday 13th November, 2020.

 

Meeting agenda:

1)  Round table of  updates from each member
2)  A game! -  2 truths and 1 lie
3)  "Summary of NGO activity of 2020 , opportunities for 2021 ( Agnieszka O-G & Agnieszka Ch. -10 min ppt + Q&A)
4)  "Planting seeds of empowerment - summary of activities and future plans (Diana B.  - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
5)  "Virtual Healthy Environments  - research findings  (Nicolas E. - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
6) "Virtual Healthy Environments -  communications" (Weronika G. - 10 min ppt + Q&A)
7) "Developments on CLASS" (Theophrastos M. - 10 min. ppt + Q&A)
8) Discussion topics:
    -  planning for each development of the programs
    - our activity and COVID pandemic
    - dissemination activities/ webinars/ workshops
    -  social media participation of the Board
    -  NGO & Board transformations
Conscious Cities Festival

Healthy Cities – Cities for Humans, Conscious Warsaw 2020 (VIDEO)

A speech presented during the "Conscious Warsaw - Sensing our City" webinar organized by the Center for Conscious Design, which took place on October 22, 2020, in Polish (English subtitles available in this video!).

Dr. Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo presented a new concept of designing mentally healthy cities based on contact with salutogenic natural landscapes (Contemplative Landscapes) and introduced the scientific background and activities of her NGO.

The entire webinar is available on https://theccd.org/domain/conscious-warsaw/

Centre for Conscious Design: www.theccd.org

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Affordable Technologies for Evidence Based Studies and Mind Monitoring

The built environment and mental health of the residents within the city are extremely interconnected. Daily exposures are known to influence psychological processes, having both known and unknown consequences. The study of Gary W. Evans from 2003 points out that personal control, social support and restoration from stress and fatigue in the physical environment directly impacts mental health. He also points out the need for evidence-based studies and methods. “Mind Monitoring” is a method to consider in such studies, as this makes bringing out evidence easier. 

Unfortunately, our knowledge of the relation between mind and physical environment, especially in developing countries, is very little. Technology to conduct cross-sectional scientific studies is one of the biggest impedances. 

A lot of devices are making our day to day lives easier, productive and entertaining in innumerous ways. But these are the tools that have the potential to be used in mind monitoring. They make research on environmental impacts on minds more affordable. 

EEG a Mind Monitoring method

EEG stands for electroencephalogram. It is a test to find out and monitor the electrical activity of the brain using various noninvasive electrodes placed across the scalp. EEG electrodes pick up the electrical activity in the user’s brain. And then the collected signals are amplified and digitized and sent to a computer or mobile device for storage and data processing. Recently, these tests have been made affordable with new designs and exploring ways to use smartphones.

Some recent EEG devices

  • NeuroSky launched quite a number of second-generation products, such as MindWave, MindWave Mobile, MindWave Mobile Plus and MindWave Mobile 2. Mindwave Mobile 2 is the most affordable brainwave reading EEG headset. These devices are used in games, education, wellness, research and development.
  • Emotiv products achieved better performance and wider scalp coverage by using a higher number of channels and wet electrodes. This caused Emotiv products to have a more complicated set-up and higher price tag. Some Emotiv products are Insight, EPOC X, MN8 etc. They can provide easy-to-understand feedback on the level of stress and distraction to improve workplace wellness, safety and productivity.
  • Muse is a meditation facilitating device that comes along with a mobile application. Muse 2, Muse S are available having a lot of features. Provides real-time feedback on user’s brain activity, heart rate, breathing and body movements
  • Some other devices, such as: MyndPlay MyndBand, Aurora Dreamband, FocusBand, Neeuro SenzeBand work with various mind monitoring activities. For example: empowering users to train their brains to improve attention, meditation skills, for better sleep, dream clarity etc.

Price comparison

Company Product Release Year Price (USD)
NeuroSky MindWave Mobile 2  2018 199.00
Emotiv INSIGHT 2015 299.00
EPOC X 2020 849.00
MN8 Still in production 
interaXon Muse 2014 199.00
Muse 2 2016 249.00
Muse S 2019 349.00
OpenBCI OpenBCI 2014 349.00 (Ultracortex Mark IV)

399.00 (Electrode Cap)

MyndPlay  Myndband 2014 299.00
Aurora DreamBand 2015 299.00
FocusBand FocusBand 2016 600.00
Neeuro SenzeBand 2016 299.00

The researchers and practitioners of developing countries like Bangladesh or Colombia are not much aware of these EEG solutions. Most of the time the price range would still be unaffordable. But the products provided by NeuroSky,  interaXon and MyndPlay are comparatively less costly and can be affordable for the research and mental health practitioners in Bangladesh.

Summing up, affordable technologies for mind monitoring are now rising.  And a displayable number of multidisciplinary collaborative research and experiments in this sector will increase their potential to a great extent!

Authors: Muntaka Ibnath, Nazwa Tahsin

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The New Urban Normal_Dr Diana’s speech at TecNM (Mexico)_VIDEO

24th September 2020.

Tecnológico Nacional de México, campus Costa Grande, hosted an online event addressing the World New Normal in the interdisciplinary lens.

Dr Diana Benjumea gave a speech regarding architecture and urban planning, where she sets a new paradigm of bottom-up, evidence-based urban design. Moreover,  she introduces NeuroLandscape projects and explains the global implications of the emerging shift in thinking and approaching urban space.

The entire speech and Q&A session are available on youtube! English subtitles coming soon!

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Virtual Healthy Environments: Feasibility Study in Societies Affected by COVID-19 Summary of Results

Between 19 April and 12 May 2020, we ran an online survey titled "VHE for Well-Being".  Our goal was to better understand people's psychological needs, especially the relationship between Covid-19 confinement and mental health. We also aimed to test feasibility and demand for Virtual Healthy Environments (VHE) - our solution for health and well-being. To do this, we developed a questionnaire in five languages: English, Polish, Italian, Spanish and French and shared it through our website and social media (see the call for responses here). Please check out the summary of our work below! A special thank you to all participants who helped us discover these important trends!

Sample Characteristics

We collected 507 (318 female) responses from nearly every continent, but mainly from Europe. Most were from Poland, Spain and Italy, primarily representing two different socio-geographic zones: South-European (Mediterranean) and Central European regions. There were also contributions from France and the UK to help understand Western European trends. 

The respondents were between 19 and 90 years old, with most between 24 and 41 years old (n=294). There were 23 elderly respondents (>65 years old). The largest portion of our respondents was from high-density cities (33%) or large or medium-sized cities (25%). 12% reported living in the suburbs of big cities. This means the majority of respondents (70%) were from the urban population.

Summary of Main Findings

We ran our analysis based on two groups of psychological issues:

1. General mental health & well-being: comprised of the feelings of loneliness, helplessness, isolation, restlessness, sadness or depression, anxiety, worry and uncertainty about the future, higher irritability, and insomnia.

2. Productivity & cognitive performance: comprised of the feeling of boredom, problems with memory, and decreased motivation, productivity and concentration.

    • Men reported less general mental health issues than women, but stronger productivity/cognitive issues. It looks like women cope better with cognitive performance but are worse with general mental health issues than men. However, it is also possible that women were more willing to report these mental health issues as other research suggests.
    • A large majority (85%) of respondents missed meeting with friends and family the most during confinement (Figure 8). Travelling and contact with nature were the second most missed activities with 59% and 58% of people affected, respectively. Over half (53%) of respondents missed events and socialising, 36% missed going to work and/or school and 37% practising sport.

 

  • Percentage of respondents listing each activity in response to the question: "What did you miss the most in the period of confinement?", broken down by gender.

Did people miss nature?

    • In our survey, 58% of people reported missing contact with nature during the confinement period. Interestingly, this was an activity missed equally by men and women; people of all ages, across all income brackets, and levels of education.
    • People living in big cities missed contact with nature significantly more than others (strong link found between city size and missing nature during confinement).
    • Also, self-employed individuals and homemakers reported missing nature significantly more than others.
  • person experiencing the healing benefits of being in nature
    Lack of time in nature was a significant factor during Covid-19 confinement and mental health was negatively affected as a result
  • Other research shows that people are poor at explicitly seeing the positive health effect of nature: it is good for them, but they are not always aware of it. This makes it challenging to capture these effects in self-reported surveys.  This highlights the need for providing education about and evidence for the benefits of exposure to nature on mental health and well-being.

 

Can Virtual Healthy Environments be a Solution?

At NeuroLandscape we are developing a self-care tool based on Virtual Reality (VR) technology and exposure to nature (read more about the project). It is a solution for all those who cannot access healing natural environments as often as they would like to in order to keep their mind healthy. We addressed some survey questions to test the feasibility of our solution. This will be useful to support our research grant applications. Below are some interesting findings we hope will convince the grantors.

  • The vast majority (79%) of respondents declared being interested in VR technology. VR use at home and during potential future confinement periods was the preferred situation.
  • People who declared missing travelling were more likely to try Virtual Healthy Environments.
  • Women, in general, reported greater interest in using VR for contact with nature and self-care activities than men (32% vs. 17% for contact with nature), while men preferred VR for games and movies.
"For what activities would you use VR technology?" - Percentage of individuals who listed each activity, broken down by gender.

 

Other interesting findings

Overall, people reported a decline in mental health and wellbeing due to confinement. However, the effect was not incremental over time (more time confined did not correlate with worse mental health and wellbeing). Our respondents missed meeting friends and family the most, followed by travelling, socializing, and contact with nature. The least missed activity was shopping. Nature was missed more by urban than rural dwellers, but it was equally missed by men and women, people of all ages, across all income brackets, and levels of education. Interestingly,  people who missed going to work or school reported worsened productivity and cognitive performance as a consequence of confinement.

Conclusions

This survey has more clearly defined the relationship between Covid-19 confinement and mental health. Respondents were not only able to self-report the effects on their mood, but also shared the degree to which specific activities were missed. These findings were useful in evaluating the potential of the VHE app in helping to mitigate the negative effects of adverse stressful circumstances (such as the confinement period). They show it could be effective to provide a digital tool based on VR for improving mental health.

We would like to thank all participants of the survey!

Survey and Report Authors : Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo, Dr Nicolas Escoffier, Dr Weronika Gąsior, Agnieszka Chadała. Full text of the report available through info@neurolandscape.org

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Conscious Cities Festival 2020: Sensing our City | Conscious Warsaw Webinar

22 October, 2020; 3:00 PM CET
Online free event, registration

Webinar will be held in Polish language, but the recording from it will be translated to English and avaiable after the event

The imagination of urban and landscape designers and architects has been captured by the idea that we read spaces as we read books. However, we have been witnessing a paradigm shift in the cultural world: we are moving from semiotics towards perception and landscapes are becoming sensescapes. Contemporary cities don’t always enable us a multimodal experience of space, they are not always designed with human scale in mind, they don’t always consider our biological and psychological needs. What is the ultimate meaning of human-centred spaces? Is it that in future urban and architectural decisions could be influenced by interdisciplinary teams including specialists who understand the complexity of human perception and cognition?

Sensing Our City is organized to discuss some of the topics around how people experience space and how it affects their attitudes, behaviours, health and wellbeing.

Speakers:

  1. Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo (NeuroLandscape, National University of Singapore)
  2. Michal Matlon (The LivingCore)
  3. Asst. Prof. Dr. Karolina M. Zielinska-Dabkowska (Gdańsk University of Technology)
  4. Dominika Sadowska (Divercity+)
  5. Beata Patuszyńska (City for Children)
  6. Anna Kotowska (Jaz+Architekci)
  7. Magda Gawron (Proptech Foundation)
  8. Waldemar Olbryk (Echo Investment SA)
  9. Anna Petroff-Skiba (Warsaw City Hall)
  10. Przemyslaw Zakrzewski (ABB)
  11. Karolina Konecka (ARCATURE SA)
  12. Joanna Erbel ('Blisko' Foundation, Warsaw City Hall)
  13. Nour Tawil (Max Planck Institute for Human Development)
  14. Davide Ruzzon (TUNED Lombardini22)

Organizers and partners: The Centre for Conscious Design, Impronta, NeuroLandscape,

More information: https://theccd.org/event/sensing-our-city-conscious-warsaw-webinar/