Growing plants and gardening have long been seen as ways to help improve mental health. Growing plants can do amazing things, such as easing the symptoms of anxiety and depression, as seen in research done by the Journal of Physiological Anthropology and the Journal of Health Psychology. Fostering plants can help reduce stress in the workplace or create sanctuaries within your living spaces. People are happier and healthier when they are among nature and plants!
Interestingly but maybe unsurprisingly, research on "green" therapy for military veterans has shown positive results. Many of these programs are partially based on helping with vocational changes to farmers, but they also include therapy within their structure. Veterans going through these programs have felt less stressed, found a new sense of purpose, and have better self-esteem. A specific body of research by Atkinson of the University of Glasgow found significant improvement in decreased stress and better mood and concentration in those who went through a therapeutic method called Combat Stress' Gardening Leave program.
From retirement homes to veterans programs, plants are being used as a therapy option to help ease mental health issues, including PTSD. Horticultural Therapy is being furthered through programs such as the American Horticultural Therapy Association, which works in conjunction with groups such as the American Society of Landscape Architects to bring therapeutic gardens to spaces that most need them. To create an authentic therapeutic garden, they suggest that it have:
- Scheduled and programmed activities or community inclusion
- Features that help improve accessibility for everyone.
- Easily recognizable perimeters
- Plenty of plants and people/plant interactions, including four seasons of stimulation
- Supportive and safe conditions, avoiding harsh chemicals as much as possible
- Universal design that supports use for those of all abilities and ages and that commonly stimulates memory, hearing, touch, smell, and taste rather than just visual.
- Simple design, with unified and easily comprehensible places
While these requirements create a great therapeutic garden, they are not the only way to grow plants that can help improve mental health. All these studies and organizations point to the fact that any amount of greenery in our lives can help us center ourselves and reduce stress and can positively benefit those suffering from things such as PTSD.
Veteran Aid and other programs suggest that if you are interested in a therapeutic garden, reach out to your local American Horticultural Therapy Association or Veterans Service Organization to get in touch with locations near you.
If you are looking to start with just a few small plants in your home, feel free to browse out plants that we suggest for those looking to destress, or take a look at our easy-care plants if you are a beginner to green spaces!
If you feel you are in mental distress, or are overwhelmed by your mental health, please reach out immediately to the National Mental Health Hotline at 866-903-3787