Therapy: Starting a Therapeutic Garden
August 23rd, 2016
Did you know that an excellent way to ease mental stress, anxiety, PTSD, and depression is right in your backyard? Simply by planting and taking care of a garden, you could benefit from reduced symptoms and improve your mental health.
How Reliable Is It?
Garden therapy has been scientifically proven to improve mental health. A CNN report cited a study conducted in Norway that focused on the effects of therapeutic gardening on individuals diagnosed with depression, consistent low mood, or bipolar disorder. The study showed that half of the participants experienced a measurable improvement in their symptoms after gardening for just six hours per week for three months. A 2010 study conducted in a juvenile rehabilitation center in Ohio, published in 2011 in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, showed that juvenile offenders who participated in the gardening program were better equipped to cope and manage emotional and behavioral problems. Therapeutic gardening is also recognized by the American Society of Landscape Architects, an organization which utilizes a network of consultants who work specifically on designing therapeutic gardens. There is even a specific course of study at Rutgers University in New Jersey, horticulture therapy, which is dedicated to therapeutic gardening.
How Does It Work?
While the research behind how gardening specifically improves mood is still underway, some studies have shown promise in discovering the science behind how it works. An article published by NPR cited several scientific articles that have begun to sort out the mystery. For example, one source highlighted the relationship between bacteria in the soil and neurotransmitters in your brain: “One 2007 study in the journal Neuroscience found a bacteria found in soil linked with increased serotonin production in the brain — a sign that gardening could increase serotonin levels and improve depression.” The aforementioned CNN article cited the work of Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder. His study came to similar conclusions that a common bacteria found in soil was responsible for an increase the release and metabolism of serotonin — which is what is targeted by common antidepressant medications. In addition to these potential neurochemical effects are the benefits of fresh air, nature, and sunshine, which all positively affect your mood. Scientists are still working to determine the exact relationship between gardening and mental health, but what they’ve discovered so far is promising.
How to Get Started
If you’re interested in getting the benefits of creating and taking care of a therapeutic garden, but aren’t sure where to start — don’t worry! A therapeutic garden can include any type of plant (vegetable, perennial, annual) and the design doesn’t have to be intricate. It’s the act of planting, weeding, watering, and pruning that creates the therapy. Florida is one of the best places to start a therapeutic garden because there are many plants you can grow all year long. What are you waiting for? Get digging!