Article Contributed by, Maria Cannon, Dallas, TX
The healing powers of gardening are well-documented, and that applies to large flower gardens small vegetables gardens, and everything in between. Specific types of gardens, termed therapy or therapeutic gardens, may just be the king of the gardening-for-health category. When it comes to helping you battle depression, anxiety, suicidal ideations, and health problems caused by stress, it’s hard to beat this particular treatment.
How a therapy garden uses sensory stimulation to help you relax and heal
A good garden is one of the few things in the world that can stimulate all five of our senses. Sight is the most obvious, as flowers are absolutely beautiful to look at. Flowers and herbs all have unique aromas, which can be calming. Certain plants and grasses make sounds when rustled by the wind. Vegetable gardens can provide delicious treats to savor, and the different textures of plants, from smooth leaves to fuzzy Lamb’s Ear, can satisfy our sense of touch.
Don’t just think about plants. A great garden will have some sort of water element to it, which is vital to building an area where you can relax.
“Provide a water feature because water is a soothing agent. Still water can provide a setting for meditation while the sound and view of moving water is restorative. You can use a small fountain or create a pond with koi or goldfish,” suggests Care2.
A good therapy garden will have emotional connection
Plants play an important role in memory and positive association, and surrounding yourself with reminders of good times is certainly therapeutic.
“Plant things that are meaningful to you and evoke happy feelings. For example, maybe lilies remind you of your wedding day because they were in your bouquet … The more positive associations you can create in your garden, the more opportunities you’ll have to change your outlook,” notes MotherEarthLiving.com.
Gardening gives you a sense of purpose
For those struggling with depression, loneliness, anxiety, or some other mental health issue, there are very few hobbies that instill a greater sense of purpose than gardening. Think about it: you plant a seed, bulb, or very small plant. You create a perfect environment for it to thrive. Then, you take steps every single day to ensure it succeeds. Eventually, that plant blooms and bears fruit. That fruit can be visually stunning, delicious, or a treat for your nose. Without your care, the plant never would’ve survived.
This is the nurturing benefit of gardening. For those battling their own inner demons, there is nothing greater than giving yourself a sense of purpose and accomplishment.
The therapy is in the work
The results are in, and exercise helps to prevent depression. Getting enough physical activity boosts our brain’s production of feel-good hormones, keeps us fit and healthy (which certainly affects mood and overall life outlook), and helps us keep our minds sharp. Gardening is a wonderful low-impact form of exercise. Doubt that? Spend a whole day in the garden and see how you feel the next day.
Not only that, but working in a garden is a great way to get out in the sunlight and fresh air. Without enough sunlight, we don’t get enough Vitamin D. When we don’t get enough Vitamin D, our brains produce less serotonin, which is a pleasure trigger.
Any garden can be a therapy garden if it’s designed with care, with the intent on stimulating all of your senses. Gardening has many health benefits, but the most important one may be its ability to boost overall mental health
As someone who suffers from fibromyalgia, gardening has been a lifesaver for me. It has allowed me to work through the depression and anxiety I’ve had about my chronic illness, in addition to providing me with a type of physical activity that has proven to be highly therapeutic.
Postscript by Bob Beyer, Central Texas Gardening.
I . who has now reached his senior years, have always felt that Hortitherapy was a Godsend to many people whether battling health issue or just everyday frustrations. Maria’s article hit home for me and I am delighted to receive and share this article from Maria which brought to light, the reasons I value gardening. In my case, I grew up in tropical south Florida and have never returned to live there again. I miss the tropical plants and environment that take me back to my formative years. So, now, living and gardening in central Texas, I must have a greenhouse to allow me to grow and enjoy the tropical plants I miss and love like Bougainvillea for example. My xeriphytic yard has many varieties of hardy palms and other tropical looking plants that can make it thorugh our winters in Austin. Every day, I feel compelled to walk the garden and look for anything new and exciting, camera in hand to immortalize the beauty of nature so I can still enjoy the garden if confined to indoors due to weather extremes. I also love to start new plants from rooted cuttings or small divisions so to have the satisfaction reproducing and watching them grow. Also, the wildlife that are atrracted to a garden brings joy and happiness. Thank you Maria Cannon for your thought provoking and stimulating article. What is your reason and prime benefit from gardening?