FOR BRANT NEWS
“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”
– LAO-TZU, father of Taoism
This is flu season. It is timely, then, that a growing body of scientific evidence points us in the direction of gardening where minimizing the risk of many health maladies are concerned.
A recent University of Washington study reveals that road rage is less likely to occur when nature is in plain view. Having a look at a healthy stand of trees or even a green playing field has a substantial positive effect on our behaviour when we view it just prior to a “stressful experience,” like some idiot cutting you off or tailgating through an amber light.
Green, living things give us perspective we otherwise (sometimes) lack. The authors of the study have coined the phrase “immunization effect” in reference to this phenomenon. I call it a reality check. Is a driving rage, after all, worth the excess blood pressure? Never.
Benefits of green spaces
Landscape Ontario, the Horticultural Trades Association, has compiled research that points to the social benefits of green spaces.
According to Landscape Ontario, a 30-year study at Morden Arboretum in Manitoba reveals that crime is lowered and children’s self esteem is heightened when landscaping projects are promoted in communities, neighbourhoods and housing projects. Prison populations are also positively affected when access is granted to green spaces. Go to www.landscapeontario.com for more details.
According to studies conducted by the Human Environment Research Laboratory at the University of Illinois, “[public] green spaces are gathering places that create close-knit communities and improve well-being – and in doing so, they increase safety.”
The same study reveals that residents of buildings with more trees and grass reported that they knew their neighbours better, socialized with them more often, had stronger feelings of community and felt safer and better adjusted than did residents of more barren but otherwise identical buildings.
I reflect on the potential role of greener communities in Toronto’s high risk neighbourhoods. While trees and landscaping would hardly provide a complete answer to the burning questions that revolve around urban crime, surely they are part of it.
Rodale News, which has been the No. 1 voice of organic gardening in the U.S. for two generations, offers these four “benefits of gardening.” According to the editors of this esteemed publication, you can count on the following, if you just take the time to get some dirt under your nails from time to time.
Improve your satisfaction with life: Who wouldn’t want to do that? Science now proves that “older” adults rate their “zest for life,” levels of optimism and overall resolution and fortitude higher when they garden. The University of Texas provides the results in a study of 298 participants.
Lower your osteoporosis risk: The physical activity involved in gardening leads to weight loss and better overall physical health. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found women involved in yard work and other types of gardening exercises had lower rates of osteoporosis than joggers, swimmers and women who did aerobics.
Lower diabetes risk: Active gardeners easily get more than the required 150 minutes of exercise per week (during the gardening season). According to research from Kansas State University, if you grow your own food you have another diabetes-management tool at your disposal: fresh produce. Several studies found that diabetes rates are lower in areas with community gardens and places where backyard gardening is more common.
Better sleep: Back to horticultural therapy. Therapists who practice the discipline of horticultural therapy have discovered that gardening activities help to produce a calm in people with dementia and psychiatric disorders, leading to a better night’s sleep.
Visit Mark Cullen’s website at www.markcullen.com.