Did you know a garden can heal one from mental illness?
Research has shown that gardens can be designed as therapeutic spaces that help relieve physical and mental problems ranging from dementia in elderly people, to depression and trauma in children.
The science is rooted in the fact that interacting with nature in general and plants in particular improves our well-being. Humans evolved in a green world together with plants for millions of years.
Plants provided basic needs such as food, medicine and shelter. But they also provided enjoyment by engaging our sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing.
We have a stronger bond with plants than we realise.
A healing garden thus has the ability to improve blood pressure, heart rate and general state of mind.
Here are some tips to help you create a healing garden:
Creating opportunities for users, including those that may not be fully fit, to interact closely with nature, is the hallmark of creating a healing garden.
Plants with therapeutic qualities should be planted right next to paths and furniture where users can easily see, smell and touch them.
Also, plants that attract birds and butterflies are given priority in a healing garden so that the space becomes more animated and triggers curiosity.
Spaces should also be created where users actively get involved in potting a plant, transplanting a herb or picking vegetable and fruits.
Horticultural therapists have found that certain plants produce healing effects on patients suffering from certain mental health problems.
For instance, lavenders have been found to have a calming effect and can help people suffering from sleep disorders.
The smell of rosemary bushes has a stimulating effect and can help patients suffering from dementia.
Similarly, people feeling low with depression will benefit from the stimulating effect of walking through a garden filled with rosemary.
Thyme has been found to help kids with learning difficulties by improving their eye-hand coordination as they interact with them through sight, touch and smell.
Moreover, plants are always changing the idea of finding a new flower, a new fruit or a new colour helps kids develop their curious minds.
The act of creating and tending to a garden has also been found to have great physical and mental benefits for users.
The physical act of digging, cutting and moving in a garden as one pots, waters or just arranges cut flowers in a vase or picks fruits helps as a form of exercise, especially for the elderly.
Creating and tending to a garden also has lots of psychological benefits.
The satisfaction and sense of accomplishment one gets from planting a seedling and watching it grow into a tree providing shade and fruit for generations is hard to replace.
- The writer is a landscape architect. [email protected]
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