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Painting Brevard Rocks offers healing

Painting Brevard Rocks offers healing

What started as a simple calming activity has turned into an uplifting phenomenon with tens of thousands of people across Brevard County participating. And it’s all about rocks.

Jen Justiniano actively works to manage her anxiety, but when Category 4 Hurricane Matthew was headed for Brevard County last October, she said it was hard to keep at bay.

On social media site Pinterest, Justiniano found pins featuring decorated rocks — a simple and fun activity for her family.

“I started painting and I was really surprised at how therapeutic it actually was for me. When you paint intricate designs, you have to focus and breathe differently. It calms you down,” she said.

Justiniano shared her first painted rock on her personal Facebook timeline and a friend commented to tell her to check out the Lakeland Rocks Facebook group. Justiniano liked the community feel of the posts, so she started a local one, Brevard Rocks FL.

Since October, that public group has grown to more than 35,000 members who share their finished designs and give hints on where they will hide them. When people find rocks in the community, they post pictures, too.

“Many people are finding the whole process of painting the rocks, hiding them, and finding them very therapeutic,” Justiniano said.

One unexpected outcome of the project has been the stories that accompany posts with photos of recently painted or found rocks.

Sarah Hasibar is one of those people who has shared her story in the group. An Army veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, Hasibar has found surprising purpose and solace in the Brevard Rocks project. Normally, being out in public causes Hasibar to panic, but when she’s looking for and hiding rocks with her two children, she said she feels calm.

“I’ve started realizing I’m not as nervous in public and I’m not having panic attacks from being in public places,” Hasibar said. “I think the positive message of what the rocks represent is what helped. The love and joy I feel when finding a rock that someone painted just for another to find is what helps.”

Other members of the Facebook group have shared similar stories of lessening depression and a greater desire to get out and enjoy life.

“I teach a kids yoga class and we colored rocks as a kindness exercise, which led into how we can conduct other simple acts of kindness,” Stephanie Sisler said. “Ever since we did that, we always start the classes sharing stories about the rocks we've found over the past week. It's been a beautiful lesson on how connected we are despite our differences.”

Lisa Digiovanni Torres works for Hospice, where the rocks have become a common activity.

“We deal with a lot of sad cases and families, and some days are very heavy,” she said. “This is a great way to bring joy not just to our survivors and families, but also to ourselves. If someone else is finding comfort from my rock, then it makes it worth it.”

Interested in joining the group? Head to the community Facebook page: Brevard Rocks FL

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