“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin, late nineteenth century author and Poet Laureate
Alfred might have been on to something, especially when considering a mode of achieving personal growth called horticultural therapy. This notion is explained best as “the purposeful use of plants and gardens to promote individual mental, emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual well-being.”
According to the American Horticulture Therapy Association, “horticultural therapy (or HT) is a time-proven practice. The therapeutic benefits of garden environments have been documented since ancient times.”
Experts state that the advantages of HT are such: “Physical activity, relaxation and enjoyment, skill development, creative expression, sensory stimulation, intellectual and personal growth, social interaction, a sense of productivity and self-satisfaction and a spiritual connection with life. HT is also low-cost, effective and versatile in meeting therapeutic goals of both individuals and groups through task adaptation and environmental modification. Activities can be applied to almost all situations, indoors or outdoors-in homes, schools, hospitals, prisons, and residential care facilities.”
HT practices can be used to assist people in learning new skills or regaining those that they may have lost. It’s also said to help improve memory, cognitive abilities, language skills and socialization. Those who use HT can learn to work independently, problem solve and follow directions. It has even been used in the physical rehabilitation of injury sufferers, by strengthening muscles and improving coordination, balance and endurance.
So why should you care about the benefits of HT? Because the positive aspects of this unique therapy can have an enormous impact on your well-being! Think about it: Everybody needs physical activity. Everybody wants to be relaxed and to enjoy life. Creative expression, intellectual and personal growth, social interaction, self-satisfaction and a connection with nature are aspects of life that should be fostered, and gardening might be able to impact all these things!
If the effectiveness of HT is still a little too bizarre for you to fathom, just remember that numbers don’t lie. The only way to know if HT can make you more mentally fit is by giving it a shot. Alfred Austin also once said, “show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” It’s up to you to decide who you want to be!