CALLING SENIORS AROUND THE WORLD…. Taking an interest in all kinds of gardening and planting of vegetables, fruits, herbs, spices… to maintain their mind and body well-being!
Be a gardener for all kinds of wellbeing, it is therapeutic. Correspondent MINAL SANCHETI spoke to a few health professionals on the subject of what is rapidly being called horticultural therapy….
GARDENING very definitely is therapeutic. We know that the process of planting things ranging from little herbs to spices to vegetables and fruits – planting anything – is useful and it is therapeutic. Therefore, horticultural therapy! This kind of therapy is known to improve mental and physical health.
Horticultural therapy helps us stay close to nature and reap its myriad benefits. It helps us stay close to Mother Earth, “Horticultural therapy is the mixture of different subjects like psychology, physiotherapy and colour therapy,” said Karthikeyan V, horticultural therapist at Horticultural Therapy Healing Centre.
“Horticulture therapy is not just gardening; it’s specific for each participant. The therapy depends on their needs and requirements. Here we give priority to participants and not plants. Here we look at how we can enhance the quality of their life,” he further added.
The therapy is tailored according to the needs of the participant. “Many seniors, for example, have joint problems. They cannot fold their fingers properly and their flexibility is not much. They use spring or balls for exercise. So here what we do is offer them sponges to water the plants. So the exercise will be the same but the approach will be different,” he said.
With the help of this therapy one can improve one’s r lifestyle! “Horticultural therapy helps most actively with mental peace. To put it in a simple way; when you walk into a park, you feel relaxed, calm, and energized. That itself is a sign because it means that until the moment you step into the park you are actually stressed out without realizing it! As long as we were living a natural lifestyle in the middle of nature, our brain was trained to stay calm and relaxed through the day. But now when we are disconnected with nature, we are constantly in a state of mild stressfulness without even realizing it. And horticultural therapy makes you aware of all this and helps you calm down very quickly,” Dr Achyuthan Eswar, the co-founder of PHC Lifestyle Clinic, with a mission to empower people to ‘Be Your Own Doc’ through Naturopathy & Yoga.
“We can improve our sleep, sharpen our memories and control our emotions. There are many advantages. When a person gets stressed or mentally disturbed they don’t get proper sleep and they can’t control their emotions. So we see how we control all that in a natural set up. That’s how horticultural therapy works,” according to horticultural therapist Karthikeyan V.
In an urban setup it’s difficult to have enough spaces so we can start with few plants. “We don’t require gardens for horticultural therapy. We can start with one or two plants,” he says. Horticultural therapy has proved to be very effective for elderly people or senior citizens, and also children with autism stressful feelings.
It has been observed that any form of gardening or horticultural therapy relieves senior citizens from depression and loneliness. It helps them improve their psychomotor functioning. “As you grow older your contacts reduce, your family calls you once in a while and you are by yourself most of the day and you become lonely. Horticultural therapy helps a lot in alleviating mood. When you connect to plants and trees around you, you really feel connected. That connection is very important in improving mental health and physical health,” said Dr Achyuthan Eswar.
“Diseases most elderly people face are heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, Parkinson disease, asthma, dementia…believe it or not many of the aches and pains while doing chores, are eased with horticultural therapy. It helps. It is a therapeutic in the relief it brings.”
Horticultural therapy improves the condition of children with autism. It makes them more social.
Preethi, a mother of two children, explains how horticultural therapy helped her son who is autistic, “My son became more calm and he is not connected to people much but he is now connected to plants. He has become a much better person. He hugs and kisses the plants, even talks to them.”
Dr Beela GK, associate professor working in the Department of Community Science at the College of Agriculture, Vellayani, Kerala Agricultural University, adds, “When a child with autism is going through horticultural therapy, it increases their psychomotor function. It also helps them interact with other people. It increases their social intelligence and social responses and helps with socialization as well. They don’t interact much so we help them interact with plants. They also improve their speech and language development.” She also won the John Walker Community Service award 2020 from the American Horticultural Therapy Association. She has also done research on child development and horticultural therapy.
In conclusion, here’s a takeaway thought. Horticultural therapy is a great stress buster. “It helps release serotonin hormones or happy hormones in our body,” Karthikeyan endorsed, plants help improve our mental health, if you’re surrounded by more plants, you will end up taking more oxygen too. This will enhance the oxygen related processes in your body, enhance digestion and your hormone secretion. It will help any mental sickness also.”
Dr Beela GK talks about how there is a people-plant connection and how it is very effective, “To release stress is another aim of horticultural therapy and it can be imparted to anybody who is undergoing stress. It’s not a stress management method but is a stress relieving method. It is like when people are feeling lonely or when they are going through severe depression they can undergo horticultural therapy. Seeing plants growing gives them a lot of hope and the depression levels come down. Even when people who are very lonely, don’t have anyone to speak to and anyone who can take care of them; they can interact with plants.”
She further adds, “If anyone is going through prescription they need to go through that. Unless and until a complete cure is found medication has to be continued. Let me say horticultural therapy is just complementary. It complements physiotherapy, speech therapy and as well as occupational therapy.”
Needless to say horticultural therapy is acquiring name and fame in the area of healing sciences.