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Urban Psychology
February 2011

Where We Come From Countsurban_psychology

Making a life is about more than making a living, and a University of Michigan study has found that some cities lead with their heart, while others lead with their head. “The place where we grew up or currently reside… defines who we are, how we think about ourselves and others, and the way we live,” suggest researchers Nansook Park and Christopher Peterson. Hence the common query: “Where are you from?”

With more than half of the world’s total population living in cities, the researchers maintain that it’s time to assess what is right about urban life. So, they surveyed character strengths among more than 47,000 residents of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

They report that heart-strong cities tended to be warmer, less crowded and more community/teamwork oriented, with more families with children, and perhaps kinder and gentler overall. The five highest scoring heart-oriented cities were: El Paso, Texas; Mesa, Arizona; Miami; Virginia Beach; and Fresno, California.

Head-strong cities tended to be more intellectual, innovative and creative, with a greater number of patents per capita. They are often labeled as hot spots for talent and high-tech industries. The five top-scoring cities in this category were: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Albuquerque; and Honolulu.

Some cities scored above average on both counts, including El Paso, Honolulu and Detroit.

Is it better to lead with your head or your heart? Each has its own advantages, the researchers conclude. Life may well be good in other towns, too, simply in different ways.

 
Eco-Kudos
February 2011

America Names Top Smart-Growth Cities

eco_kudosThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Smart Growth Awards recognize innovation in everything from creating small public spaces in densely packed urban cores to investing in compact communities and preserving forests and farmland. It all makes for greater livability.

This past year, the Big Apple took honors for overall excellence. “New York City has achieved a relatively small carbon footprint, given its size, through its commitment to creating compact and walkable neighborhoods,” according to the agency report. The city has also built dedicated bike lanes and carved out public spaces in urban jungles like Times Square.

Portland, Oregon, wins kudos for its realistic growth plan to accommodate an anticipated 600,000 population by 2030, strengthening employment and concentrating commerce, while preserving its neighborhoods and connections with nature. In Maine, 20 towns collaborated in a commercial and tourist byway, while preserving the region’s rural character. San Francisco earned praise for transforming a previously neglected alleyway into the vibrant South of Market retail area, as did Baltimore for its green rehab of an historic building into a mixed-use space that revitalized the surrounding neighborhood.

 
Happiness Is… Chocolate
February 2011

Dark and Delicious, it’s Blissfully Healthy

happiness_chocolateDid you know that more than half of U.S. adults prefer chocolate to other flavors and spend $55 per person per year to indulge their hankering? That’s a lot of chocolate— some 3.3 billion pounds annually, or about 12 pounds per chocoholic. The International Cocoa Organization further estimates that by 2015, U.S. chocolate sales will top $19 billion.

Yet, Europeans still enjoy the majority of chocolate per capita. Switzerland leads the trend, with its citizens each forking over the equivalent of U.S. $206 a year for the treat. Worldwide, 21st century chocolate consumption continues to climb year after year; cocoa seems to be a recession-free commodity. That’s good news for Indonesia and the West African nations that produce 70 percent of Earth’s cocoa beans.

It’s widely known that dark chocolate, in particular, is good for our emotional and physical health. The only debate that remains is what quantity is the most advantageous to include in our daily or weekly diet.

 
Sierra Bender’s Holistic Boot Camp
February 2011

Redefining Fitness to Empower Women from the Inside Out

holistic_boot_campIn her early 30s, Sierra Bender was a personal trainer who looked and felt physically fit. Then, one day, her body took a turn that she didn’t see coming. Bender initially mistook the sensation she experienced for a pulled muscle.

“I exercised every day and worked as a professional trainer,” she recalls, “but I was so out of my body that I didn’t even know that my uterus had ruptured [from an ectopic pregnancy outside the womb]. That’s how disconnected I was… fit on the outside, but an emotional wreck on the inside.”

Today, Bender works to prevent other women from focusing solely on physical fitness and body image at the expense of their emotional, mental and even physical health. Her mission is to redefine health for women so that they understand wellness as a whole-self process and become empowered to lead truly integrated lives.

“Empowerment involves pulling forth what’s already within you,” Bender says. “We’ve mastered the beauty part of looking fit and good, but it doesn’t last, because it’s not coming from the core inside. So, that’s where women are searching.”

 
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