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Designing & Using School Grounds to Support Mental Health (Video Available!)

The video from the webinar is already available on! The webinar organized by the International School Grounds Alliance and the Children &Nature Network on how school grounds can be designed and used to support took place on June 23rd 2020, and featured research and design insights on how to design mentally healthy outdoor spaces for children.

Everyone interested in design for children will find a lot of inspiration in this video, in other words it's a must-see! We are very proud and grateful that NeuroLandscape could be a part of this insightful panel!

The program featured:

  1. an introduction to the ISGA activity by Kerry Logan;
  2. showcasing international best-practice examples, by Kathrin Schmiele;
  3. research and design lessons from neuroscience by Dr Agnieszka Olszewska-Guizzo;
  4. strategies for the design of schoolyards for students Claire Latané.

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Take part in our survey and support research and development in the times of pandemic

The current global outbreak of #COVID19 makes the problem of our living space and mental health more relevant than ever. Read more in our recent blog post.  This is why we need new solutions and new approaches.

Please complete this 5-min, anonymous survey. If possible, share it with your family and friends, with special attention to elderly people, who (that’s our guess) could benefit from our solutions the most.

The form is available in 5 languages:

1) English – https://forms.gle/SDfC3reh21pXdWw79

2) Polish – https://forms.gle/5jkfNLn7vrsVRKLW9

3) Italian – https://forms.gle/DMPEYNVtKXFLQ1367

4) Spanish – https://forms.gle/3iUCWRZMJ4HhUYWp6

5) French –https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSchCH4Wzs4Y7eVtHHtsB0SrIbs23-I2mgvIz0vmGjQCsgYzQg/viewform

We envision to share the results from this survey on our website soon, in the form of a comprehensive report.

Stay tuned. Stay healthy. Stay sane.

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Mental Health is also important – something about the connection with nature in the times of confinement

Landscape architects and urban ecology researchers have always been trying to bring people more to the outdoors, make the most of urban parks and gardens, calling the public attention to issues such as nature deficit disorder, mental health consequences from spending our time mostly indoors, looking at phones or monitors…

Today, the situation is calling for staying at home out of social responsibility or simply following the new regulations.  Those who haven’t got a garden, those who live in dense cities are being completely disconnected from nature. Many countries, such as Poland for example, have banned access to any forests, parks and gardens for all citizens in the cities or in the countryside.

There is a lot of shaming going on for those who leave homes to get a walk outside.  It is in fact socially irresponsible to go out now and risk spreading the virus to others.

As this is not the post to tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. It is rather to remind ourselves of the psychological consequences of social distancing, self-isolation and disconnection with nature that we all are facing now.

Many of us will feel lonely, bored and stuck; our motivation to work, productivity and ability to concentrate on tasks may decrease. We may experience restlessness and insomnia, depression, anxiety and high irritability. All these are typical for “cabin fever syndrome”, and fit very well to what we’re facing today.  Adding the worry and uncertainty about the future on the top of this doesn’t make it better…

Getting out from home, and even unconscious contact with nature (being under the sky, feeling the slight breeze of wind, seeing flowers or trees) can have a powerful positive effect on us today. Nature can help us keep sane and grounded. If you cannot go outside, spend time on the balcony, gaze outside the window, observe the moving clouds, or leaves dancing with the wind. Even observing the daylight moving along the daily cycle gives some connection to the environment outside.

Conscious practice of the connection with nature can help you keep mental health hygiene in these difficult times.

Stay healthy and sane everyone!

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Blue space and mental health report out for review!

As a contributor to Expert Working Group Biodiversity & Health of the 3rd French Plan on Health and Environment (PNSE3) – Ministry in charge of the Environment (MTES) France, since 2017 we have been working to answer the following question:

Which types and components of urban and peri-urban blue/green spaces have a significant impact on human mental health and mental well-being?

As our work is coming to an end we came up with a draft systematic review on the blue space part. To ensure that we follow a transparent and robust process, we ask our peer experts to review the draft report developed by the expert working group. In light of your expertise on this important policy-relevant topic, we would be most grateful if you could assist us in the peer-review of the draft report (in this case part 1, blue spaces).

The draft report in pdf can be found here and the form for comments here:

Please note the deadline for submitting comments is February 28th 2020.

More information can also be found directly on the EKLIPSE website under the following link: http://www.eklipse-mechanism.eu/open_calls

Thank you very much in advance for your support.

 

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A landscape architect’s experience of Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_4)

These three very special gardens of the Chelseas Flower Show 2018, were featured this year on the NeuroLandscape blog:

  1. Feel good garden
  2. Morgan Stanley garden
  3. Lemon Tree Garden

They are a great source of information and inspiration on how to create healthy space through the landscape design, right selection of plants, materials, textures and shapes. This year, the dominant color palette were  definitely different shades of purple. This colour has a powerful impact not only on our mood but also behaviors. It calms and soothes, silences and regenerates the nervous system, enhances creativity and spirituality. It’s best for relaxation. Blues and greens create a calming atmosphere as well.

As a landscape architect, through  visiting this year’s Chelsea gardens I got inspired by some design strategies to create a space that has a positive effect on our well-being and mental health:

  • cool – toned colors of the plants and materials that have a calming and relaxing effect on people’s state of mind (whites, pinks, purples and blues),
  • variety of plants – next to ornamental plants we should remember about aromatic herbs, evergreen species, perennials and grasses, which provides variety of textures during whole year,
  • encouraging wildlife – observing birds can make us more happy and relaxed,
  • creating an interesting route and/or something beautiful to look at and focus on, which will help to forget about everyday stress and problems.

I am very glad that such prestigious show like Chelsea provides people a great opportunity to explore solutions to some of the actual most pressing not only environmental but also social and economic challenges. This year’s gardens are great, healthy places that make people feel very comfortable and at ease, offer spaces that increase social interaction, reduce stress, antisocial behavior and isolation. Luckily, the community awareness of how the public health can be enhanced by increasing access to green and blue space and improving the quality of our natural environment is a growing trend.

We are more and more involved in issues related to green areas in places where we live, ready to fight for better, greener cities to live in and enjoy in the harmony with nature. We look to the future with hope that it will be possible to prevent or slow down the progress of many diseases related to our mental health, looking beyond traditional treatments and medicines, through a range of activities, including gardening and spending time in a high quality, healthy and sustainable green spaces.

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Mental health at the refugees camp @ Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_3)

One of many Chelsea Flower Show Gardens that deserves special attention is The Lemon Tree Garden, which directly referred to the issue of mental health. Inspired by the resilience, originality and determination of refugees living in Domiz camp in Northern Iraq was designed with their involvement and highlights the unexpected beauty and power hidden in the refugee camps. Designer aimed to show how plants can improve people’s wellbeing.

The traditional Islamic style was kept by star shaped water feature, radiating water rills and elaborate metal and wood fretwork screens. Channels of water provide fresh, cooling atmosphere, representing at the same time the importance of reused grey water in the Iraq’s camps. Very simple materials that can be found in real camp such as concrete and steel, were used  . Food plants were placed in cans and recycled plastic bottles attached to a very interesting “innovation wall”.

The planting included the pomegranate trees, figs, single roses, alliums, dazzling blue flowered Anchusa, the impressive lemon tree as well as herbs used in Middle Eastern cooking. These fragrant herbs could have a great impact on mind and mood. All these are reminders of refugees homeland. Resting between them make us more relaxed and smiley.

People in camps create gardens and take care of them with aim to provide food but also to keep themselves in good mental and physical condition. Possibility of growing and taking care of plants, herbs, vegetables is a great chance to socialize what means it improves social functioning and emotional well-being. The garden with its amazing plants can be the gate to escape from cruel reality , bring the solace and positive energy.  The garden is a place that no matter where you are, you can relate to.

The Lemon Tree Trust supports and encourages the refugees to build camp gardens where they can grow food, create sense of beauty; seek and promote, a very important,  community well-being and identity.

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Gardens for Mental Health – Lessons from Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (PART_1)

Design Well, Live Healthy

Being around trees, shrubs and other plants improves people’s mental health and give us more positive outlook onto our lives. Spending time outside every day, decreases the risk of being depressed or stressed, and thus burden on our mental health is greatly reduced. The power of plants for our physical and mental wellbeing is currently one of main topic in social media and many events related to the built environment industry which also affects current trends in landscape architecture and garden design.

With health and wellbeing now so high profile, it looks like there has never been a better time to concentrate on the role gardens should play in promoting it. One of the best example is the 2018 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s most famous  gardens show, leading celebration of horticultural excellence and innovation, where great potential of plants to enhance mood and aid recovery was a main theme this year.

One of the main gardens RHS Feel Good Garden was designed as contemporary, therapeutic space, where people can relax, forget about daily, stressful life and benefit by beauty of surrounding green space. The designer presents here very elegant balance of beautiful, restrained planting with interesting, modern stonework which puts space users at complete ease. Relaxing oasis with a sense of tranquility is what I thought and felt when entered Feel Good Garden in a sunny May afternoon.

The richness of plants, its colours, shapes favors collecting positive energy and facing our life with more optimism and power. There is no straight lines and geometry what can make people feel more stressed and forced through the garden. As more wild-looking green space is as better for mental health, that is why planting here has more organic and natural form. A meandering path built with different materials should encourage us to stop focusing on the mind and focus on where we are going. Visitors feel free and welcome to walking around, calmly, at their own pace. Additional points appearing along the way inspire to linger and admire each detail of this lovely space.

At any time we can rest by having a sit on one of stone benches in arch and oval shapes and through specially created gaps in planting observe other parts of the garden and its users. Designer gave a great importance to herbs stimulating our senses as well as created the opportunity to listen to the soothing sound of ornamental grasses. Iris ‘Black Tie Affair’ with its very deep purple, almost black flowers attracts a great attention, forces you to stop, look and reflect.

Design also includes trees such as very tall Cercis siliquastrum and Gleditsia triacanthos which can be helpful for people who have problems with anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence or just too much stress. They tend to seek for security under a “roof” of the tree canopy – that kind of security that brings the possibility to observe the rest of garden at the same time, without blocking the views. The layout of the garden encourage users to interact and engage with the plants and other people in a perfect way.

Noteworthy, I find it a wonderful idea to relocate this garden after the show, to the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust with the aim of providing a place where patients as well as staff can garden, relax and socialize while being close to nature!
Gardening and spending active time in nature will definitely give them sense of purpose but also feeling of responsibility and achievement.

Having something to care for, such as plants, gives you a sense of purpose, a feeling that’s so important for those struggling with mental health issues, says the designer – Matt Keightley