According to the American Psychological Association’s most recent “Stress in America” survey, released in October of 2018, every age group studied, from Gen Zers to Baby Boomers reported feeling more stressed out and anxious than ever before. Stress is everywhere – at work, at home, on TV, at school, in social situations. We are also busier than ever before, and the more we try to pack into every 24 hours, the greater the intensity of our stress.
If you are feeling your stress level rise just after reading the first paragraph, close your eyes and imagine you are sitting in a beautiful garden, surrounded by nature. Your garden is lush with green plants and flowers, a small water feature babbles in the background and you hear the calls of birds and the hum of a dragonfly that is bouncing from blossom to blossom. Suddenly, you begin to relax, your heart rate slows, your blood pressure drops, and you feel a sense of calm come over you. Imagine how much greater the effect would be if you were in a real garden – a healing garden.
Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. ~ May Sarton
The term healing garden often applies to green spaces in hospitals, substance abuse treatment centers, retirement communities and long-term care or memory care facilities. These gardens provide what is called horticultural therapy. They can play an important part of healing by providing hope and inspiration and giving patients or residents, family members and staff, a tranquil place to pause and escape the pressures of their daily reality.
The benefits a healing garden can provide are not exclusive to the clinical or institutional setting. You can create a healing garden at home even if you have only a small patio or balcony. Look to your senses as you choose the elements you want to incorporate into your garden plan. Grow plants that you find pleasing, from the calming tones of green plants, to the bright, energizing colors of flowering plants or the fragrant scents of herbs. If space allows, add a small fountain. Other possible features include a set of wind chimes, a piece of sculpture, a birdbath, hummingbird feeder or birdhouse. You are creating you own healing environment, your own little piece of nature and a place where you can retreat, relax and restore feelings of peace and wellbeing.
Once your garden is complete, try to take a few minutes every day to visit and let it work its magic. Think of it as your prescription for serenity, taken at least once daily, or as needed, accompanied by deep breathing and meditation.