The environment people live nowadays has contributed to different kinds of stress to individuals. As a result, the world has been packed with various types of therapies to overcome these stresses. These therapies are not only used to relax and release the tensions from the daily lives. They are used as a kind of alternative medicine for mental health problems.
One of the emerging therapies is what we call horticultural therapy. This therapy utilizes the healing power of plants. Horticultural therapy started as a kind of mental health treatment for veteran soldiers through the use of gardening. Nowadays, this kind of treatment is beginning to be adopted by various groups such as old people, psychiatric patients, dementia patients, and more.
Many studies have seen the positive effects of gardening. Not only did it affect the mental aspect of a person, but it also improved their physical, emotional, and social areas. With this, let us now explore what it is which seems to make gardening and horticulture benefit our mental health.
Gardening Provides Relaxation
According to a plant enthusiast, “Flowers are restful to look at. They have no emotions or conflict.” Taking care of plants enables us to take a break from all the deadlines and stress the world throws at us. This activity allows us to release and better connect ourselves with the carefree part of us.
In addition, the repetitive and rhythmic nature of gardening, specifically the cycle of weeding, trimming, sowing, and sweeping enables our thoughts to break free and flow along with the tasks’ movements. Since we are distracted by the said rhythmic movement, there is a significant possibility that we won’t be able to further take the competing thoughts inside our heads.
Aside from gardening, placing indoor plants in our homes can also comfort us. Studies show that being near green leafy plants helps us reboot out mental processing power after being depleted due to the exposure to various stressors.
This kind of relaxation brought about by plants somehow reboots our mind and contributes to more idea formation.
Gardening Gives A Sense Of Responsibility
Looking after a bunch of plants gives us a sense of responsibility. Having the task to tend the garden is an excellent way to take care of and respect other living things around us. The sense of responsibility brought about by gardening helps us find our identities better and contribute to the betterment of our mental health.
Knowing that we have accomplished this kind of responsibility can help boost our self-esteem as well.
Gardening Releases Happy Hormones
Believe it or not, gardening is also a kind of exercise. “I think the mental health and stress-related benefits that gardening provides coupled with the fact that it keeps you out of the kitchen or TV room, where boredom eating often happens, can help with weight loss as well,” shares Melina Jampolis, MD.
This activity, through the different physical tasks such as wheel barrowing, carrying sacks of fertilizers and plants, and digging land for hours, can easily make us sweat. With this kind of exercise, the levels of serotonin and dopamine, some examples of hormones which makes us feel good), increases. On the other hand, the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, is lowered.
Everyday sessions in the garden can be exhausting. However, with the release of the said happy hormones can ultimately make us feel renewed and recharged on the inside.
Gardening Enables Us To Live In The Moment
Some individuals who experience mental health problems often find themselves stuck with the past and scared of the present. This kind of mindset only increases anxiety. This can be supported by Sarah Rayner, an author of a book related to anxiety, when she wrote that “When we let go of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future and instead focus on the here, and now, anxiety lessens.”
“Rumination is associated with depression,” Suma Chand, MD, of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America also adds. “Research shows that people who ruminate are more likely to develop depression compared to those who don’t.”
Through gardening, it is easier for us to calm our anxious minds and live more at present. This relaxation can further be enhanced through the use of our senses in the fullness of nature. “Gardening, like other art therapies, differs from traditional therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), because it’s more indirectly beneficial. Rather than working through all of your problems with words, you cope with your hands,” says Timothy J. Legg, Ph.D.
Horticulture therapy is one of the easiest and most affordable forms of therapy. The mentioned benefits above only prove how it can further improve the state of our mental well-being. Start exploring gardening and put your green thumbs to work!