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Garden therapy

March 25, 2015

Therapeutic gardens can help in many areas such as health care, rehabilitation and other relaxing settings. The gardens become an environment where someone can interact with the healing elements of nature. These interactions can be passive or active, depending on the garden design and the user’s needs. There are different types of therapeutic gardens including healing gardens, enabling gardens, rehabilitation gardens and restorative gardens.

Healing gardens are mostly found in hospitals and other health care facilities. They improve health outcomes of patients. The gardens help by providing relief from symptoms patients could be experiencing. They also help reduce stress and improve a sense of wellbeing and hopefulness. Marni Barnes, who is a leader in the field of healing gardens, said, “More than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. In another study, 95% of those interviewed said their mood improved after spending time outside, changing from depressed, stressed or anxious to more calm and balanced.”

Nature is in the genes of all human beings. In nature, humans feel more connected. It pushes humans to reflect on the change of existence and what might lie beyond it. This creates a form of distraction from things that cause stress and anxiety. Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in healing gardens said, “We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature. Nature was good to us, and we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us.”

Gardening is something that many take an interest in to show off their green thumb. Anyone of any age can enjoy gardening. This is a major plus for students who need a way to unwind. Enabling gardens are mainly composed of raised garden beds. Enabling gardens teach people how to choose plants, how to space them apart, when they plant, how to water them, weeding and how to pick the vegetables. These gardens are designed to be barrier free, as well as provide sensory stimulation and physical activities in a non-threatening environment. These types of gardens can be located inside or outside depending on the facility and the user’s needs and capabilities. Dr. Benjamin Rush, University of Pennsylvania professor of the Institute of Medicine and Clinical Practice, published findings in 1812, “that patients who worked in gardens had better recovery rates from mania compared to those who had not had the same gardening experience.” These gardens can be simple or complex with pathways, textures, scents and sounds. These gardens are mainly for people with disabilities.

Increasing mobility, endurance, strength, muscle tone, motor coordination, build memory, attention, concentration, correct sequencing, problem solving and name and color identification are all apart of rehabilitation gardens. They also help people interact socially and participate in group activities while reducing depression and building self-esteem and motivation. At San Quentin State Prison, there is a program called the Insight Garden Program which has assisted over 800 prisoners over a span of eight years. IGP helps prisoners through organic gardening. The prisoners take care of a 1,200 square foot flower garden. The prisoners are required to work in teams, which turns them into a community of care. The prisoners fertilize, prune, plant, lay mulch and pull weeds in the rehabilitation garden. Rehabilitation gardens give people hope, possibilities and humanity, in some cases.

Healing, meditation and contemplation are all characteristics of Restorative gardens. Restorative gardens help focus attention towards one’s inner self for the purpose of deepening personal knowledge and attaining peace with oneself, this is similar to meditation. They also focus on issues larger than oneself in a religious or thoughtful way. These types of gardens help patients become healthful, well and whole, much like healing. Most of these gardens include wind chimes, comfortable chairs and shade. Nature tends to make humans feel happy while reducing stress. Restorative gardens provide an emotional, spiritual and physical sanctuary.

Gardens have been built in hospitals, prison yards, retirement homes, veteran homes and many other health care facilities. These types of gardens help with social isolation and the overwhelming sensation of life’s responsibilities that cause depression and anxiety. They also help people who feel unbalanced and hopeless. Gardens help people who live with cognitive challenges, physical disabilities, sensory limits and emotional imbalances. Therapeutic gardens help the recovery in addictions, loss, life changes, physical injury and abuse. Plants bloom, just as people do. With the help of therapeutic gardens, the whole process can be a lot easier.

Gardening can open many doors for students who suffer from stress or other problems in their life. If students are interested in showing off their green thumb, they can join the Greenhouse class here at the OHS or join the Garden Up Club.

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