What is Horticultural Therapy and How Does it Work?

Let nature be your stress buster

 

When you are feeling the pressure, take things back to basics.

Horticultural therapy (HT) is the process by which gardening, and plants, are used to improve both physical and mental wellbeing of an individual. Also known as social and therapeutic horticulture, HT has been widely recognised as an effective form of therapy since the ancient Egyptian era. Back then, physicians were already prescribing walks around gardens for patients with mental health problems. Today, therapists continue to recommend HT for those who are stressed, depressed, recovering from surgery or other trauma.

The science behind horticultural therapy

When people participate in HT, they take on a care-giving role. By tending to a garden, people receive an increased sense of responsibility and purpose. Gardening helps improve your motor skills and being amongst nature has a general calming effect on the soul. Some studies suggest that this is because being outdoors exposes you to more sun, and in turn vitamin D.

The benefits

The care giving role allows people to increase to their self-esteem. This is crucial for those who are suffering from depression or from the scars of past trauma, like extreme bullying or assault. HT encourages social interaction with others and the development of new interests, which is why it has been introduced into some prison programs. One study set out to investigate if patients recovering from heart attacks could benefit from HT. It found that: “horticultural therapy improves mood state, suggesting that it may be a useful tool in reducing stress. Therefore, to the extent that stress contributes to coronary heart disease, these findings support the role of horticultural therapy as an effective component of cardiac rehabilitation”

How you can de-stress at home

There are designated courses you can enrol in to become a horticultural therapist. But you don’t have to be an accredited professional to spend time de-stressing in your own backyard. Choose a sunny day to begin.

First, start by clearing your patio or any concrete areas of leaves. You can do this with a broom, rake, or floor cleaning machine. Picking up stray leaves immediately makes your yard feel less disorderly. If your backyard could do with some brightening up, why not visit your local gardening centre? The staff will be able to advise you on what plants and flowers will grow best in your garden. If your backyard is level and gets suitable sunlight, you could even dig a vegetable patch. Growing your own produce is incredible rewarding, as well as thrifty.

Horticultural therapy is a recognised practice that delivers results. So, this is all the more reason to spend more time out working in your garden!


This article was kindly provided by Helen Cartwright.

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