So you like to garden. Maybe you love to garden. Are you a veggie person, a flower person, an herb person or a combination gardener? Indoor, outdoor, pots, window boxes, raised beds, greenhouse? Maybe plants take the background to mazes or rocks and sand zen. In any case you know the peace and satisfaction your garden gives you.
Man has long known that gardening in any form relieves stress and promotes health with exercise and increased brain work. Gardens make us happy. Some people love the hands in the dirt time. Others love watching the tomatoes grow. Some can’t wait to pick the flowers. It doesn’t matter what takes priority. Horticulture is therapy.
American Horticultural Therapy Association is “committed to promoting and developing the practice of horticultural therapy as a unique and dynamic human service modality.”
As with so many things, science introduces us to the physical wonders behind what we already know on a subliminal level. There are two interesting pieces of research that give credence to the feeling that our bodies and souls are better off from gardening.
Researchers reported in the journal Neuroscience that contact with a soil bacteria called Mycobacterium vaccae triggers the release of serotonin in the brain. This type of serotonin acts on several different pathways including mood and learning. Lack of serotonin in the brains is related to depression.
So basically, the things we do as gardeners—working the soil, planting, mulching, and so forth—can really contribute to happiness. We ingest the bacteria by breathing or through broken skin. The simple act of children playing outside in the grass and dirt can be a natural way for them to reduce anxiety.
Officially, gardening is therapy- really. The New Jersey Department of Agriculture has passed the 2013 Horticultural Therapy Resolution. This is the first endorsement of its kind in the United States.
The resolution was passed by 120 delegates from 21 New Jersey counties. Department of Agriculture delegates represented the fields of agriculture, horticulture, education, farm bureau, nursery, landscape, greenhouse, and vegetable growers, the State University, Cooperative Extension.
The Resolution, which recognizes the field of horticultural therapy and horticultural therapy professionals, is a statement of commitment on the part of the state agriculture department to be responsive to New Jersey’s growing and changing needs in promoting horticultural therapy. Read the full text of the resolution.
For more information, or to learn how to initiate a similar initiative in your own state, contact Laura DePrado.
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