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Horticultural Therapy and Anxiety

Can plants really calm our nerves? Accordingly to a recent article in Metro US, the answer is yes! Matthew J. Wichrowski, a senior horticultural therapist at the Rusk Rehabilitation Center at NYU Langone Medical Centre, uses plants and planting exercises daily in order to help rehabilitate patients struggling with both mental and physical disabilities.

Patients undergo hour long sessions of 'plant and sensory exploration' and for those who are unable to leave their ward, Wichroski brings a cart of plants to their bedside. 'We explore the sensory aspect, touch and feel, describe the leaves, the colours and flowers, fragrance, and talk about how to use them'.

Wichroski found that spending time around biophilic elements has a plethora of psychological benefits; happiness can be increased and a levels of stress are decreased. Wichrowski is a big advocate of “attention restoration theory,” the idea that concentrating on nature can can provide us with a 'mental vacation' and thereby improve our ability to focus. Simply put, this concept is designed to 'restore' our attention.

A 2005 study published in the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, which was co-authored by Wichrowski, found that cardiac rehabilitation inpatients were left with a reduced heart rate after horticultural therapy sessions.

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