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The Healing Power of Green: Why Doctors are Prescribing “Green Prescriptions”


Green City Growers’ Vegetable Gardening Program at a Senior Living Site  

In a world where stress and anxiety seem ever-present, doctors are turning to nature as a remedy, prescribing what’s known as “green prescriptions” to their patients. This practice isn’t just a trend; it’s backed by research from Harvard University’s public health graduate school and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

The findings suggest that the presence of green spaces is linked to higher life expectancy. A significant portion of this benefit, around 30%, stems from improved mental health, evidenced by lower depression rates among those surrounded by more vegetation. But the advantages don’t stop there. Increased social interactions, enhanced physical activity, and reduced exposure to air pollution are also contributing factors to this positive correlation.

It’s no wonder, then, that the concept of “green prescriptions” is gaining traction. In places like Shetland, patients with depression and anxiety are being encouraged to spend time outdoors as part of their treatment. These “nature prescriptions” may include activities like walks or community gardening projects, providing a holistic approach to healing.

So, why is gardening the therapy of choice for so many?

  • Natural Antidepressant: Research suggests that soil contains microbes that act on the brain similarly to antidepressants, boosting serotonin levels and improving mood.
  • Mindfulness in Action: Mindfulness has a huge impact on your stress levels, helping to stave off anxiety, slash depression risk, boost productivity and ease insomnia.
    • Hilda Burke, Psychotherapist, says: “What makes gardening unique and sets it apart from other activities such as baking or knitting is that it quite literally connects us to the earth. Working with soil, planting things, being patient, nurturing our seedlings offers a valuable lesson for our personal lives.”
  • Brain Boost: Gardening exercises your mind as well as your body. It utilizes a number of our brain functions and includes learning, problem solving and sensory awareness, keeping our minds active.

Green City Growers is harnessing the power of gardening for therapy, partnering with senior living communities to offer horticulture therapy programs that promote vegetable gardening and memory care.

Perhaps the most potent remedy lies just outside our doors, in the simple act of connecting with nature.

 


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