During times of distraught and depression, I always prescribe myself either a long hike with some steep inclines or garden therapy. There is something about tending to living plants, pulling weeds, and getting the garden in order that soothes the emotions and restores a sense of rightness. It allows me to feel back in rhythm with the earth and puts things in perspective. Garden therapy also helps children.
National Health System doctors in the United Kingdom are prescribing depressed patients an eight-week long gardening course. Nursery manager Rachel Hampton explains in the Daily Mail:
‘The course is aimed at people with depression, anxiety or low moods and is designed to improve their mental health.
‘But it is important these patients mix with other people in society so we open it up to others as well.
‘Gardening in a group increases your self-esteem, improves your social skills and gives you some motivation to get up and get-going…
‘The course is not an alternative to medication but can complement it.
‘However, if it does help to get people off medication that is a bonus and could work out to be cheaper for the health service in the long-run.
‘We know that gardening can have many benefits for those with mental health problems including building self esteem and motivation and increasing the individual’s sense of wellbeing. We wish the project every success.’
23% of children are depressed, and “Pre-schoolers are the fastest-growing market for antidepressants.” Perhaps if more families gardened, as well as every school had an active gardening program, these numbers would reverse their current trend. Gardening immerses children in nature, gets them out in the sunshine, and gives them a connection to what they eat. Of course, all of these factors would contribute positively to a child’s mood.
We recently lost a pet tragically. It’s still painful to think about, and I’ve avoided blogging about it. When the wounds of this loss were still very raw, my daughter found some solace in forking a garden bed. Both the physical labor and the connection with the earth started the healing process from tears to happy memories of this truly loved dog. The tears did return, but the garden therapy allowed us to spend some quality time together remembering what we loved about our dear dog. It transcended the depression.