Mental Health and Gardening
At the Community Child Guidance Clinic, we take care to ensure that everything we do has a focus on children's mental health. This includes the Grow Ahead's gardening initiative, which we carefully researched and planned to best incorporate the mental health benefits of plants and gardening, so that it can help supplement the work that is done in our other programs.
Research has shown that spending time surrounded by plants, and especially hands-on interaction with plants, will reduce measurable levels of anxiety in the body. Scientists have found that when children and adults are working hands-on in a garden, activity in their sympathetic nervous system is significantly reduced and they will have lowered levels of cortisol. The sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system responsible for feeling stress, and cortisol is a hormone known to cause anxiety, meaning that hands-on garden activities can help reduce feelings of anxiety.
Routine involvement of students helping tend the garden, as well as regularly recurring planting/harvest day activities help our children gain confidence in themselves. Case studies from other school gardening programs have shown that hands-on education and involvement in the food production process from seed to plate helps students to:
- Improve their sense of autonomy and ability
- Feel ownership to the plants they grow and food they produce
- Gain a sense of responsibility to the garden
- Work in social situations and use teamwork
When designing what our new greenhouse and outdoor garden space will look like, we took into consideration the use of therapeutic gardens to create a relaxing space full of a variety of sensory stimulating elements. Elements like this will be able to serve as a calm space children can “take space” in when they need, as well as supplementing a variety of existing therapy practices. This space will be able to serve as a setting for 1:1 outpatient sessions, group sessions, occupational therapies, and more!