Gardening as a means to reduce stress and anxiety
The benefits of nature and cultivated horticulture as a source of healing have been understood by generations of gardeners and crop growers.
The Japanese have a medical practise called forest bathingor Shinrin-yoku (森林浴) which is literally, a short, leisurely trip to a forest. The theory is visiting a forest; for relaxation and recreational purposes provides the opportunity to breathe in wood based essential oils like α-pinene (a Bronchodilator that increases air flow to the lungs) and limonene, (antimicrobial volatile organic compounds) emitted from trees to protect them from rotting and insects”. http://www.hphpcentral.com/article/forest-bathing.
In Canada, the profession and study of Horticulture Therapy is growing rapidly. Hospitals, nursing homes and mental health facilities have established horticulture therapy programs as part of their mainstream practices. Study after study shows the therapeutic concepts which benefit not only patients, but staff and visitors as well.Recent North American studies indicate people who spend 15 minutes a day in a natural setting are less stressed and better able to focus on tasks. Appling these benefits on a smaller scale means we can bring the anti-stress benefits home.
The active benefits of your healing garden experience will include physical activity, cognitive stimulation and a sense of accomplishment.
The more passive benefits include:
- Sunlight: Soaking in the sun provides an influx of vitamin D and the fresh air is good for the body and your soul!
- Getting in touch with nature: While we may not have the time for a walk in the woods, gardening, for even 20 minutes, will help create the primal connection to nature lost with the pressures of daily life.
- You create a space that is beautiful and restful. Our garden centre’s mission is to assist in the creation of your outdoor living space, to suit your lifestyle, as an extension to the indoor space.
- Reaping the rewards of the garden through wildlife and bird observationand a harvest of vegetables, fruits or cut flowers for your kitchen table.
- The calming effects of being in the moment as you view your green space through the window. Simply put, we decrease our illness recovery time, if we enjoy the view!
We just need to engage and connect with the landscape to reap the benefits; keeping in mind gardening itself is not the key to stress reduction, so much as the way it is approached.
Healing gardens can be gardens created with a single purpose OR an existing garden renovated to include new ideas. Before creating a healing garden at your own home or office, I recommend a few things before heading to the garden centre.
- Understand the available space you have. A healing garden does not need to be large. A collection of pots on the balcony can bring as much value as a fully landscaped back yard, if that is the space you have.Know how much sun or shade the space will receive so the plants can thrive properly.
- Think about your overall maintenance requirements and be honest. Your independent garden centre can help you plan for both your available space and your required efforts.
Your landscape must suit your lifestyle. If the garden is at its best when you are not home it is not functional. To reap the benefits of the experience you have to be in the space. When you come home after a long day, what better way to unwind than to sit on your patio and see the lights turn one by one and reflect off the white edges of your favorite variegated plant or watch the dusk blooming pond lilies and perennials come to life
To make your garden effective, the following might work for you:
- Select plants that tickle all 5 senses. How the garden sounds, smells or feels will transport you to another time. To harvest, is to taste the garden. When engaging your sense of sight, don’t forget the views out your windows during winter, as landscapes should be functional 365 days a year, both up close and from a distance.
- Choose plants to signal the change of seasons, that you can see from your window or as you enter the house. The blooms of a Forsythia mean spring, the changing of the Maples trigger memories of playing in piles of leaves on a crisp fall day, while the dark green of a White Spruce Tree provides shelter in the winter and Sage, be it ornamental or edible, reminds everyone it is time to getinto the summer BBQ season. (PHOTO IDEA: in a block of four, have one of each of these photos with the single word description underneath Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter).
- Bring the outdoors in with the use of a small greenhouse. If you don’t have room for a green house structure, use a row cover on your vegetables to extend the season, or start seeds indoors with a mini greenhouse tray, available in the seed section of you Independent Garden Centre.
Specific plants known to reduce stress include:
Lavender– A Mediterranean fragrant perennial herb to reduce irritability,prompt relaxation.
Chamomile – A tasty tea made from dried flowers, with compoundsto assist in feeling calm.
Lemon Balm – Used to reduce anxiety and help with sleep. It is also a magnet for pollinator insects.
St Johns Wort – A small, easy to grow shrub hardy to Zone 5, to help treat depression and insomnia.
Forsythia – Very hardy shrub with bright yellow flowers very early in the spring. Forsythia is used as a recognizable seasonal marker and is great as a cut flower.
Can’t garden outdoors? Bring the garden inside
NASA Studies have reported many values of keeping plants indoors – not just for their psychological benefits, but because many of our simple houseplants will help clean the air we breathe of chemicals and toxins. Use these sustainable solutions for improved air quality in both your home, your office or your dorm room or in a living wall!
Spider Plant -one of the best plants for air exchange as the daughter plants (plants produced by aerial roots) develop thick fleshy roots outside of the soil. These fleshy roots exchange gases and air borne nutrients quickly and easily.
Peace Lilyand English Ivyrelease moisture into the air through transpiration, oozing humidity. Use these to help fight the dreaded winter cold due and boost the overall humidity in the room by as much as 5%.
Janet Craig Dracaena – With a high transpiration (gas exchange) rate, this plant willfilter the local toxins and VOC’s in the air.
Whether you are just starting out with a raised vegetable garden, a pot overflowing with your favorite flowers, or you are creating your first dynamic garden, it is important to recognize that it is YOUR space. Go on, get your hands dirty! The benefits of your healing gardenare only a few short steps away!