Thursday, 29 May 2014

Is Stress Response to Blame for Obesity Crisis in Children as well as Adults?
New Research & OECD Study point to Stress as the Culprit in Epidemic

Video: Child obesity fuelled by stress response: How stress and the environment influence our decisions about food

“Dealing with stress in a better way is the key to breaking the cycle of stress eating.”
~ Deepak Chopra, What Are You Hungry For?

A new study suggests that children who use food as a means to cope with stress are more likely to gain body fat. The link between emotional eating and stress has been well established in adults, but few studies have looked at this relationship in children.

At the European Congress on Obesity, held this week in Sofia, Bulgaria, researchers presented a study connecting children’s stress , hormones, diet and increasing body fat, the CBC reports.
“In a three-year study of about 500 elementary school children, those with high levels of the stress hormone cortisol and who turned to food for comfort gained body fat, Natalie Michels of the public health department at Ghent University in  Belgium and her colleagues found.

"’We see the relation mainly in children with a high sweet tooth consumption,’" Michels said in an interview. "’So those who take a lot of sweet foods … these children we see the stress increased adiposity.’" 

Increases in cortisol might directly affect body fat, or indirectly influence less healthy dietary choices, the researchers suggest. That said, the Belgian researchers found children with high cortisol levels who didn’t use food to manage stress levels; not surprisingly, those children didn’t gain additional weight.

Image: “Stressed” is “Desserts” spelled backwards 
Source: Christmas stress!

Environmental Effects on Stress

If you’ve been an avid reader of PeapodLife’s blog, you’ll know we are big proponents of the human-environment connection. Sara Kirk, obesity researcher at the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax, echoes our concerns:
"We need to understand how the environment influences our decisions about food…We need to think about the widespread availability of heavily processed, nutrient-poor but energy-dense foods that are highly palatable. So when we're feeling stressed, we're more likely to reach for those kinds of foods because they're everywhere around us.

"One of the things that we really need to get a grip with in society is this environment undermining our health behaviours. Stress fits into that picture, but we have to recognize that that picture is very complex" Sara Kirk, IWK Children's Hospital”
Source: CBC News: Health: Child obesity fuelled by stress response

It is a very complex picture, indeed. And because it is so complex, PeapodLife believes wholeheartedly that we humans are entirely out of our depth in our attempts to cope with it. There is only one thing that can handle such infinite complexity successfully: the ecosystem.

A high-order ecosystem deals with complexity on orders of magnitude much greater than that faced by us, particularly when it comes to this issue. Why not allow an ecosystem into the living spaces currently infested by all the unnatural, industrial, addictive, and fattening-if-not-downright-toxic-foods?

An ecosystem functions to regulate the root cause of the problem: the stress itself. An ecosystem fills an indoor environment with a mitigating field of freshness, energy and ambiance which helps absorb and “scrub” negative vibrations, while at the same time filling the consciousness with thoughts of more natural, productive, healthy activities.

It’s clear that taking a long walk in the woods or a relaxing bubble bath is a fantastic stress reliever. But child or adult, our busy lives and packed schedules often just don’t permit us such luxuries! Let’s face it: that “quick fix” chocolate bar or bag of potato chips is just too quick, too convenient…too tempting!

Image: You Are Now Entering a Stress Free Zone  
Source: InnerSelf: How to Relieve Stress and Live Stress-Free

An indoor ecosystem helps nip temptation in the bud by enveloping occupants with a cushion of stress relief. Think of it like a gigantic natural invisible stress sponge, sucking the stress right out of you! The point is, you never even get to the point of craving “the quick fix.”

That’s the genius of PeapodLife ecosystems: they help regulate and manage stress, without directly affecting your activities or schedule. Just go one doing what you need to do: work, school, music, cooking, taxes…whatever. Let our ecosystems take care of you so you care of what you need to.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Ecosystem Installed in Affordable Seniors Residence
Welland, Ontario Seniors will Benefit from the BEST

Image by PeapodLife: Ecosystem mechanicals, base, and panels installed
at Birchwood Place, 235 Fitch Street, Welland Ontario 
(inset photo credit: Niagara Regional Housing).

“We know safe and affordable housing is an absolute necessity for having a healthy life.”
~ Maryellen MacLellan, NRH Housing Operations Manager

Over the past few weeks, PeapodLife and its partners have been working on a rudimentary green wall ecosystem for Birchwood Place, Fitch Street Affordable Residence for Seniors.

PeapodLife has to wait for the final completion of the ecosystem, due to various factors which must be met:
  1. The building has undergone final clean-up of dust, and airing out of the complex for construction adhesives and other chemical construction pollution, including contributing materials gassing-off.

  2. Once ample time has been given to achieve safe levels, we will begin to add water and get the Ecosystem running.

  3. Shortly thereafter we will add the plants, water plants and fish, as the water and system settle. Please note that this too is a gradual, organic process. Ecosystems are self-organizing and at their best when given a chance to find their own expression.

In synthesis, we need to give the ecosystem the best possible start and can’t rush this critical time. Like any natural being in its infancy, the ecosystem is at its most fragile and nowhere near its full potential in the beginning. It actually “grows up” and into its new environment, self-organizing and establishing its own optimum way of being.

Image by PeapodLife: What a PeapodLife Living Wall looks like when the ecosystem has had a chance to begin to establish itself.

Compare this to other so-called “living walls” which look great just after being installed, but then begin a slow—and sometimes quite rapid—decline into a soggy, rotting, mouldy mess. Many designers and architects have actually dropped the idea of working with these pretend living walls, and building owners who invested in large-scale installations now lament doing so, with tens of thousands of dollars being spent annually in plant replacement costs.

PeapodLife is committed to doing living walls the right way, as they were meant to be done: working in support of natural processes, not against them. The result? Vibrant, beautiful ecosystems which may cost a little more money up-front, but in the long term pay dividends to all who experience them.

Image: PeapodLife Ecosystem at Graduate Engineering Lab, University of Toronto.

And really, if an affordable housing complex for seniors in Welland can afford one, that speaks volumes: not only of PeapodLife’s willingness to work within the parameters set out by our clients, but also our commitment to making our BEST—Building EcoSystems & Technology—available to everyone on the economic and demographic spectrum. 

Niagara Regional Housing is accepting applications for the new non-smoking seniors (55+) apartment building at 235 Fitch Street (East Building), Welland, ON.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

How to Recruit & Retain Top Talent, the Natural Way
Ecosystems give New Life to your Company’s Strategy to Attract & Keep Top Talent

Image: Dream Job Next Exit…PeapodLife  
Image Credit: Are You Successfully Retaining Top Talent?
“A frustrated employee is a greater threat than a merely unhappy one.”
~ Bill Hewlett and David Packard, Founders of HP
Source: 11 Inspirational Quotes from Bill Hewlett and David Packard

Conventional wisdom among researchers is “that the best way to hire and keep top talent is to create a company culture where the best employees want to work, a culture in which people are treated with respect and consideration at all times.” (Source: Entrepreneur: How to Recruit Top Talent)

As far as PeapodLife is concerned, this is not a goal in and of itself. A company treating people with respect and consideration at all times should be the starting point of any endeavour, and not the “best practice employee recruitment and retention strategy.”

(For the record, we actually wince at the whole “recruitment and retention strategy” terminology, along with the idea of a fabricated “culture,” but we’ll go along with it for now.)

Of course, there are companies who no-doubt would agree with us. Enter Google, with its foosball tables, rock-climbing walls, video game consoles and countless other toys, gimmicks, and other distractions appealing to their young, hip, geeky employee demographics who want their time spent on Google’s “campuses” to be just that: an extension of university life.

We cannot, of course, testify to what it’s actually like working at Google: we don’t know if respect and consideration at all times there, we like to assume it is; but as for the “above and beyond the call of duty,” the bobbles, bells, whistles and do-dads of romper-room for IT professionals strikes us as trying too hard to be hip, and not exactly natural (they are, after all, supposed to be adults).

What we would suggest to any company—large or small—is to start by getting an ecosystem. Simple. So what will it do to your ability to attract and keep the best employees? It will create an environment in which they will want to spend their time and that will help them thrive.

It doesn’t have to be huge:

It doesn’t need to make a huge statement, although it can do:

Image by PeapodLife: Living Wall Ecosystem at Tel-E-Connect Ontario

Top talent want to perform. We are products of our environment. Yes, of course, a positive, kind, caring, nurturing culture is important, but guess what: unless the environment is supportive of such a culture, it’s fighting an up-hill battle to survive, let alone thrive.

Just think of it: all the respect and consideration in the world can’t do anything to mitigate poor air quality, sick building syndrome, and the stresses that top-performers often subject themselves to. A high-order rainforest ecosystem from PeapodLife can do something about it, and so much more.

Just how much more? Legend has it that upon entering the former head offices of Club Monaco and walking through its indoor ecosystem (which included a lagoon and two 40-foot living walls), Ralph Lauren decided to buy the Company. That’s the kind of deep-felt impact your company can have on an individual, whether they are a prospective partner, client, and yes, manager or employee.

Don’t take our word for it. You know yourself how quickly you feel at home in a space (or not); we have an innate, natural ability to sense belonging.

On top of all that, the positive impact the fresh, clean air and vibrant rainforest colours will have on your entire organization will help revitalize energy, imagination and inspiration while reducing stress, anxiety and conflict. All that will go a long way towards the baseline goal of respect and consideration at all times.

We are products of our environment. So is your culture, and all your talent. Keep that in mind, and contact us to experience the power of PeapodLife for yourself.

Image by PeapodLife: Office-Space transformed into an environment for top-performance by top-talent

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Shinrin Yoku the Ecosystem way:
Get the Health Benefits of Nature Exposure 24/7, 365 days of the year

“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
— John Muir, “John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir”; Edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe (University of Wisconsin Press, 1938, republished 1979)*

Dozens of scientific studies, mostly conducted in Japan, have returned hard evidence to suggest that spending time in greenspace is good for your physical and mental health. The practice known as Shinrin Yoku or “forest bathing” reduces cortisol levels and also seems to boost immune system.

Although scientists attribute the psychological, physiological and immunological benefits of forest bathing to breathing in volatile substances, called phytoncides (wood essential oils), which are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees, such as a-pinene and limonene, (Source: PeapodLife has an alternative explanation.
“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.”
— George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage”*

The connection between Shinrin-yoku and aromatherapy is not without merit, but here again, a materialist scientific approach to both erroneously assumes that it is exposure to the physical substances compounds themselves which confers benefits.

In many traditions of herbal and esoteric medicine, oils must be activated through the application of heat; incense, for example, must be burned—more accurately expressed and effectively activated as smoldered. In other words, there is an energetic quality at work play.

It is this energy, the stress-relieving, life-giving, immune-system-boosting and mood enhancing power of nature that emanates from all natural environments; but particularly from ecosystems. The higher-order the ecosystem, the greater the benefits—physical and psychological.

Unfortunately, until materialist science is trapped within the confines of lower-order intelligence, it will not likely accept nor endorse either the high-order intelligentsia of ecosystems or their high-order energetic benefits, shackled as they are to the paradigm of “physical evidence.” Perhaps said scientists have spent too much time studying nature in cold, heartless laboratories…
“Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard.”
— Standing Bear*

One thing is certain: it takes only a moment or two in the company of a PeapodLife ecosystem to feel said energy and know something intelligent is working to make you feel better…it’s a knowing you feel in your heart.

*All Quotes Sourced from: Nathan S. Collier BLOG: Shinrin-yoku

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Is WiFi in Canadian National Parks the Future of Nature Appreciation or just a Digital Distraction?

Video: Parks Canada wants to install wireless internet access hotspots at up to 50 of its parks this year

"My thoughts can be expressed quite simply. I think it is a disastrous, quite stupid, idiotic concept, and should be eliminated immediately."
~ Farley Mowat, author, environmentalist, activist, one of Canada's most widely read authors

"I think the idea of WiFi in the national parks is great…if you don't want to partake just don't bring your phone. It might even get people out to the parks who otherwise wouldn't go.... they'll probably hopefully get distracted by all that nature."
~ Kathy Daley, camping enthusiast from Winnipeg
Source: CBC Radio The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti: WiFi in some of Canada's national parks gets a fuzzy reception from campers

It’s a fair question, is it not? Quite a divisive question in fact: one which seems to be causing quite the stir not just in certain circles, but among the general public. Is Wi-Fi in Canadian national parks the future of nature appreciation or just a digital distraction?

The point—that we are living in a digital age and that internet access might make national parks more palatable to a new generation of young, wired Canadians—on the surface has its merits. Why not entice young people away from their cloistered computer screens to experience the great outdoors?

The counterpoint was summarized well by Stephen Sharper, columnist for The Toronto Star and an associate professor of the School for The Environment at the University of Toronto in a panel discussion on CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti:
“Children who often suffer from ADHD, from suicidal tendencies, and depression often improve dramatically when exposed to nature. And it doesn’t have to be a wilderness experience, it can be a visitors’ centre at a national park. But it’s direct experience with nature, not mediated through computers or Wi-Fi technology…[which] is very salutary and very important for the psychology and physical wellbeing of our children. And anything that can enhance that and foster that, I think, is to be promoted.”
~ Stephen Sharper, School for The Environment at the University of Toronto
Source: CBC Radio’s The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti

Mr. Sharper made his comments in reference to the work on Natured Deficit Disorder or NDD, pioneered by Richard Louv and featured in his books Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder and The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder.

Richard Louv is not only a journalist and author of eight books about the connections between traditionally recognized human institutions of family and community with nature. He received the Audubon Medal in 2008 and the Cox Award in 2007. In his newest book, The Nature Principle, Louv offers readers:

“a new vision of the future, in which our lives are as immersed in nature as they are in technology. This future, available to all of us right now, offers better psychological, physical and spiritual health for people of every age.” 
Source: About Richard Louv

What does PeapodLife think about all this? It’s quite simple, really: nature represents the gateway to a whole other kind of “network,” one which the Internet can scarcely hold a candle to…an UNLIMITED SOURCE of KNOWLEDGE; an INFINITE WEALTH of BEAUTY, INSPIRATION, IMAGINATION and PEACE.

Our previous blog article, Nature’s Perfection Recorded Beautifully: Birds on The Wires is Music to Our Ears attempted to illustrate how nature has in the past inspired geniuses throughout time and in every area of human endeavour—and continues to  do so. “But for how long?” is the question we posed.

And we pose it again: how long will nature serve humanity as a gateway to “the cosmic web” if our last bastions of pure, unadulterated natural splendour become infected by the mechanical, technocratic paradigm?

What marvels of inspiration, what deep, world-changing insights will be lost to another level of Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga?  What precious once-in-a-lifetime opportunities will be lost forever because the individuals “present” were more concerned about taking a selfie and posting it to Instagram than being truly present to witness the miracle of nature unfolding before them?

PeapodLife believes wholeheartedly in the work of Richard Louv and others, but we take it to a whole new level. It’s not enough to occasionally expose ourselves and our children to nature. We must learn to live in harmony and mutual symbiosis with nature again.

This means submerging ourselves into the energetic field which only ecosystems generate; surrounding ourselves in our daily lives with healing, calming, rejuvenating and inspiring energies. We know that by doing so, this question of Wi-Fi in national parks will simply go away. We won’t need it.

In fact, we may begin to find ourselves relying less on Wikipedia (and the like) and more on our own innate (but currently atrophied) abilities to access universal knowledge.

Image: There is no Wi-fi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection
Source: Echoes of the Heart Healing: Album:Mobile Uploads: Grateful for Higher Connections