Sorry that this blog post is late again, (it’s becoming a bit of a habit), but I wasn’t able to write my post last week. If you know me, you’ll be aware of what a shit week I had and understand.
Anyway, this week I am speaking about the healing power of nature. This sounds like bullshit, but I just thought I’d look at horticultural therapy as is has become a bit of fad in psychology currently.
Horticultural therapy is the idea that being in the garden, around nature can improve mental and physical wellbeing. This idea originated from ancient Egypt and was practiced by Buddhist monks. Horticultural therapy has been used with war veterans, and children with Autism and Down’s syndrome. But equally, anyone who owns plants, or gardens can benefit from the healing powers of nature. Horticultural therapy is thought to improve confidence and self-awareness. Equally, for children with learning difficulties it can offer autonomy outside, and allows children to practice their social skills and gain life skills.
39% of people said that being in a garden made them feel healthier
79% of people feel that having access to a garden is essential for quality of life
So how does horticultural therapy improve well-being?
Relf said that there are four important aspects of working in a garden that can lead to improved mental state:
Number 1: The beauty of nature with seasonal changes relaxes the individual and allows them to put their own worries into perspective, and ‘get away’ from their problems (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989 cited by Adevi & Martensson, 2013).
Number 2: By working in a garden, the individual can see the dependence of nature.
Number 3: Nurturing plants leads to a feeling of belonging.
Number 4: Individuals may share experiences with others through cultivation.
But there is a bit more to it than that, as gardening can also restore our attention span (Kaplan & Kaplan, 1989 cited by Adevi & Martensson, 2013). This may explain how gardening can be beneficial to those with autism and Down’s syndrome and improve their ability to learn in the classroom. Furthermore, for children with Autism or Downs garden therapy can offer a retreat from the sensory overload of the classroom.
As Freud said: “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.” – I guess not everything Freud said was bullshit!
But also there is a sense of pride that we feel from growing our own vegetables, or looking after a cactus (the only plant I seem to be able to keep alive! And that’s after I killed two, although technically my dog did kill one of those).
It’s important to note that physical places are really vital and essential to human identity. We all give certain places cultural and sentimental significance, for example our childhood homes. This is called ‘place attachment’. Simply, spending time in a garden will affect our identity and that place may become more significant in our lives, therefore, it leads to feelings of belonging and being safe.
In sum, garden therapy seems to be a pretty damn cool idea. I think it is under-used currently and I would be interested to see how garden therapy develops in the future, potentially with mentally disordered patients or prisoners.
So my hope is that a few people after reading this might go out and buy a plant for themselves – maybe even just a cactus for their windowsill. They really are easy to look at and look after. I want to leave you with a picture of my cactus and succulent (their names are Nigel the cactus and Sally the succulent).
Love Em (The Little Blogger).
PS. Please post pictures below if you have a garden you find therapeutic or have plants who are helpful to you.
PPS. This has been quite a short and under-researched post overall. But I plan to have a read of a few more journals about this therapy and come back to you with some more interesting ideas on garden therapy soon.
Articles about Garden Therapy