Is gardening good for your mental health?

Is gardening good for your mental health?

Recent studies have concluded that living in larger cities, New York City specifically, can lead to an increase in sustainable practices and an eco friendly lifestyle. However, concrete buildings and paved roads are not what come to mind when one thinks of a green and natural environment. A large number of the western population spends a majority of their time indoors and their closest encounter to nature is the salad on their plate during their lunch break. It would be close-minded to say that this isn’t negatively impacting human health, physically and mentally. Mental health problems have increased dramatically in the past three decades, impacting children and adults nationwide. Multiple factors are involved in the onset and susceptibility of mental health and we can’t put all the blame on large cities and a decrease in natural environment exposure. We can however look to it for curative purposes and use the natural world as a source for mental healing. New fields are emerging within psychology researching this idea and the impacts it can have on human well being. Not only can these practices have positive impacts on the human mind, connecting with nature allows for people to grow an appreciation for their natural world which could lead them to understand the passion and necessity for the environmental movement.

There are a few different approaches for nature centered health interventions, some involving full exposure like garden therapy and backpacking trips, and other simple practices like putting a plant in an office. Garden therapy, (while at times considered branch of horticulture therapy the terms are often interchangeable), was first introduced in the 19th century but became popular in the mid 90’s when the practice was used on returning war veterans in the United States (American Horticulture Therapy Association). Garden therapy emphasizes meaningful tasks that are also found to be enjoyable, viewing simple activity as necessary (Adevi & Martensson, 2013). The philosophy of garden therapy centers around the four meaningful parts of working in a garden; the first is gaining a better understanding of the seasonal changes in a garden and the complexity of changing life forms which allows for people to put their own world worries into perspective. The second is finding value in a support system by gaining something from the garden as well as providing for it, realizing that humans depend on nature and it depends on humans. The third is becoming close to nature by watching different plants grow and being part of the experience, and the fourth is intertwining with other individuals because of the garden and learning to collaborate in different tasks that come with caring for a garden (Adevi & cfMartensson, 2013).  Different theories are used to support garden therapy studies and a common one is the Biophilia hypothesis. It is a hypothesis explaining that humans are psychologically attached to nature, through love and emotional connection (Adevi & Martensson, 2013). The connection between nature and the human mind is the foundation for intervention programs, and proposes how beneficial and restorative creating that bond can be, for those who never had it or have lost it.  Rehabilitation centers have to be in a specific condition in order for garden therapy to work so this may be one of the more difficult parts of introducing garden therapy into our society. Since creating large gardens for every patient to use may be difficult there have been efforts to bring gardening practices to the patients homes. This field is just starting to take shape and right now, the possibilities are endless.  Garden therapy is a way for people to connect with the natural world and could be a useful tool in mental health interventions.


New Vocabulary:

Encounter: an interaction with someone or something

Susceptibility: the likelihood of being influenced by something

Curative: able to cure a disease or illness


Discussion Questions:

Why is garden therapy needed in our society according to the author of this blog?


In your opinion, do you see garden therapy as something that would work in your hometown? Why or why not?

What are some of the benefits of garden therapy according to the author?


Discussion Topics:

  • What are some other ways that we can use the natural world to better our health? Exercise? How can we use the natural world to better our physical health?


  • Psychological research and its influence on modern society

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