Spending time in nature is good for mental health
By Lauren DeSouza- Master of Public Health, Simon Fraser Public Research University – Canada
Staff Research and Content Writer
© Copyright – SUD RECOVERY CENTERS – A Division of Genesis Behavioral Services, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin – October 2022 – All rights reserved.
Spending time in nature has many benefits for our mental health and well-being. Being in nature can lower stress, promote positive thinking, and decrease rumination.
Horticulture Therapy (HT) is a treatment program that uses gardening and nature activities to promote well-being. It shows promise as a non-pharmacological treatment for mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. However, health care providers are hesitant to recommend HT as there is not enough research on its effectiveness.
A new meta-analysis stud aimed to determine how effective HT is as a treatment for mental health issues.
What is Horticulture Therapy ?
Horticulture therapy is a mental health treatment that uses gardening to encourage people to spend time in nature. Being in nature can help to lower their stress and anxiety and reduce some symptoms of depression. HT enables patients to learn new skills and improve their physical, social, and emotional well-being.
Professional horticultural therapists engage patients in nature-based activities such as:
- Sowing seeds
- Tending to indoor and outdoor plants
- Flower arranging
- Plant-related arts and crafts
HT is mainly used with older adults and those living with mental illness. These treatment programs are often used in rehabilitation, healthcare, and community settings. The duration of the treatment programs vary widely, from two weeks to a year long. Some research suggests that an HT treatment program needs to be at least four weeks long to see mental health benefits, because patients need to familiarize themselves with the techniques of gardening.
How does Horticulture Therapy benefit mental health?
HT offers an opportunity to spend time with plants, gardens, and the natural environment. In doing so, people can distance themselves from the stress of daily life and of the urban environment. This distancing helps to promote good mental health and reduce mental fatigue.
The act of nurturing something to grow and thrive can foster a sense of purpose and encourage more positive thinking. HT also improves decision making and gives people a sense of control and empowerment. This can help to develop resilience to mental challenges and reduce symptoms of depression.
HT programs also promote social cohesion and connectedness, which contributes to emotional well-being. It also offers physical activity, which is important for good mental health. Limited evidence suggests that HT may promote good muscle strength and immune health.
What did this study find?
This study was a meta-analysis of existing literature. This means that researchers analyzed the results of many clinical trials on the topic to determine an overall trend. In this study, the researchers reviewed 18 clinical studies on HT to determine its effect on mental health.
This study found that HT has a significant positive effect on mental health. The researchers suggest that HT be integrated into medical, healthcare,
and community settings. It should be certified as a therapeutic treatment approach and offered by a horticultural therapist.
Combining HT with standard mental health treatments can help to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.
What are the takeways?
- Spending time in nature is beneficial for our physical, social, and emotional well-being.
- Horticulture therapy is a mental health treatment that uses gardening and nature activities to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
- Horticulture therapy has a significant positive effect on mental health.
- Horticulture therapy should be used widely in healthcare and community settings and combined with existing mental health treatments.
Tu, H.-M. (2022). Effect of horticultural therapy on mental health: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 29, 603– 615. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpm.12818