There’s no doubt that military veterans experience unique challenges that affect their mental and physical health. From readjusting into civilian life, to finding a new career path, to dealing with often debilitating physical injuries that require constant care, to managing mental health events such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), veterans are often affected by their service to our country for years after they return home.
Among all these challenges, many veterans find solace in the garden. Being out in the sunshine, playing in the dirt, and creating a peaceful environment where they grow their own fruits and vegetables has a powerful therapeutic effect on those struggling with mental and physical health issues.
A Brief History of Horticultural Therapy
The therapeutic power of gardening is not a new concept. Dr. Benjamin Rush, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, started using Horticultural therapy in the 1800’s with his patients who struggled with mental illnesses.
According to the American Horticultural Therapy Association, gardening was used as therapy for World War II veterans who had to be hospitalized, which increased the acceptance of gardening as therapeutic for a myriad of illnesses and physical ailments.
The Healing Benefits of Gardening for Veterans
If you’ve ever spent a day working out in the garden, you’re probably familiar with how amazing you feel by the end of the day. But it’s not just about that feeling. Here are a few reasons – supported by science – why gardening is so therapeutic for veterans.
- Gardening can reduce physical pain and help with recovery from surgery or other medical interventions. Gardening has been shown to improve a patient’s ability to cope with chronic pain.
- Gardening can reduce the severity of stress and anxiety.
- A study from 2013 shows that being out in nature can reduce depression by 71 percent.
- Gardening can help veterans foster a sense of community, build new social connections, and boost their social confidence.
- Gardening that involves fruits and vegetables can help veterans improve their overall diet by helping them enjoy healthy foods, thereby boosting their overall health.
The garden is a place for meditation, physical exercise, and spending time out in the sunshine. Often, gardening includes all members of the family or community. The garden is a place of rest and reflection, and being around growing plants has been shown to improve sleep, stave off fatigue, and even cut healthcare costs.
According to veteran William Sims, Vietnam veteran of the 101st Airborne Division who served from 1966 to 1967 says, “Gardening is important because it allows veterans to have an optimistic experience. It takes their mind off the injustices and bad things that have happened to them in the past… the issues veterans suffer from are often chronic… but their tone changes when they’re in the garden. It’s like magic. Gardening makes sure they have positive experiences. This is almost guaranteed by the act itself, as it creates such a peaceful place. Gardening is meditative and increases self-esteem.”
This Memorial Day, Join Stockslagers in Honoring our Veterans
Memorial day is a time to take a moment to stop and honor those who have served in our military. Celebrate and support our veterans by creating a combination planter of your own in our “Potting Shed” on Saturday, May 25th, from 10 – 2.
Stockslagers will donate $20 of the $30 value to Fisher-Nightingale Houses, Inc., who provide comfortable compassionate care homes for wounded, injured, and ill veterans who are undergoing care at VA medical centers. We love their work, and Stockslagers is proud to support their cause.