Detroit’s Farms May Save the City

fruit store

Detroit is a city that has been witnessing a lot of change thanks to poor urban planning and bad economics. The past decade has been very rough for the people of Detroit and they are turning to old, but innovative, ways to revive the city. We have seen artists move to Detroit and even some tech companies. At the other end of the spectrum is a return to the land in the form of farming.

The low density neighbourhood design of the suburbs contributed to Detroit’s fall and now it might be saving the city by returning to arable land.

We were sitting at a picnic table nestled between his house and farm. Greg was in his early 40s, compact and wiry, with flecks of gray in his close-cropped black hair, his arms and face leathery from the sun. As he spoke, his leg jittered like a sewing-machine needle, and I got the impression that sitting still was torture for him. Most of our conversations occurred in moving vehicles, at his booth in the farmers’ market, or as we hacked at weeds or laid irrigation hose through fields.

Suburbia, Greg told me, was the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world: big, thin-walled houses that take loads of gas and electricity to heat and cool, acres of farmland and animal habitat bulldozed for useless lawns that guzzle water and gobble poisons, barrels of food scraps hauled across the county and buried in a landfill, sprawling subdivisions requiring cars and gasoline for the simplest of errands—mailing a package or buying a gallon of milk. What’s more, he said, suburbs encouraged isolation, cultivated a fear of strangers, and created enclaves that segregated the white middle class from poor people and brown people.

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Montreal’s Streets Continue to be Focused on People

Montreal

Walking the streets of Montreal already provides a pleasant experience – and it’s about to get better. The city has dedicated an additional $1.7 million to what it already spends on making selected streets car free. The pedestrian areas promote local artists and encourage people to visit neighbourhoods throughout the municipality. People love the initiative and hopefully other cities can adopt such a neat city building exercise.

Under Montreal’s system, the first year of a car-free street is treated like a trial. The city observes how well the space is used, as well as the effect on motor vehicle traffic and local businesses. If the first year is a success, the city will commit to permanent changes or bring the car-free segment back on a seasonal basis every year.

The city reports that public opinion of the program is very favorable, and most of the pedestrian streets last beyond the pilot phase, either as permanent car-free spaces or seasonal pedestrian zones during the warmer months, according to the CBC.

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Thanks to Delaney!

You can Learn to be Luckier in Life

luck

Are you lucky? Do you want to be? Because you can increase your luck skills by practicing – seriously!

Christine Carter demystifies how luck works at the Greater Good Science Center where she is a sociologist and author of books on luck. In her efforts to examine luck she came across other research by Richard Wiseman who thinks luck comes down to observation and action. Over the last decade his research has revealed how we perceive luck and how we tend to miss out on “lucky” experiences due to anxious blindness.

Wiseman didn’t stop there. He turned these findings into a “luck school” where people could learn luck-inducing techniques based on four main principles of luck: maximizing chance opportunities, listening to your intuition, expecting good fortune, and turning bad luck to good. The strategies included using meditation to enhance intuition, relaxation, visualizing good fortune, and talking to at least one new person every week. A month later, he followed up with participants. Eighty percentsaid they were happier, luckier people.

“I thought if Wiseman can train people to be lucky, you can certainly teach those skills to our kids, and they have other really good side effects too,” says Carter, like better social skills and a stronger sense of gratitude. She came up with a few basic strategies for parents to teach their kids, including being open to new experiences, learning to relax, maintaining social connections, and (yes) talking to strangers. All of these techniques had one theme in common—being more open to your environment both physically and emotionally.

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Practicing Meditation Changes Your Brain and Sense of Self

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Achieving mindfulness through mediation can help you relax and even assist you in achieving a more fulfilling life. Recent fMRI studies have shown that this can be proven by looking at the brain itself; indeed, structures inside your brain tend to alter based on how much meditation one does! This is really neat stuff because it means you can change the way you think and process the world through a very simple practice!

What should the average person take away from your study?

Mindful self-awareness is a non-judgemental, present-moment awareness of body and contents of the mind. On the neural level, this form of awareness quietens regions related to inner speech, ​thinking about the self, and ruminating, while regions related to the perception of the body are activated. In our study we found that the neural pattern during mindful self and body awareness was stronger in less depressed, healthier individuals. Thus, mindful self-awareness seems to represent a particularly healthy mode of self-perception.

We also found – as expected – that neural activations related to mindful self-awareness were particularly strong in expert mindfulness meditators. More interestingly, we also show that when we instruct untrained participants to enter relatively short periods of mindful self-awareness in the MRI scanner, these patterns can also be seen in untrained participants.

This means, meditation training increases the ability to perceive the self in a more healthy, present-moment, body-centered way, but also that already in untrained individuals, short periods of mindful self-awareness are possible and offer the potential to enter a healthy self-perception state.​

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It’s Fine to not Check Your Email

Stop compulsively checking your email. Frequent checking of one’s inbox will lead to stress for a few reasons so it’s best to schedule your email checking to every couple of hours or so (depending on your job). By limiting how often you look in your inbox you will be able to focus on other tasks and actually get things done. And getting things done and off you your todo list will lead to less stress.

So relax and don’t let your inbox be your boss.

Checking email less often may reduce stress in part by cutting down on the need to switch between tasks. An unfortunate limitation of the human mind is that it cannot perform two demanding tasks simultaneously, so flipping back and forth between two different tasks saps cognitive resources. As a result, people can become less efficient in each of the tasks they need to accomplish. In addition to providing an unending source of new tasks for our to-do lists, email could also be making us less efficient at accomplishing those tasks.

Indeed, although the participants in our study sent and received roughly the same number of emails during both weeks, they reported doing so in approximately 20 percent less time during the week when they checked their email less frequently. Constantly monitoring our inboxes promotes stress without promoting efficiency. When it comes to checking email, less might be more.

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