Gardening can make a great impact on the mental health of youth. There are many ways to get youth interested and involved in gardening!
Gardening’s Impact of Youths Mental Health.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 7.1% (approximately 4.4 million) of youth under the age of 18 have been diagnosed with anxiety and 3.2% (approximately 1.9 million) have been diagnosed with depression. While the percentages may seem rather insignificant, both are on the rise and the two combined make-up nearly 10% of the youth population. While many of these youth require the help of a mental health services to deal with these conditions, one of the recommendations from these professionals is horticulture therapy, or simply put…gardening! A recent report in the Mental Health Journal cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Taking a Break from Technology
Most parents may laugh at the odds of getting their child to walk away from their phone or digital games to invest time in gardening, but there may be reasons to not be so skeptical. First of all, remove any stereotypes of gardening being a chore or a punishment, start small! A large garden will definitely be intimidating and add to stress or resentment towards gardening. Let the child have an input in what type of gardening he or she will be helping with. It may start as simple as a pineapple plant in a flowerpot or planting a favorite fruit tree, but let them make have some input, and control of the garden. As the youth begins to show more interest, expand to larger gardens that will require more time and responsibility.
Playing in the Water
Finally, one of the simplest ways to make gardening fun, especially for younger youth is to add water! Not only is water needed for successful gardening, water-features can also help alleviate stress and anxiety. A sprinkler in a garden will provide an opportunity for kids to have all kinds of fun trying to doge rounds of showers while staying cool. The sounds of a sprinkler and the cool breeze from waves of showers can also be stress and anxiety reducing to older youth and adults as well.
There is plenty of evidence supporting the benefits of gardening to mental health. The challenge may be getting a child interested, but by allowing them to have some control of the project, keeping the garden small and “doable” along with adding fun such as games with the sprinkler will increase the odds of youth enjoying the garden and reaping the mental health benefits.