For those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other anxiety, depression and mental health disorders, cultivating your own garden can give you just the therapeutic release you need. It can ease your mind and give you a sense of purpose as you grow your plants from seeds, continuing to watch them grow with each passing day until you see full-grown flowers, herbs or vegetables. For years, scientists, doctors and mental health professionals have studied horticultural therapy and its positive effects on people.
While some studies are still being done to test this therapeutical method, scientists have discovered that gardening is a natural stress reliever and calms temperaments and nerves. It does this by reducing cortisol levels in the brain; the hormone cortisol is responsible for stress responses coming from our brains.
Here’s how keeping your own garden, either on your windowsill or in your backyard, can help you relieve stress and your mental health disorders:
You learn problem solving.
Are your plants getting too much sun or water — or not enough? Observing your plants every day can help you problem solve so they grow to their greatest potential. This application can improve your mental health and life in general. You can learn to problem solve if you want to handle an everyday stressor, tackle a fear or learn to cope with your disorder. Of course, if you need some help problem solving, outreach to someone who can help you. Talking with a mental health professional could help you work through issues. Take off your gardening gloves and chat with someone on a site like betterhelp.com, which can help find solutions to your mental health issues wherever you are.
You will be focused on the tasks at hand.
When you’re feeling anxious or depressed, you’re often thinking about the past or future while not engaging in tasks, events or behaviors in the present. Using gardening tools and weeding your plants can give you something physical that will ease your mental state. When we’re anxious, we tend to want something to do with our hands, and gardening gives us a more productive solution.
You realize your garden is bigger than yourself.
Raising fruits and vegetables can allow you to share your produce with others. While your peppers and tomatoes can be used for your own recipes, you can share them with family and friends or sell them at a local farmer’s market. Having a larger sense of purpose can help you tackle your other problems in the same way. You will realize that you are part of a larger whole.
You will learn what works best for you.
The planting process will teach you about yourself. You will have time to think in the solitude of your gardening, and you can even plant items that will help you feel better. Growing plants, like basil, lemon balm, thyme, sage, nettle and others, can naturally help ease your mind and give new meaning to your own versions of horticultural therapy.