Researchers have come to the conclusion that gardening is actually beneficial to your health. In fact, it has been found that pulling weeds and smelling roses can actually lower blood pressure, help you feel happier, and increase brain activity. Because of the overwhelming body of evidence, it has been dubbed “horticulture therapy,” which is used in a variety of settings to help people cope with their emotions and illnesses. Most notably, it’s being used in hospitals, schools, and even in prisons.
Within the United Kingdom, there are pilot schemes taking place in which GPs provide gardening to their patients they feel can benefit from it. There are even schemes where patients at a particular GP practice can come together to create a garden for themselves, yielding a wide range of edibles.
Teresia Hazen, who oversees several horticulture therapy programs in Oregon, said of the practice:
“For patients who find themselves restricted by a disability, even the simplest gardening experience – such as growing a potted plant from a cutting – gives them a feeling of control. Gardening, more than most rehab activities, has the ability to be very distracting. Simply by taking people’s minds off their problems can alleviate pain and depression.”
The idea is gaining such momentum, that this summer at the Hampton Court Flower show in the United Kingdom, experts from a wide range of fields came together to discuss the positive effects gardening can have on both chronic health conditions and bringing the community together.
Director General of the Royal Horticultural Society, Sue Biggs, has spoken candidly about how gardening has helped her in her fight against breast cancer.
“It’s not just about gardening and horticulture it’s also about happiness, because I can’t think of a better thing to make people happy – and they are tough times at the moment – and I think gardening, it’s just a joy.
Another study, published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that active hobbies like yard work and gardening were as good as going to the gym for heart health. Older adults with hobbies like this were able to cut their risk of heart attack or stroke and their chances of dying from any cause by 30%!
When you walk out into a garden and you literally smell the roses and see the bees buzzing on the lavender and just look at all that beautiful color and scent, you can’t help but feel happier, and that can’t be a bad thing can it?”
In addition to aiding in chronic health conditions and community building, horticulture therapy has proven beneficial to those struggling with dementia.
Anna Scanlon is an author of YA and historical fiction and a PhD student at the University of Leicester where she is finishing her degree in modern history.