Landscapes for Health

“Do care facilities care? Stats on the implementation of therapeutic landscapes.” Guest post by Tanya Goertzen

Montgomery Place Retirement Community Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Montgomery Place Retirement Community, Chicago, Illinois. Photo by Naomi Sachs

This guest blog post is by Tanya Goertzen, Principal of People Places. Tanya initially posed the question to the TLN Group on Land8Lounge, and then took the initiative to do some research of her own. This blog post is a result of that research.

Do care facilities care? Stats on the implementation of therapeutic landscapes

When planning to undertake a specialization like therapeutic design, the additional investment of education to get there is a big commitment.  Keeping up to speed on current research and trends, conferences, publication reviews, etc. takes time and money.  So, is it worth it? We may be passionate about what we do, but does our target market see the value? The answer is a resounding “sometimes,” but the good news is, it’s likely an emerging trend that is growing.

Although no one specific study answers the question, data on the use of design research can help paint a picture.

The Center for Health Design (CHD) conducted surveys[1] in 2009 and 2010 of design research in healthcare settings. In both years, approximately 33% of respondents indicated they always implemented healing gardens. Sounds great, but unfortunately the results are skewed too positively by limited sampling, and are not representative of the health care market as a whole. As a benchmark, the 2010 survey indicated 41.6% always used design research to make design decisions; quite high when compared with the 2010 Health Facilities Management survey[2], in which only 16% always used design research. The latter survey is probably more representative of general trends because of broader sampling.

What is trending positively is the occasional use of design research, and possibly implementation of healing gardens. The occasional use of design research increased increased in the HFM survey from 25% in 2008, to 40% in 2009, and 60% in 2010. What may be closer to reality is around 33% of projects implemented healing gardens occasionally in 2010; an increase of 6.9% from 2009. While the trending is positive, those numbers are indeed small.

Looking to the future, that could all change. If, for example, “sometimes” means 50% of the time, then 16.5% of projects implemented healing gardens in 2010. If the growth rate continues, then that would be 51% in 2015.  Combine this with an aging population, and we could see a big increase in demand. In Canada alone, the number of seniors will more then double by 2036[3], and 3.4% (353 000) of those will likely live in seniors care facilities.[4]

A case can also be made that trends in therapeutic site design are not only represented by healing gardens, but also by trends in healing environments. A person’s outdoor experience of a facility is not just in gardens; wayfinding, loading, parking, waiting, socializing, exercising, etc., can all happen outside of gardens, and all influence stress reduction.[5] According to the CHD survey, the top feature being incorporated all of the time is healing environments that are nurturing, therapeutic, and reduce stress. All things, evidence suggests, supported by therapeutic landscapes. This seems to suggest that other members of the consultant design team, providers, vendors, and business developers may not understand that connection, so it remains up to the therapeutic site designer to educate, at least for the time being.

The future of therapeutic site design looks promising. No doubt, as the Center for Health Design continues its ground breaking work, and evidence-based design continues to grow, we can put aside the lofty guesswork above, and turn to better data.

Tanya Goertzen has been practicing site planning and design for 10 years, is a licensed member of the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, and principal of People Places, a site planning and design firm for health care, educational and community places.  She holds a Bachelor of Environmental Design and a Master of Landscape Architecture, and is the recipient of the Award of Excellence in the study of Landscape Architecture; the Mennonite Student Travel Scholarship for her graduate work on community settlement patterns; and a winning exhibitor in the B.C. Drawing on the Land Exhibition; and has been featured in Sitelines.

Many thanks to Tanya for this guest blog post. I would love to see some comments and good discussion about this. I’ll be following up next week with some more thoughts.


[1] http://www.healthdesign.org/chd/research

[2] http://www.hfmmagazine.com/hfmmagazine/html/HFMsurveys.html

[3] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/070227/dq070227b-eng.htm

[4] http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/83-237-x/83-237-x2006001-eng.htm

[5] Healing Gardens, Therapeutic Benefits and Design Recommendations, Clare Cooper Marcus, New York Wiley, 1999.

“Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism & Special Needs” in InformeDesign’s ‘Implications’

April Implications 2011 'Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism and Special Needs' by Naomi Sachs and Tara VincentaHot off the press! InformeDesign’s latest issue of Implications (Vol. 9, Issue 1) just went live today, and it features an article by Naomi Sachs and Tara Vincenta, “Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism and Special Needs.” I mentioned this article in my April 13th blog post about Autism Awareness and Landscape Architecture month, but it had not come out yet.

So take a look by linking to the pdf here: http://www.informedesign.org/_news/april_v09-p.pdf.

 

And here is the resource list on autism and related disorders and children and nature mentioned in the article , which will also soon be available for download from the TLN Get Out and Play! page:
PDF of resources on autism and nature-based learning and play for InformeDesign’s ‘Implications’ (Vol. 9, Issue 1)

Tara Vincenta developed the Sequential Outdoor Learning (SOL) Environment and many of the design guidelines in our article are based on SOL Environment principles.

Many thanks to InformeDesign for giving me and Tara this platform to share our work. InformeDesign is an evidence-based design tool that transforms research into an easy-to-read, easy-to-use format for architects, graphic designers, housing specialists, interior designers, landscape architects, and the public. They are, in my humble opinion, one of the best resources out there.

And if you know of people who would benefit from the information in this post, please pass it on!

 

Happy Earth Day, Happy Year of the Forests!

White oak. Photo by Henry Domke http://www.henrydomke.com

White oak. Photo by Henry Domke, www.henrydomke.com

Wow, under the wire here to get this post out before Earth Day ends. But really, every day is Earth Day, right?

2011 is also the Year of the Tree, or the Year of the Forests, another thing I’ve been meaning to blog about since January.

The International Year of the Tree/Year of the Forests was launched at the United Nations Headquarters in New York to heighten awareness of the value of forests in people’s lives and to galvanize action for trees and forests around the world. Here’s the UN website, with lots of great information, pictures, and videos and here’s their Facebook page. And here’s another nice website/blog, The Tree Year, with all sorts of good information and activities to help you celebrate.

Just one of the many reasons that trees are so awesome: One tree can absorb about a ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime, and produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year – the equivalent of the amount consumed by 18 people annually. For more fun facts about trees and their importance, see Trees Are Good, by the International Society of Arboriculture.

“Shinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing,” is a practice in Japan in which people visit a forest while breathing in phytoncides – wood essential oils – that are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees. According to Wikipedia (yes, I am cutting corners) it has now become a recognized relaxation and/or stress management activity in Japan.

A great article (“Really? The Claim: Exposure to Plants and Parks Can Boost Immunity,” by Anahad O’Connor for The New York Times, July 5, 2010) about this practice was published last year. I’m hoping the intellectual copyright people won’t sue me for posting two paragraphs from the article here:

“One study published in January included data on 280 healthy people in Japan, where visiting nature parks for therapeutic effect has become a popular practice called “Shinrin-yoku,” or “forest bathing.” On one day, some people were instructed to walk through a forest or wooded area for a few hours, while others walked through a city area. On the second day, they traded places. The scientists found that being among plants produced “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, and lower blood pressure,” among other things.

A number of other studies have shown that visiting parks and forests seems to raise levels of white blood cells, including one in 2007 in which men who took two-hour walks in a forest over two days had a 50-percent spike in levels of natural killer cells. And another found an increase in white blood cells that lasted a week in women exposed to phytoncides in forest air.

The main study that O’Connor is referring to is:
Li Q, Morimoto K, Kobayashi M, Inagaki H, Katsumata M, Hirata Y, et al. Visiting a forest, but not a city, increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. 2008;21:117–28. Visit that same Wikipedia page for more.

So, happy Earth Day, and happy Year of the Forests!

Planting the Healing Garden: Joys of Early Spring (Redux)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Serviceberry (Amelanchier spp.) in bloom. Photo by Naomi Sachs

I wrote a post last year on this subject, and as it’s April again and I still feel the same way about the wonders of early spring (in my neck of the woods, anyway – I realize that down south things are much further along, and that things are way different in other parts of the country and world), I’m pointing you to that post from last year. Lots of pretty pictures in addition to my usual words of wisdom:) Planting the Healing Garden: The Quiet Joys of Early Spring. Enjoy!

EDRA Great Places Awards – Call for Entries

EDRA Great Places Awards

Do You Know A GREAT PLACE?

The Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) is now accepting submissions for the 13th Annual Great Places Awards for Place Design, Planning and Research.

EDRA’s Great Places Awards are unique among programs that recognize professional and scholarly excellence in environmental design. They are distinguished by their interdisciplinary focus, concern for human factors in the design of the built environment, and a commitment to promoting links between design research and practice.

Entries are welcome from the full breadth of environmental design and related research activities, including architecture, landscape architecture, planning, urban design, interior design, lighting design, graphic design, environmental psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography and the physical sciences. Projects should emphasize a link between research and practice, demonstrating how an understanding of human interaction with place can inspire design.

A panel of distinguished jurors will select winners from four categories: place design, place planning, place research, and a book prize. This year’s jurors include: Leon Bridges, FAIA, AIA , Lecturer, Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, Morgan State University; Sidney N. Brower, Professor, Urban Studies and Planning, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland; Mark Cameron, Executive Director, Neighborhood Design Center; Carol Macht, ASLA, Senior Principal, Hord Coplan Macht; Glenn LaRue Smith, Assistant Professor, Graduate Landscape Architecture Department, School of Architecture and Planning, Morgan State University; and Patricia Zingsheim,  AIA, CPM, Associate Director of Revitalization and Design, D.C. Office of Planning.

For submission guidelines, rules and official entry form visit www.edra.org. All entries for the 2011 Great Places Awards must be received by February 11, 2011.

The Allure of Allotment Gardens: An interview with photographer Charlie Hopkinson

Walworth Community Garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

Walworth Community Garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

Charlie Hopkinson, a photographer based in the UK, has two primary subjects: People and gardens. Among many other things, he shoots portraits for Gardens Illustrated, which is how I met him, on an uncharacteristically sunny day at Kew Gardens in London. We talked about all sorts of things, but his interest in shooting allotment gardens (akin to community gardens in the U.S.) intrigued me. I asked him to send me some images, and then invited him to do this short interview.

Allotment garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

NS: You have photographed some pretty high-profile people, from John Malkovich and Angelica Houston to Beth Chatto and Dan Pearson. And your landscape and botanical photographs are beautiful, though somewhat more formal than this series (is it officially a series?). What interests you about allotment gardens?
CH: I’m interested in photographing allotments because they almost always reflect the personality of the gardener. Many of the formal gardens I photograph reflect the personality of the garden designer. Allotment gardens are often pretty unstructured, which I like, purely functional as opposed to decorative which I like, and they are usually arranged in straight lines, which I find far more visually interesting that clever curves and so on. I love straight lines in photographs.

Do you have an allotment garden?
I don’t, but I’m making a garden at the moment, and allotments are the principle inspiration, especially function over decoration, straight lines, and a certain unstructured approach!

Allotment garden, UK. Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

Photo by Charlie Hopkinson, www.charliehopkinson.com

If money were no object, would you travel the world shooting allotment gardens, or is there something special about them being in the UK?
I would travel the world doing just that. I recently went to Kenya, and came across the odd allotment here and there, and photographed them. They were fairly scruffy and unkempt. There’s nothing special about UK allotments as far as I’m concerned. Up to now, this has been an idle thing I have done here and there. I would, given time, make a more studied effort, but it would have to include the allotment gardener being photographed too.

Many thanks to Charlie Hopkinson for his beautiful photographs and this interview. Brief bio: Charlie has been a butcher, paint maker, artist, and soldier before he taught himself photography. Based in South London, he spends most of his time on location photographing well known subjects for a wide variety of magazines. Much of his personal work is centred around things that grow or once grew. His gardening hero is Henk Gerritsen, and his bible, is Henk’s Essay on Gardening. Photographic heroes include Jacques Henri Lartigue, and Diane Arbus. You can see more of Charlie’s work at his website, charliehopkinson.com.

To learn more about community and allotment gardens, visit the Therapeutic Landscapes Network website’s Community Gardens page.

Research Summary: “Investigating Walking Environments In and Around Assisted Living Facilities.”

Photo courtesy of Susan Rodiek

Walking is the most popular form of exercise for elderly people. Photo courtesy of Susan Rodiek.

Speaking of older adults (see our last post about Environments for Aging), a good article – “Investigating Walking Environments in and Around Assisted Living Facilities: A Facility Visit Study” by Zhipeng Lu – was published in the Summer 2010 issue of Health Environments Research & Design Journal (HERD). I wish I could provide a web link for you to access the free article, but alas, it’s only available to buy. So I’ll summarize the author’s points here.

At issue are the dueling needs of elderly people: The need for safety and the need for exercise and social connection. Lu states that “falls are the most frequent cause of injury-related morbidity and mortality among community-dwelling older people.” Falling is a true risk and needs to be avoided. But as he (and others he cites) argue, exercise and social connection are both critical for maintaining physical and emotional health. Careful consideration of location/neighborhood, as well as design of indoor and outdoor pathways, can both reduce risks and enable elderly people to live active, healthy lives.

Lu first makes a case for the benefits of exercise – in this case, walking – for elderly people (people 65 or older), and asserts that “the physical environment plays a role in promoting physical activity.” Since walking is the most preferred form of exercise among elderly people, it makes good sense to see what types of settings best promote frequent and safe walking.” The design of walkable ALF environments has become more important because frail older people are increasingly averse to nursing homes and seek a higher quality of life and greater independent living in an ALF.” An assisted living facility, or ALF, as defined by the Assisted Living Federation of America is “a long-term care option that combines housing, supportive services, and healthcare for mentally and physically frail individuals.”

(more…)

Landscapes for Healing: Resources for Veterans

Veteran and sunflowers. Photo courtesy of Defiant Gardens.

Photo courtesy of Defiant Gardens

Speaking of veterans (see yesterday’s post. “Veterans Day, 2010 – Memorials as Healing Landscapes“), many who come home alive require medical treatment for both physical and emotional problems. Steve Mitrione, a doctor as well as a landscape architect, explains that more people are surviving because of body armor and better medical technology, but the injuries are more severe. The number of veterans returning with traumatic brain injuries, or TBIs, is alarming. Also alarming is the number of veterans returning with post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Current studies estimate that about 20% of active duty and 42% of reserve duty soldiers require mental health services for PTSD. The VA system and the military are beginning to reach out to landscape architects and horticultural therapists as one strategy for addressing PTSD. Several students have contacted the TLN this year looking for information because they want to write their masters thesis on the subject Here are some good resources to tap into, but what’s still lacking is research. If we are to create spaces and programs for people (veterans and others) with PTSD based on the evidence, we need the evidence. If you know of any published studies, please let us know! Leave a comment on this blog, or contact us through the TLN website.

Returning Home: The Veterans Therapeutic Garden Project,” by Dr. Steven Mitrione, Associate ASLA  – Article written for the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network’s Spring 2010 Newsletter. “Given the challenges facing the VA system, we believe that therapeutic gardens have the potential to alleviate suffering, provide for recovery and therapy, enhance the veteran’s experience of care, and reduce costs.” This article is really really worth reading. Chock full of good information and ideas. A good place to start.

Therapeutic Garden Design and Veterans Affairs: Preparing for Future Needs.” – Joint conference with the Acer Institute and the ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design Professional Practice Network in Miami, FL, 2005 – Click here to link to the conference proceedings.

Acer Insitute’s list of Therapeutic Gardens at Veterans Healthcare Facilities – This list is in development. If you know of a facility or program (especially if it’s a good one!), you can sign in and add to the list.

Gardening Leave (www.gardeningleave.org) – A UK charity founded by Anna Baker Cresswell for ex-Servicemen and women with PTSD and other mental health issues. The goal is to combat stress through horticultural therapy activities – growing fruit and vegetables – in a walled garden setting, where people feel safe and protected. The program has been developed in accordance with plans by Combat Stress (Ex-Services Mental Welfare Society).

Gardening Leave commissioned an evaluation of their  project, which you can link to on their website. The title of the report is “An Evaluation of the Gardening Leave Project for Ex-Military Personnel with PTSD and Other Combat Related Mental Health Problems,” by Jacqueline Atkinson, Professor of Mental Health Policy at Glasgow University June 2009.

VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System Veterans Garden – Nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, this unique 15-acre garden is operated by vets of the VA Hospital as part of the Horticulture Therapy Program. The Vets’ Garden is open to the public and offers a beautiful and tranquil escape from the congestion and concrete of the city. Established in 1986 as a work therapy program, the garden continues to run as a fully self-sufficient business, selling fresh-grown, pesticide-free produce to individual customers and several local restaurants.

Farmer Veteran Coalition – “Farmers helping veterans, veterans helping farmers.”

Veterans Farm – The veterans farm was developed to unite disabled veterans and to help them overcome disabilities such as (PTSD) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and (TBI) Traumatic Brain Injuries through “Horticulture Therapy”. Through different programs, veterans will have a chance to “Earn While They Learn.”

Veteran Homestead Victory Farm – Victory Farm, is a supportive housing program located on an eighty acre working organic vegetable farm in New Hampshire. This program offers a lifestyle change to the homeless veteran who has not been successful transitioning from residential treatment programs to independent or transitional housing.

Defiant Gardens, by Kenneth Helphand – The book gives a historical view of “…gardens created in extreme or difficult environmental, social, political, economic, or cultural conditions. These gardens represent adaptation to challenging circumstances, but they can also be viewed from other dimensions as sites of assertion and affirmation.” The website, also called Defiant Gardens, brings us up to date, with gardens in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and even Guantanamoinformation and images of prison gardens, community gardens, and . The most recent post is the text from a New York Times article on gardens in Afghanistan.

Also see our blog post “Defiant Gardens” and Other Resources for Veterans from last November.

A Place to Call Home: A Landscape Master Plan to Honor the Veterans at the  Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, Chelsea, Massachusetts,” by Suzanne Higham Independent Project Thesis fora  Graduate Certificate in Landscape Design at the Landscape Institute of  The Boston Architectural College (note: I just received this thesis yesterday and have not yet had a chance to put it on the TLN website. Please check back soon).

So to reiterate, the big missing piece is RESEARCH.
Rick Spalenka, a landscape architect who is also a registered nurse and treated veterans with PTSD in a psychiatric nursing program, noticed two things: First, that PTSD is much higher in women vets than in men, often stemming from sexual abuse either before or during service. And second, that outdoor smoking areas are extremely important places for social gathering and connection. Designing areas for smoking into a garden? Some people might be appalled by this idea, but if that’s what gets someone out of their hospital bed and connecting with other people, maybe it’s not such a bad thing. “Smoking activity and smoking privileges have therapeutic qualities despite seeming so contrary to health. You remove smoking privileges from psych patients you will face hostility and anger. You prohibit smoking activity from med/surg patients and you face increased anxiety. The most popular meeting place for Vet patients is the smoke shack. They socialize and get physical activity. I used to tell my patients ‘the only one who ever got better in bed was Casanova.  Get out of bed.'”

Please help us add to this list of resources. Leave a comment on this blog, or contact us through the TLN website.

Veterans at Gardening Leave

Photo courtesy of Gardening Leave

To Rake or Not to Rake? Good Question!

Autumn leaves photo by Allison Vallin, www.atastefulgarden.com

Photo courtesy of Allison Vallin, www.atastefulgarden.com

Well, it’s November, and if your yard looks anything like mine, the leaves are starting to pile up. So, do you rake them, do you let them be, does a landscaping crew come with their leaf-blowers and haul them away? This year, I’ve seen several articles suggesting that gardeners not rake. Leaves make excellent mulch and they attract and protect all kinds of beneficial wildlife. And they’re free! Personally, as I live under two giant white oak trees, I feel the need to rake some (in fact, in Ellen Sousa’s recent blog post “Leave those leaves!” in which she advocates for not raking, she makes an exception for oak leaves). Carole Brown of Ecosystem Gardening and co-founder of Beautiful Wildlife Garden posted a good “to rake or not to rake” discussion that touches on many reasons why people do and don’t (and even should and shouldn’t) rake: “I am the Lorax, I Speak for the Leaves.”

Autumn leaves photo by Allison Vallin www.atastefulgarden.com

Photo courtesy of Allison Vallin www.atastefulgarden.com

A recent article in Fine Gardening (“Improve Your Soil by Raking Less“) provides lots of ideas about how to turn your leaves into gold. For leaves on the lawn, you can run them over with a mulching mower. Rather than smothering it, the organic matter and nutrients in the leaves will improve turf quality. You can rake leaves into garden beds to create mulch that both protects and feeds. You can even build planting beds with leaves. I highly recommend all three of the above-mentioned online articles for information and inspiration.

If you do choose to rake, think of it as an exercise opportunity rather than a burdensome chore. Who needs the gym when you’ve got leaves! Raking is one of many gardening activities that, if done for 30 minutes a day, can increase metabolic rate, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, tone muscles, improve flexibility, and even improve cardiovascular fitness – enough to reduce the risk of heart disease and type-2 diabetes. Raking burns approximately 375 calories per hour (for comparison, jogging burns about 430 calories per hour).

Autumn leaves photo by Allison Vallin www.atastefulgarden.com

Photo courtesy of Allison Vallin www.atastefulgarden.com

Many horticultural therapy programs include raking, both for the physical and psychological benefits. It’s something most of us have done at some point in our lives, and it often brings back fond memories (mine are a lot like these pictures, jumping into and playing in big piles of leaves).

So if you’ve got leaves, the decision is yours what to do with them. But whether you rake them up, leave them be (sorry, couldn’t resist) or something in between, try to think of them as yet another gift from the garden.

Many thanks to Allison Vallin and her lovely blog, A Tasteful Garden, for the photos.

Labyrinths as Therapeutic Landscapes

Labyrinth at Burford Priory, courtesy of St. James's Piccadilly

Labyrinth at Burford Priory, courtesy of St. James's Piccadilly

In last week’s Garden Designers Roundtable, the theme was “Therapy and Healing in the Garden” and not one but two posts focused on labyrinths (Jenny Petersen’s “Therapeutic Spaces“) and (Lesley Hegarty and Robert Webber’s “‘Homage to Ariadne’ – Labyrinthine Therapy“). I’ve been meaning to blog about this subject for awhile, so their posts were a good nudge.

Both Jenny and Lesley and Robert distinguish between labyrinths and mazes. Historically, they were much more similar. The Greek mythological labyrinth was designed to confuse the Minotaur, and the dictionary defines “labyrinthine” as “entangled.” The term is often used when describing, say, the process of doing one’s taxes, or dealing with an insurance company, or the U.S. healthcare system.

But, as Robert and Lesley explain, since 430 AD, “a labyrinth has had a single unambiguous path to the centre and back.” And as Jenny further describes, “a labyrinth is a flat surface containing an intricately designed pathway, but it’s important to note that it is not a maze. A maze is a left-brained puzzle, full of different pathways containing tricks and turns. Fun, but not therapeutic! A labyrinth has only one pathway that moves back and forth from side to side until you reach the center–no need to figure out where you’re going; you just walk and the pathway will lead you. In fact, a favorite quote of labyrinth enthusiasts comes from the philosopher and theologian St. Augustine (345-430 A.D.) who said, ‘Solviture ambulando. It is solved by walking.'”

Esther Sternberg, in her excellent book Healing Spaces: The Science and Place of Well-Being devotes a chapter to mazes and labyrinths, and she, too, makes a clear distinction between the two, arguing that the former are challenging and stressful, and the latter generally have the opposite effect, calming and centering us in a form of walking meditation (click here to link to the TLN Blog’s interview with Dr. Sternberg, in which we discuss this and other subjects).

Jenny provides one possible explanation for this effect: “There’s a thought that labyrinths are a calming activity because of something called ‘bilateral movement.’ It’s that back-and-forth movement of the body/brain that is said to have a calming effect–think of other back-and-forth movements/activities that calm you: pacing, knitting/crocheting, reading. The side-to-side motion of the labyrinth path can help ease anxiety and depression, aid people with ambulatory/balance issues and supplement meditation or prayer.”

Labyrinths come in several different styles and can be made from many different materials, including something as simple as the mown pictured above. For some more examples, see Jenny and Lesley and Robert’s posts. They have found their way into hospitals, schools, churches, prisons, public parks, and myriad other places where they are believed to serve a holistic function of bringing balance into our lives.

I had a chance to walk the labyrinth on the rooftop garden at the American Psychological Association this summer, where Holly Siprelle gave ASLA Healthcare and Therapeutic Design members a tour. Theirs is a 7-circuit Santa Rosa labyrinth designed by Dr. Lea Goode-Harris, an active member of The Labyrinth Society. It’s a joint effort between the APA, the World Resources Institute, and the TKF Foundation and is used often by staff and visitors as a way to take a break and decompress. The garden also has a neat finger labyrinth, shown below (this one was custom-made, but you can find finger labyrinths at this website, www.relax4life.com).

Finger labyrinth at the American Psychological Association. Photo by Naomi Sachs

Finger labyrinth at the American Psychological Association. Photo by Naomi Sachs

My colleague Randy Eady is a big proponent of labyrinths and their benefits. He has written, spoken, and consulted extensively on the subject and his website, www.easichi.koshareyrhythms.com, is a wealth of knowledge.

We are still building the Therapeutic Landscapes Network’s Labyrinths page, where we list resources (in print or online), research, and images. We would love to expand this list, so please, leave your comments here!