A little green banishes blues
Did you know that working in a garden can help combat depression, sadness or even post-traumatic stress disorder?
In 2007, the charity Gardening Leave was established in Britain for war veterans with the syndrome. Its founder, horticultural therapist Anna Baker Cresswell, explains how gardening is therapeutic:
“Gardening jobs have different effects. Sowing seeds or potting up cuttings, for example, helps with anxiety, as they are both calming and methodical, which means you have control over the task. It is also diversionary, as you have to concentrate. Planting bulbs in containers can help people’s attention span, as you can break the activity down into small, achievable tasks. Working side-by-side with people who have had similar experiences to your own is also beneficial.”
The veterans – who are never referred to as patients – live at a mental health centre near the therapeutic garden until they feel ready to return to civilian life. They grow vegetables for themselves, and pot bulbs, bonsai and indoor plants for sale to garden centres.
As a veteran explains: “Nothing is asked of you. You can do as much as you want, when you want. I’ve been having a tough time lately, and if I come here it helps me to chill and grounds me. It’s brilliant.”
Last year, a Help for Heroes show garden was designed at the Chelsea Flower Show in London to raise awareness and funding for a sanctuary garden for war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical and mental trauma.
The damaging effects of posttraumatic stress disorder are recognised in soldiers who have served in the Middle East, policemen serving in high-crime areas and even among prisoners.
Whether you call it horticultural retraining, therapy gardening or a weekend contemplating what might have been, now is the time to spend more time reconnecting with Mother Nature in your garden.
CHEERY: Establishing a vegetable garden such as this one in Franschhoek can perk you up.
THUMBS-UP: Horticulturist Clifton Peterson shows that designing, planting and developing a colourful garden is a good way to raise your spirits.