Your Brain on Water

Reflection on water at the Chicago Botanic Garden image: Jack Carman
Reflection on water at the Chicago Botanic Garden
image: Jack Carman

Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do
Wallace J. Nichols
2015

When I heard writer and sea turtle expert Wallace J. Nichols speak in Sausalito last summer, I was delighted by how much of what he said resembled the science behind why nature is good for our health and well-being. He quoted much of the same research we landscape architects do when promoting healthcare and therapeutic gardens. I knew I had to read his book, and I was amazed by the range of information that he brings together as both a scientist and an unabashed ocean lover in his book Blue Mind.

Blue Mind is an enjoyable read about the numinous experience of water, coupled with an urgent message to wake up to what is ‘hidden in plain sight’ in the hopes that we humans can transform the way we treat our planet’s resources. Nichols shares a strong emotional connection to this liquid element, as do many people who are willing to pay a lot of money to travel to beautiful beaches for vacations and spend top dollar for the house with a view of the water. For those of us who are curious to know what’s up with that from a scientific evidence point of view, this book explains the psychology and physiology of why we want and need the benefits associated with spending time in the presence of water.

In Blue Mind, Nichols makes an appeal to a broad range of people who might not feel convinced that emotion alone is a serious enough reason to cherish and protect this basic resource. He demonstrates the phenomenon of how people are attracted to water with cultural data, and how we are physically wired to benefit from the symbolism, physicality, color, sound, and essence of water as we encounter it in the environment, citing recent neuroscience studies and plenty of footnotes to point the reader to explore the topic further. Be prepared to dive deep from the comfort of your reading chair.

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Healthcare & Therapeutic Design in Chicago

The Crown Sky Garden, at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, designed by Mikyoung Kim Design image: Marni Barnes
The Crown Sky Garden, at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, designed by Mikyoung Kim Design
image: Marni Barnes

If you are considering attending the 2015 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago this November, you have until June 19 to register at the early bird rate. You know you want to go, so register now so you don’t have to pay more money (like I did last year :-/ ).

Here are a few sessions on topics that might influence your decision:

Chicago’s Therapeutic Healing Spaces
Friday, November 6, 8:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Urban Green Space and Mental Well-being: Evidence-Based Design
Friday, November 6, 10:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Designing Incentives for Health
Saturday, November 7, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Evidence-based Design: Sensory Play Gardens and Children with Developmental Disorders
Sunday, November 8, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Healthcare and Therapeutic Design PPN Meeting
Sunday, November 8, 12:45 PM – 2:15 PM

An Integrated Interdisciplinary Approach to Therapeutic Design
Monday, November 9, 3:30 PM – 5:00 PM

Fortunately, these sessions were scheduled with no overlaps, so you could attend them all! Unfortunately, there are other related topics that also look enticing, some of which do overlap, that you may want to consider.

I’ve listed several sessions of interest, as well as more information on the above sessions, below, complete with times, descriptions, and speakers. See the Annual Meeting website for more information on the more than 130 education sessions, field sessions, workshops, and general sessions that will be offered throughout the meeting.

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