Growing together Horticultural Therapy & the benefits to Mental Health Treatment
Outdoor therapy to fight mental illness
Studies have shown that spending time outdoors has a therapeutic benefit – especially when it comes to treating mental illness.
When someone is afflicted by mental health concerns they will experience many different symptoms. As a result, they may find that their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive health may be negatively affected.
At HOPE House, we have undergone a very practical approach to assisting those in the community, and have partnered with the Julien Project to better assist those who need it.
But how do plants improve mental health?
It’s been long known that being around plants is good for us – and studies have suggested that just by looking at green plants, you have a higher likelihood to reduce anxiety and also experience a calming effect. It has been shown that the act itself of taking care of and tending to plant life provides a unique set of other mental health benefits.
Interacting with nature itself is essential to maintaining a sense of well-being. Through a combination of gardening, and spending time around plants, a person can reap a wide-range of psychological benefits.
Gardening reminds us of our connection to nature, and helps us focus on the bigger picture, which can alleviate symptoms of depression. Also, the physical aspect of gardening releases feel-good chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. Finally, working with soil makes us happier.
The Julien Project is a community-based, charitable organization that provides social and therapeutic gardening opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds and abilities. The project encourages personal growth, community membership and environmental well-being.
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What is Horticultural Therapy?
Horticultural Therapy, in a nut-shell, is a practice that utilizes plants, horticultural activities and the garden landscape to promote well-being for it’s participants. Through a goal oriented program, with defined outcomes and assessment procedures, participants can begin to “grow” just like the gardens they are working on. Horticultural therapy is generally utilized to help those who are struggling with depression and/or addiction, as well as assisting those who are survivors of abuse and also assisting the elderly who are afflicted by memory disorders.
Through the partnership with the Julien Project, and funded by an Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant, HOPE House now has 4,000+ square foot therapeutic garden space at the Northfield Farm located on Highway 6 just outside of Guelph.
In this space, we are able to perform workshops and offer employment in a supported, food-production environment for community members.
The idea that horticultural therapy can assist with mental health is rooted in a psychological theory called “biophilia,” which suggests that as humans, we are genetically and instinctively connected to the natural world and also to plants. Nurturing this pre-existing connection can have profound effects on one’s sense of belonging – which in turn can assist with nurturing and growing one’s own physical, social, emotional, and cognitive health
Gardening can provide an opportunity to express creativity, develop a sense of achievement, and perhaps learn long-lasting, life-changing vocational skills.
These ordinary interactions, one may have while working on the HOPE House garden, can instill the self-confidence that will last a lifetime, but better yet – those who are working on the garden know that it is a safe-place for discussion and a relaxed place to listen.