Gardening: An Activity Good for the Mind and Body

If you’ve ever planted a seed, cared for a houseplant, or received a bouquet of flowers, you likely have an idea of how uplifting being around greenery can be. There’s something about having plants nearby that offers us serenity in an otherwise busy, stressful world.

Science has also confirmed nature’s healing properties, and health professionals have started to take note. Gardening and hospice care have become closely linked, with facilities offering memorial gardens and providing opportunities for residents to learn more about horticulture.

But what makes gardening so good for your mind and body? Let’s take a look.

The Benefits of Gardening

A wide range of scientific studies have affirmed the health benefits of gardens, both for those who do the gardening and for those who visit. In a study, participants who performed 30 minutes of gardening displayed lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than the control group.

Meanwhile, other research found that gardening boosted self-esteem, hand strength, and general physical health in older adults. And an Australian study found gardening to be protective against the development of dementia.

Gardening helps you get out in the sun and increase your Vitamin D levels, in addition to providing moderate-intensity exercise without having to slog through hours in a stuffy gym. It can also alleviate depression and improve mental health, which is the basis for horticultural therapy.

Gardening and Hospice Care

Given this wide range of benefits, it’s not surprising that hospice care facilities are implementing gardens as a means of increasing quality of life for their residents. Wisconsin Public Television recently profiled the gardens of Agrace Hospice Care in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, which offer personal patios for their residents to enjoy their days surrounded by a unique garden just for them.

Ruth Miller, Agrace’s landscape coordinator, told the channel that “there’s many of (the residents) that come out at the end of their life, in their beds, to be out here at the end.” She also reports that the various other gardens on the property allow family and friends of patients the opportunity to have a place to clear their minds, rest, and refresh themselves during a stressful time.

Other Ways Hospice Gardens Help

Gardening in hospice settings also offers benefits that extend into the community. Memorial gardens, for example, offer items that visitors can purchase in honor of a loved one, providing a comforting place for family and friends to walk and reflect. These sales in turn provide the financial support for communities to maintain and expand the gardens.

Meanwhile, gardening groups such as Greenfingers in the U.K. allow patients to participate in the design and creation of a garden, helping these individuals feel creative and active. And hospice gardens also offer volunteer opportunities that help strengthen the local community and educate youth in the principles of horticulture.

Not everyone has access to gardening at hospice care facilities, but there are ways you can help your loved one enjoy some green. Try bringing in a plant for their room or a vase of fresh-cut flowers at their bedside. The gesture will mean the world to them and help improve their ongoing, everyday quality of life.

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