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February 4, 2016

Horticultural therapy has a strong metaphorical tie when it comes to nursing something to life. In short, the mentality associated with helping something to grow counteracts the negative thoughts associated with depression and anxiety.

The act of growing a plant or vegetable from a seed mirrors the steps and development in a student’s personal journey.

Scientific studies provide evidence that horticultural therapy enhances moods, improves concentration and patience. Not only are people seen to be intrinsically connected to nature, the process of therapeutic gardening has been seen to repair depleted capacities for attention and introspection.

Plant the Seed

Helping to foster positive change in a garden translates to a better interaction with the environment around a teen. The benefit to the ecosystem becomes secondary after some time, and the therapeutic nature of horticultural development becomes unmistakable. The participant is helping something to flourish. This nurturing of health and well-being translate to a mental state more capable of rational thought and peaceful demeanor.

Making a plan is essential when starting a recovery process, and stepping into the mentality of reformation and improvement is a great start. Making the decision to commit oneself to the process is an indication of growth in and of itself.

Nurture Growth

In this stage, students begin to notice the parallels between their own lives and the life in the garden. Positive habits begin to develop in an effort to bring strength in the plants, and these habits associated with dealing with problems in the garden naturally translate to handling issues organically when they arise in the course of their adventure.

After working in the garden and completing various horticultural therapy activities, participants see decreased cortisol levels—calming nerves and reducing stress. Furthermore, across many platforms, facilitators are seeing results in the formation of positive attitudes, behavioral stability and selflessness.

Reinforce the Sprout

After poor influences and previous triggers are removed, and the garden is effectively “weeded,” the student, as well as the plants, must have room to grow. This growth begins on an individual level, but slowly builds to encompass fellow participants as well.

Maintaining a garden with a group of people also helps to foster a communal feeling and a sense of belonging. The student gets to see their impact of their hard work and positive attitude on an environment as part of the community group cultivating the crop. Rather than tackling issues on their own, this practice reinforces the concept of reaching out to others for assistance when an emotional trigger is activated.

Reap the Crop

At Pacific Quest, students see the result of their work from the root to the plate. Students eat food planted by others who were in their shoes just a few month’s prior, establishing perspective and enticing participation and curiosity in the coming events.

Creating a foundation for future growth is incredibly important. At this point horticultural therapy has taught the participants about building a community, fostering growth, nurturing good habits and leaving a positive impact for those to come.

Restart the Cycle

The cyclical nature of gardening is evident in its practice. It reflects the way teens respond to negative stimuli in their own lives. After working in a garden and participating in horticultural therapy activities, when troubling issues come up in the future, they have the skill set to cope.
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