Growing up, my mom always had a little vegetable garden. She’d always bring me out, point to all the different plants, and remind me how rewarding growing our own food can be. Not only was I first-hand learning how my food was grown (something not every little one can say) I was also reaping the benefits every night for dinner. Nothin’ like a home-grown tomato.
But, recently I learned that planting and picking our own food doesn’t only benefit the quality of our dinner; gardening goes much farther than that, and people aren’t really talking about it yet. The National Gardens Scheme, a charity that opens gardens in England and Wales, took this idea head on and commissioned The King’s Fund to write a report on the benefits gardening can have on mental health.
According to this report, “the effects of gardens in care homes and hospices have been particularly well studied, particularly in dementia care. Most dementia studies report that exposure to gardens reduces agitation, aggression and other symptoms. Qualitative studies point to improvements in concentration, connection with past memories, and access to natural light”.
With this research in mind, doctors in the UK have started to prescribe gardening to patients suffering from mental illnesses including depression, dementia, and anxiety. The idea that gardening and open green space can positively impact our mental health is not old news, but doctors are starting to recognize it as an important and therapeutic activity.
The National Gardens Scheme and the King’s Fund both urge the National Health Service to prescribe gardening as a legitimate health care option. Mary Berry CBE, President of the National Gardens Scheme, said: “If the report helps to emphasise and give greater understanding of these benefits so that they can be put to wider use for people’s health, that would be a great achievement.”
Whether you’re working in a public garden or picking cucumbers from your backyard, it is important that we all start encouraging each other to take part. In a world where pills are over prescribed and often abused, its a “breath of fresh air” to see health care providers exploring this option… pun intended.