Landscape architects and DIY garden designers have always developed their structures as sanctuaries; places where people can retreat from the stress and anxiety of everyday life. Most cities have botanical gardens, while others offer enormous green spaces, like Central Park in New York City. Although people are encouraged to enjoy the gardens, or get in touch with nature through the use of these facilities, recent studies indicate that there is far more therapeutic benefit to actively growing and maintaining plants yourself.
“Therapeutic Horticulture” is a recognized treatment to combat stress, depression, and anxiety in several countries and across a broad spectrum of “patients.” Growing and maintaining plants has been successfully used as a healing aid for these conditions in such places as schools, hospitals, prisons, and mental health facilities.
Gardening & Schools:
Recent studies of school sponsored gardening projects, centered on the cultivation of crops, indicate that children who design, plant and maintain gardens develop better motor skills and brain function.
They also develop positive mental attitudes towards, health, nutrition, science, math, reading and comprehension.
These children also perform better in class, on other projects, extra-curricular activities, and show remarkable improvement in personal responsibility, interpersonal communication, and overall behavior.
Research on gardening students also indicates much better self-esteem and sense of accomplishment, especially in those who get started at the earliest stages of life, by getting out into the garden with their parents before they are old enough for school.
Additional studies surround students who garden shows that they are far more inclined to work together in groups towards a common goal, sharing ideas and concepts accordingly as the progress of the project proceeds.
Gardening & Mental Health:
Gardening projects that have been specifically designed as treatments for mental health conditions are known to improve the “quality of life” for patients who suffer from crippling bouts of anxiety and clinical depression.
Additional studies surrounding patients with clinical depression discovered that therapeutic horticulture and structured gardening reduced the level of depression being experienced by the patient. Researchers found that these gardening projects gave patient’s a greater sense of existential purpose; they felt their lives had more meaning.
In prisons and correctional facilities, therapeutic horticulture projects are used to encourage positive attitudes and purposeful activities, which result in fewer acts of hostility and aggression, both during incarceration and after release.
Structured gardening programs and projects are also being used to treat military veterans who suffer from PTSD. Therapeutic horticulture has been found to improve the lives of these veterans, while simultaneously reducing aggressiveness and episodes associated with severe cases of PTSD.
Gardening & The Elderly:
Gardening projects and programs have also been successfully implemented to improve the quality of life for elderly folks in nursing homes. Studies indicate that gardening improves the overall health of elderly people who actively participate in it.