Don’t forget your pen

In addition to the health benefits from interacting with nature, urban green spaces provide opportunities for self-reflection and quiet. One overlooked benefit of community green spaces are the benches and places to rest, think and write.

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Each community green space supported by the TKF Foundation includes an iconic bench. The benches are made from reclaimed pickle barrel wood that is more than 100 years old. They are an integral part of each civic sacred place. A specially created waterproof, blank book and pen combination – located beneath the bench – invites visitors to an Open Space Sacred Place to articulate their experience. Visitors share words or images of the experience of being in the space. These are now shared with our online readers through #benchstories. More than a simple diary, record, or log of daily events, each journal is a collection of inspiring thoughts and reflections that attest to our need for opportunities to connect with each other and be in nature.

For many, writing in a journal can provide therapeutic and creative benefits. Writing in a journal about daily events, your feelings, your goals or something that troubles you are all known to benefit health in different ways.

Regularly writing about either traumatic experiences as well as ‘one’s best possible self’ is associated with decreased illness.1 ‘There is a chemical narrative going on in the bodies of the listener, writer and reader of stories. I think it is part of the reason why writing and becoming story tellers – even just to ourselves – can have profound emotional benefits.’ 2

7729126438_6ba71ca85c_zIn a study investigating how green schoolyards can reduce stress and promote protective factors for resilience in students, one teacher took her class to a nearby habitat for science journaling once a week. Students would fan out and select whatever information appealed to them individually for their sketching and writing. These outdoor spaces provide novel experinces for students to practice writing, observational skills and creativity. 3

For breast cancer survivors and those experiencing post-traumatic stress, putting thoughts and feelings into words can be a pathway to healing. Writing in a green space is an activity one can undertake anywhere, alone, and at a low cost. 4,5

Green spaces are an invitation to pause on one’s journey – to sit, to rest, to breathe, to be present, to experience all the gifts that an Open Space Sacred Place has to offer. Now is the perfect time to bundle up, grab an old notebook and pen, and head outside.

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1 Pennebaker, J.W., S.K. Beall, 1986.Confronting a traumatic event: Toward an understanding of inhibition and disease. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 95, 3: 274-281. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.95.3.274
2 http://www.theschooloflife.com/melbourne/shop/classroom/writing-as-therapy-with-sian-prior.html
3 Chawla, L., K. Keena, I. Pevec, and E. Stanley. 2014. Green schoolyards as havens from stress and resources for resilience in childhood and adolescence. Health Place 28: 1-13.
4 Lu Q., D. Zheng, L. Young, M. Kagawa-Singer, A. Loh. 2012 A pilot study of expressive writing intervention among Chinese-speaking breast cancer survivors. Health Psychology 31, 5: 548-551. doi: 10.1037/a0026834.
5 van Emmerik A.A.P. 2013. Writing Therapy for Posttraumatic Stress: A Meta-Analysis. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics 82: 82–88.

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