Good gardeners know that the “fruits of their labor” are—of course—the end products they nibble off the vine, bring into the kitchen, or even the simple flower bouquet they arrange and then place on the dinner table.
Now we know that the physical act of gardening, or just being IN a garden, also feed mind, body and spirit.
One study, published in The Journal of Environmental Psychology, describes an experiment where researchers split 112 young but overly stressed-out adults into two groups. Half sat in a room with a view of trees before being asked to stroll through a garden. The others sat in a room without windows before walking through a city.
Results, as reported in the Daily Mail, were fairly predictable:
The group that relaxed in the garden showed decreases in blood pressure and a positive change in feelings.”
Other research has found that the simple act of smelling roses and pulling up weeds can stimulate brain activity, lower blood pressure, and make a person generally less stressed and more happy-go-lucky.
Even more surprising was a University of Arkansas study that looked at 3,310 women, aged 50 and older, and found that those who gardened at least once a week had higher bone density than those who were sedentary, or even those who walked, jogged, swam or did aerobics.
Too old or infirm to be active? Even the simple act of growing a potted plant can give a handicapped or elderly person a sense of control and accomplishment, not to mention pleasure.
On the other end of the age spectrum, NPR reports on a 2011 study at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Southwestern Ohio. The Center’s gardening program for youth...
…showed that horticulture therapy helped the kids see themselves in a more positive light and helped them better manage their emotional and behavioral problems.”
Dig it: other studies link exposure to soil with an increase of serotonin levels in our brain. No wonder “Horticulture Therapy” (HT) is on the rise. According to American Horticultural Therapy Association, the benefits are plentiful:
HT techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. HT helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, HT can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational HT settings, people learn to work independently, problem solve, and follow directions. Horticultural therapists are professionals with specific education, training, and credentials in the use of horticultural for therapy and rehabilitation.”
Patients participate in cultivating, pruning, weeding, or simply strolling through a garden. Programs are popping up in unexpected places. Prisoners, school children and even war veterans (via a program called Greenleaf) are benefiting:
The idea is to help veterans who are challenged by physical and emotional challenges such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” reports the Sentinel. “...horticultural therapy can help combat depression, decrease physical pain, improve memory and concentration, encourage social interaction, reduce stress and anger, and enhance productivity.”
So if you seek new life skills, better bone density, lower blood pressure, or simply a sunny disposition, try planting a garden or simply spending time in one. Sowing those seeds and wandering through the weeds may be the answer to your problems!
Image via Flickr
Proof Gardening is Healthy via Daily Mail
Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress via Journal of Health Psychology.
Is Dirt the New Prozac? via Discovery Magazine
New Horitcultural Therapy Programs for Veterans via Sentinel
Greenleaf Veterans Gardens via BeesandCarrots.com
Horticultural Therapy via American Horticultural Therapy Association