Gardening as therapy: spend some time in the garden to improve your wellbeing
Getting into your garden, whether growing your own vegetables, cultivating flowers, or cutting hedges is about much more than the simple joys of eating home grown vegetables or having a place to entertain others. Research shows that these activities in and of themselves enhance our creativity, reduce stress and are great for us in many other ways.
People become more creative in nature
Findings from a recent study show that spending time with nature, including our own gardens, has the capacity to enhance our creativity.
When we spend time in nature and in our garden, we enter a calm state of mind which evokes a different way of thinking by making us more curious, able to form new ideas, as well as becoming more flexible in our ways of thinking – all skills which characterise the ability of being creative.
Nature also helps us to recharge our directed-attention, a state of mind which is needed when analysing and further developing ideas – something which is also very important in a creative process.
Health and well-being benefits
Increasing people’s exposure to, and use of, green spaces has been linked to long-term reductions in overall reported health problems (including heart disease, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions); it has also been linked to reduced levels of obesity and high physical activity, and higher self-rated mental health, as shown by new research from the independent charity King’s Fund.
Studies have shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and broader effects such as opportunities for vocational development. Research also shows that allotment gardening improves an individual’s mood, self-esteem, and physiological measures such as cortisol (associated with acute stress) compared with matched controls.
Most importantly, when you’re gardening, you are active rather than sitting inactive. At the same time, you are deeply focused on the present moment and in touch with nature instead of always being in the process of trying to make sense of any thought chaos. You enter a state of mind where you are not constantly in contact with the analytical parts of the brain, but instead you let your mind drift away and feel calm. Working in the garden stimulates both body and mind.
Indeed, studies show that only 30 minutes of gardening a week can help with everything from depression to anger and confusion. Researchers uses this knowledge when helping people with stress. One example is the Nacadia Therapy Garden, situated in the Forest and Landscape Arboretum in North Zealand, Denmark. The Arboretum has the benefit of being the forest with the most species in Denmark. The Nacadia Therapy Garden is 1,5 hectares inside the Arboretum. Nacadia is an enclosed area with differently designed natural rooms where stays in nature, activities and therapy sessions can take place.
The Therapy Garden helps people with horticultural therapy, cognitive therapy, and physiological training (mindfulness inspired exercise, breath techniques, meditation techniques).
Gardening as therapy
While there are a range of known benefits for engaging with, supporting and enhancing nature in urban spaces, from climate change mitigation to wildlife conservation, or air quality improvements through to water management processes, the direct, personal health and well-being benefits should not be overlooked as a key reason for encouraging people to get out into their gardens, onto their balconies or over to their local parks.
A healthier city to live in is not just about the environment outside of us, but also what goes on internally. By helping make our urban spaces better for all, we can improve our own lives in the process.