Using geonarratives to explore the diverse temporalities of therapeutic landscapes: perspectives from “green” and “blue” settings

Sarah L. Bell, Benedict W. Wheeler, Cassandra Phoenix

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A growing evidence base highlights “green” and “blue” spaces as examples of “therapeutic landscapes” incorporated into people's lives to maintain a sense of well-being. A commonly overlooked dimension within this corpus of work concerns the dynamic nature of people's therapeutic place assemblages over time. This article provides these novel temporal perspectives, drawing on the findings of an innovative three-stage interpretive geonarrative study conducted in southwest England from May to November 2013, designed to explore the complex spatial–temporal ordering of people's lives. Activity maps produced using accelerometer and Global Positioning system (GPS) data were used to guide in-depth geonarrative interviews with thirty-three participants, followed by a subset of go-along interviews in therapeutic places deemed important by participants. Concepts of fleeting time, restorative time, and biographical time are used, alongside notions of individual agency, to examine participants' green and blue space experiences in the context of the temporal structures characterizing their everyday lives and the biographical experiences contributing to the perceived importance of such settings over time. In a culture that by and large prioritizes speed, dominated by social ideals of, for example, the productive worker and the good parent, participants conveyed a desire to shift from fleeting time to restorative time, seeking a balance between embodied stillness and therapeutic mobility. This was deemed particularly important during more stressful life transitions, such as parenthood, employment shifts, and the onset of illness or impairment, when participants worked hard to tailor their therapeutic geographies to shifting well-being needs and priorities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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