The restorative possibilities of outdoor space and gardening has been evidenced, notably by Thrive, the national charity for social and therapeutic horticulture. They say "Social and therapeutic horticulture is the process by which individuals may develop wellbeing using plants and horticulture. This is achieved by active or passive involvement."
Social and therapeutic horticulture works best in a natural environment that has been specially designed. That's why we design therapeutic garden spaces and a tailor-made set of activities to encourage specific beneficial outcomes for the people using them.
Sir Richard Thompson, President of the Royal College of Physicians, says "I have, for some time, thought doctors should prescribe a course of gardening for people who come to them with depression or stroke...it would be a more cost-effective way to treat some people rather than prescribe expensive drugs".
There is strong scientific evidence to show that exposure to nature reduces stress and promotes wellbeing. Forest walks have been shown by Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Chiba University, Japan, to decrease the stress hormone Cortisol by 16%, blood pressure by 2% and heart rate by 4%. He believes this is because we evolved in natural sourroundings and others have also proposed this 'biophilia' theory, the explanation that there is an evolutionary bond between humans and other living systems and this is why we respond well to greenness, wildlife and nurturing plants.
Research shows outdoor exercise can be as effective as anti-depressants in treating mild to moderate anxiety and depression. MIND has suggested that 'ecotherapy' should form part of the 'clinical treatment toolbox' alongside medication and the talking therapies.
Garden activities have been proved to support stroke rehabilitation and recovery by building strength, stamina, mobility and balance.
Studies show that physical exercise helps to reduce weight and the risk of cardio-vascular disease. Gardens can be designed to provide appropriate physical excercise, from gentle walking to vigorous digging.
You can also see some of the outcomes we have gathered in the Case studies section
We gathered research during our studies, about STH and the benefits for older people including those with dementia, and can supply a reference list on request. Some of the key evidence is:
Stage-matched gardening activities are shown to improve physical and mental functions of people with dementia, often allowing them to perform at their highest ability. Optimal functioning and esteem-building are important for early stages and sensory stimulation, awareness outside of self and pleasure for late stages. (Ebel, Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture, 1991).
Garden therapy provides reminiscence opportunities for self-expression and reinforcing a sense of self; also intimacy through group activities and caring for plants alleviates feelings of helplessness and dependency on others. (Cobley, ‘Journal of Dementia Care’, 2003)
You might also want to look at a couple of case studies from our experience: Case studies
Thrive have gathered a huge amount of evidence about the benefits of social and therapeutic horticulture, so take a look at their website to find out more.
You might also like the visual summary of the benefits that gardening has for body and mind on the link below:
We invite you to attend your first Garden Club session with no obligation. If you like it and want more, you can then sign up and pay for a programme that includes the trial session.
Tel: 07508 178590 Claire
Tel: 07827 924151 Lisa
You can also use our contact form.
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We are based in Worthing, West Sussex. We run two Garden Clubs in the community and a Community Allotment - addresses are on the home page.
Breathing Spaces Garden Therapy
Community Interest Company
(limited by guarantee)
Company Number 8825167
c/o Andrew M Wells Accountancy
99 Western Road
Lewes BN7 1RS