Gardening for Wellbeing

Garden lovers have no doubts about the therapeutic benefits of spending time in their favourite green space.  For many it’s a favourite form of exercise.  Simply gazing at soil and plants can create an inexplicable feeling of wellbeing, both relaxing and energizing. Our senses and psyche are in contact with the rhythms of life: the seasons, weather, sunlight, wind.   And this is even before we begin to enjoy the taste and nutrition of freshly harvested garden produce.

So it should come as no surprise that recent research into earthing and grounding indicates that the exchange of electromagnetic energy between humans and earth is essential to life.  What’s more just looking at the natural world has been found to reduce stress, including evoking positive feelings while simultaneously reducing negative thoughts and emotions.  Professor Roger Ulrich, from the Center for Health Systems and Design, Texas A & M University, found that when viewing vegetation as opposed to urban landscapes, test subjects produced the sort of alpha brainwaves associated with being “wakefully relaxed”.

People may lose the ability to garden for a number of reasons.  Apartment dwellers  may find it hard to access a place to get their hands in the soil and their children fail to develop a relationship with the natural world.  Community gardens in inner city areas and school gardens deserve everyone’s support.  School gardening in the Sydney (NSW) region is mushrooming with the support of community, industry and green groups. Australians interested in community gardening can find out more here.

Physical limitations can be a problem for older and disabled people.  To make gardening more accessible to people of all ages and abilities planning is needed. Raised garden beds with ledges wide enough for sitting are one example of creating structures that work well.  When hospitalisation is needed, gardens can play an important part in rehabilitation.  Professor Ulrich also found that patients recovering from surgery took less medication, recovered faster and left hospital earlier if their room had a view of nature.

Societies which prioritise access to green space and gardens have always been the most civilized. Beware the developer who tells you otherwise. Research also shows that when choosing a retirement community, the single most  important factor is the quality of the grounds.  If you’re addicted to gardens, it just means your intuition is working well.

Want to develop a healing garden?  The University of Minnesota has plenty of useful information. Not just garden layout and choice of plants but designs appropriate for special needs such as Alzheimer’s Treatment Gardens, Hospice gardens, nursing home gardens, etc.

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