Healing gardens Exploring Therapeutic Horticulture

Why are certain gardens dubbed healing gardens since it seems that all gardens (and nature) are naturally attractive and useful to humans?

The phrase “healing gardens” most often refers to green areas in hospitals and other healthcare institutions that are expressly designed to enhance health outcomes. These gardens provide a haven of sanctuary and healing for patients, families, and staff. Any setting may encourage healing, but gardens are especially effective because people are hardwired to find nature appealing and comforting.

According to two pioneers in this area, Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes, healing occurs from gardens that promote:

  • Relief of symptoms
  • Stress Reduction
  • Increased general feeling of well-being and hopefulness

Healing gardens vary somewhat from therapeutic landscapes, another word used in healthcare. Therapeutic landscapes or gardens are created to address the special requirements of a patient group. They often engage that demographic intentionally and strategically. Healing gardens, on the other hand, strive for a more passive engagement and are intended to assist a varied community with varying needs.

Why is nature still essential to people?

pondHumans of all ages and cultures find nature healing. Marcus and Barnes discovered that more than two-thirds of individuals prefer to withdraw to a natural environment when worried. Another research found that 95% of individuals questioned reported an improvement in their mood after spending time outdoors, going from gloomy, agitated, and nervous to peaceful and balanced.

Why do we find nature so beneficial? One school of thinking believes it is hardwired in our DNA. Roger Ulrich, a major researcher in healing gardens, puts it as follows: “We have a biologically predisposed inclination to react positively to nature since we originated in nature. Nature was kind to us, and we react favorably to surroundings that are advantageous to us.”

Another possible explanation for our biological connection to nature is that individuals who paid great attention to nature gained critical knowledge that assisted them in survival and reproduction. So the tendency to find nature fascinating persisted in those genes.

Many studies suggest that following a stressful incident, pictures of nature have a very immediate relaxing impact. Within three to four minutes of watching natural pictures, blood pressure, respiration rate, brain activity, and stress hormone production all drop while mood increases. This has an evolutionary benefit since it helps humans to heal and regain energy fast. Our ancestors’ existence depended on their capacity to recover swiftly from stress and adjust to new challenges.

Nature is also inextricably interwoven with our human spirituality. Out in nature, we sense our connection to creatures beyond ourselves and recognize our interdependence with other living forms. Nature also invites us to consider the ever-changing nature of existence and what may lay beyond it. Nature offers a platform for us to connect spiritually with both ourselves and others.

What health advantages can seeing nature provide?

Nature offers a tremendous diversion. We are naturally predisposed to find nature fascinating, thus we are engrossed by nature sights and diverted from our pain and anguish.
Nature lowers tension and anxiety. One argument is that nature gives a break from the ongoing struggle to filter out conflicting inputs in our hectic life. Humans find nature innately engaging, so we don’t have to work hard to concentrate when confronted with natural vistas. This alleviates mental weariness and refreshes the mind.

Plants provide psychological comfort. According to one researcher in this field, Lewis, “Plants take away some of the anxiety and tension of the immediate now by showing us that there are long, enduring patterns in life.” Their development is consistent and gradual, not chaotic.

While there are different ideas as to why nature is so beneficial, the results remain consistent. We know that looking at plants, flowers, water, and other natural components decreases patient anxiety, even when the patients are very worried.

Supporting Research

A glimpse of nature from the hospital windowEven long-term city inhabitants may get the advantages of outdoors. A study of cardiac patients in New York who were shown different sceneries found that those who viewed a nature scene and heard a sound track of water, birds, and breezes had the lowest levels of anxiety.

In addition to psychological advantages, lowering patient stress and anxiety provides tangible medical benefits. This is clearly highlighted in a study of patients who had gallbladder surgery; half had a view of nature, while the other half had a view of the wall. The half who had a natural perspective endured pain better, slept better, reported less stress, and spent less time in the hospital.

As a result, it’s no surprise that the Center for Health Design considers nature to be one of the most important variables in reducing patient and staff stress and leading to improved results and employee satisfaction.

Furthermore, the Joint Commission for Accreditation of Hospitals (JCAHO) states that “Patients and visitors should have opportunities to connect with nature through outside spaces, plants, indoor atriums, and views from windows.”

Of all, nature can help everyone, not just those in hospitals. According to one fascinating study, tenants in Chicago public housing who had trees around their buildings knew more people, felt more united with their neighbors, were more concerned with helping and supporting one another, and felt more connected to their surroundings than tenants in buildings without trees. The data also revealed that buildings with trees had less violence than those without trees.

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