Therapeutic gardening is a great way to dissolve the day’s stress. Generally, a therapeutic garden is designed to improve physical and mental health. So, if you ever feel overwhelmed of dealing with stress. Doing therapeutic gardening activities can help you relax.
Lately, there has been an ever-increasing interest in therapeutic gardening. Because stress is now a part of life. And it can have a negative impact on your health. Therapeutic gardening uses gardens to enhance your health and well-being.
Many hospitals, garden centres and horticultural societies often have therapeutic gardens. Typically, these gardens have vast entries and pathways. This allows people to wander seamlessly through the garden.
Usually, therapeutic gardens include raised beds and container plantings with a wide variety of colours, textures and aromas. These features boost your mood by stimulating your senses. Besides, such settings are good for horticultural therapy activities.
Moreover, you may also come across a wide range of local wildlife. From colourful birds and small animals to butterflies and insects. Indeed, these aspects bring a garden to life.
Most people often confuse between therapeutic gardening and healing gardens. The major difference is that therapeutic gardening is specially designed for treatment programs.
Such gardens engage people in all kinds of activities involving plants. All the way from planting and growing to maintaining them.
How therapeutic gardening is good for your health
Gardening is a fun way to promote physical and mental health. Furthermore, it increases social interactions with the community. And this boosts your emotional well-being.
Moreover, therapeutic gardening teaches us life skills and increases self-esteem. Studies show that participants reported increased confidence. As a result, it leads to a better quality of life.
Very often, landscapers work with horticultural therapists. Together, they design amazing spaces that are therapeutic in nature.
Besides, therapeutic gardening is incomplete without a horticultural therapy program. However, these programs don’t fully depend on elaborate garden designs.
Sometimes, a regular garden is enough for a horticultural therapy session. But a professionally designed garden unlocks the full potential of therapeutic gardening.
After all, the foundation of therapeutic gardening is to meet therapy goals. And a trained professional can help achieve them.
Participant involvement may be either active or passive. In fact, the process of interaction with plants is the therapeutic activity. Rather than the result.
In general, therapeutic gardening feature plant-dominated environments. And such environments increase interaction with nature’s healing elements.
No matter how short, the interaction with nature has dramatic results. Just looking at trees or walking through a garden is enough. This is truly a miracle of nature.
Therapeutic gardening design principles
Gardens designed for therapy need to meet certain standards. Moreover, garden planning should abide local regulations. That’s why most gardens are designed by professional landscape architects.
Besides regulations, a whole lot more goes into garden planning. One of the major challenges is selecting the right plants.
Based on the garden’s theme, there are many aspects to consider. With a variety of colours, textures, forms and aromas. Generally, it takes several months or even years to design gardens. The garden’s size greatly affects the time needed.
While planning, it’s crucial to meet requirements. Firstly, who will be using the garden? Is it for people with mental illnesses? Or, people with disabilities?
For instance, a garden with raised beds is good for a disabled person in a wheelchair. Whereas, blind people may benefit from bells and wind chimes in the garden.
On the other hand, autistic people need gardens that are well-organized to avoid unwanted movement.
Additionally, these gardens should be equipped with easy to use gardening tools. After all, these gardens are designed for people with disabilities.
For instance, ergonomic trowels, cultivators, weeders and pruning shears are often found at Therapeutic gardens.
Another important consideration is the kind of activities in the garden. Therapy programs can be offered in these gardens. Whether its residents, visitors or community members. There must be something for everyone.
Some of the popular activities include gardening skills like composting, container gardening and plant propagation.
In addition, gardens may attract local wildlife. Birds, butterflies, insects are small animals often linger in. Naturally, this attracts wildlife enthusiasts to the garden.
Furthermore, gardens are used for education and trainings for aspiring gardeners. And the harvests are often sold to create a self-sustaining garden.
Hence, landscape designers take extra care to satisfy special needs before sowing a single seed.
Benefits of Gardening
No doubt, therapeutic gardening boosts your physical and mental well-being. I mean, what better way can there be to relieve stress. Nothing beats the miracle of nature when it comes to therapy.
All the planting, digging and working around with plants is good exercise. Additionally, a therapy program helps boost emotional and mental well-being.
Moreover, it’s also a good social activity when you involve friends and family. Indeed, it increases your interaction with the community. As a result, you can learn life skills like communication.
What’s more, gardening rewards you with fresh garden produce very often. And it’s way better than buying them from the grocery store.
To sum up the benefits of therapeutic gardening:
- It improves physical health and fitness in many ways
- Boost your mental health
- Enhance decision making ability and unleash your creativity
- Reduces stress and tension
- Improve your mood and eliminate negative thoughts
- Increased social interaction with community, friends and family
- Cures depression and anxiety
- Increased confidence and self-esteem
- Learn gardening and life skills
- Better communication skills, literacy and numeracy
Gardening and its healing potential
Therapeutic gardening has great potential to help people with disabilities. Moreover, its also helps people dealing with chronic illnesses.
There are many ways to achieve these goals with therapeutic gardening. Some gardens feature nurseries and botany for rehabilitation. Whereas, facilities like nursing homes and hospitals often have therapeutic gardening programs.
Research shows that therapeutic gardening reduces cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that’s produced by the body in response to stress. Additionally, it also improves mood.
There’s no better way to connect with nature than therapeutic gardening. Besides, you can learn some amazing skills too. Especially, hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It also improves concentration and stamina.
Gardens are designed for all kinds of people. No matter your age, therapeutic gardens are accessible to everyone. In addition, people can develop a passion for gardening that may last a lifetime.
Involving community, friends and family is even better. And its very effective for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Gardening acts as a distraction from the stresses in life.
Caring for plants together improves teamwork, problem solving and decision making. It leads to significant decrease in depression. And its benefits can last for months or even a year.
Therapy programs teach us to control emotions and behaviours more effectively. And it promotes self-love. Studies show that therapeutic gardening also helps prevent drug and alcohol abuse.
Whether you admire the results of someone else’s work. Or you put in the efforts yourself. Therapeutic gardening has incredible healing powers for everyone.
Being in the hands of nature induces positivity and eliminates negative emotions. Just viewing plants through a window reduces stress significantly. Especially, by holding your attention to block stressful issues.
Where therapeutic gardening started
Therapeutic gardening has been around for thousands of years. With records of agricultural plots dating back to 2000 BC! There’s no doubt that we share an ancient bond with nature.
Our ancestors relied on plants for food and shelter. And this fact is true to this day. Before early humans started farming, they were heavily relying on hunting. Things changed when they started growing their own food.
Historically, agriculture started in Mesopotamia around fertile river valleys. And this inspired the surrounding regions.
Therapeutic gardening soon made its way into Egypt. Egyptian temple gardens primarily had fruits, palm trees and grape vines. Very soon, the Egyptians learned to grow herbs, spices and medicinal plants.
The Greek empire soon picked up on these ideas. Persian gardens were the main source of inspiration for the Greeks. And they documented their skills on horticulture.
Eventually, the writings spread all over the Mediterranean. And slowly, therapeutic gardening became popular throughout Europe. Besides, Japan and China also played a huge role in its evolution.
Meanwhile, therapeutic gardening was gaining popularity in the Americas. Within the ancient American civilizations including the Aztec, Mayan and Inca empires.
Modern Innovations in Therapeutic Gardening
Centuries later, sanitary reforms like cross-ventilation and accessibility to gardens were improved. The 20th century flourished with better technology. For instance, advances in medical science and the biomedical model changed therapeutic gardening.
The biomedical model mainly focuses on biological factors. Excluding the environmental and psychological factors. As a result, medical processes in therapeutic gardening became more efficient.
Innovation in therapeutic gardening reached its peak in the 20th century. Breakthrough studies proved the positive effects of nature. In other words, plants have a better effect on the recovery of patients than viewing plain walls.
Notably, Dr. Benjamin Rush was the first to discover the positive effects of gardening on mental health. Besides, he was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence.
Eventually, hospitalized war veterans were being treated with therapeutic gardening. As a result, interest in gardening grew. And it became widely popular all over the world.
Meanwhile, universities started including therapeutic gardening in their curriculum. The Kansas State University was the first U.S. university to offer these programs. Since then, interest in gardening grew significantly.
Research shows that spending time in gardens reduces the need for medications. Moreover, it also helps people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
I hope this article has inspired you to start gardening. So grab your seed starter kit and get your hands dirty!
Check out my article on Horticulture Therapy for more on this topic. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.