Home and Garden
Gardening as Therapy for Depression and Grief
More than a pastime and source of healthy and fresh food, gardens also make medicine—and not just in the sense of being a source of herbs. More precisely, gardening is an activity with great therapeutic value.
Gardening as therapy, broadly termed horticultural therapy, has long been known in rehabilitation of patients suffering from mental illness. The kinds of psychological problems treated with horticulture therapy range from depression to psychosis like schizophrenia. Researchers from Hong Kong proposed standardizing horticultural programs to be applied more effectively for psychological well-being of patients.
Personal stories of gardening as therapy offer hope and healing to millions who battle stress and grief daily or frequently. Bridget McNulty, author of The Grief Handbook, shares her personal story of gardening as therapy on her blog. To her, plants represent the “perfect illustrations of resilience.” As she conveys, the growth of plants in one’s garden signifies the nurturing of hope for one’s own better days lying ahead.
In her memoir “The Grass Widow”, published in Confessions: Fact or Fiction? (Chrysalis Publishing, 2011), A. Tarrell Washington recounts how she became an “obsessed gardener” to survive the loss of love. She writes:
Watering became my meditation; digging became my prayer and pruning my discipline…. To patch the soil is to patch the pain.
AtaLoss.org posted about how gardening can reduce the feelings of grief and cited Audrey Hepburn as: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” The article includes a golden tip on seasonable gardening. Since grieving is particularly more painful in winter due to the longer dark hours, cultivating a garden in autumn is quite helpful. You can then see the result of your gardening work in winter with a sense of hope and empowerment.
By reducing stress and improving the focusing or concentration, gardening as therapy offers physical and mental health benefits and helps to cope with grief.