Learning Patience Through Plants

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Horticulture Therapy for Pain Management, Depression, and Anxiety.

Nature is Patient. Our gardens can offer a way to manage stress, anxiety, and even pain. Gardening helps us let go; plants need time and we must give it. They remind us to live in the present moment, to focus ourselves and let go of the rest. Both the passive act of being in nature and the act of gardening itself can provide notable physical and mental benefits to many patient populations. 

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It’s important to understand that cultivating patience isn’t easy.

The art of gardening is an act of patience. One must have it or one must learn it; to learn it is a benefit for the soul. Experts seem to differ on whether patience is a learned behavior or an innate trait. One thing is for certain, however, our society dictates that we live in the now and patience is certainly not fostered. 

Another unknown is if impatience leads to anxiety or if anxiety itself is the cause of impatience. The two seem to trigger each other simultaneously and in that effect, also trigger stress and an overactive brain. This can lead to insomnia, fatigue, malaise, and a lack of motivation. One potential effective regulation of these triggers is to develop patience through the application of horticulture therapy.

Horticulture therapy is not a new therapy. Several studies have been demonstrated on the positive effects of horticulture therapy (HT) and therapeutic horticulture (TH).  In 2012 a pilot study was done in Bad Zurzach, Switzerland resulting in the noting of an “improvement on patients’ physical and mental health and their coping ability with respect to chronic musculoskeletal pain [1].” That is not to mention the plethora of studies done on patients suffering from anxiety and/or depression and their noted improvement when introduced to (HT) or (TH). Overall, it is a therapy to consider for its accessibility and proven benefits.

Photo by the author

There are more accessible options for gardening for those that are not able or not yet able to pursue that direction. Certainly, houseplants are a suitable option. Caring for them will give their carer a healthy dose of good chemicals as well as cleaner air. But with its growing popularity, terrarium gardening opens a new world to those with chronic illness. It allows for the creativity of large structural gardening in a smaller space while also continuing the focus of learning patience for the patient. 

Terrarium gardening, falling under therapeutic horticulture, requires structure and steadiness. One must learn the basics of soil requirements for certain plants and mosses. How to choose and place hardscape for the most desirable look when working with stones and wood. This is where patience is learned and without necessarily realizing it. 

Molly is a talented, passionate, volunteer Community Team member with Wellacopia

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[1] Verra, Martin & Angst, Felix & Beck, Trudi & Lehmann, Susanne & Brioschi, Roberto & Schneiter, Renata & Aeschlimann, André. (2012). Horticultural Therapy for Patients With Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain: Results of a Pilot Study. Alternative therapies in health and medicine. 18. 44-50. 

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