The Garden Path to Better Health
The results of the study, which were published in the September/October 2010 issue of Holistic Nursing Practice, revealed that garden walking and reflective journaling significantly decreased the participants' scores obtained from the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) questionnaire when compared to scores derived from the GDS before the intervention. Forty participants, mean age 71.3 years, underwent 12 garden walks through the Morikami Japanese Museum and Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida at their convenience. Subjects were given a walking guide and a journal for reflective writing. Each walk was designated a different theme (awareness, possibility, transition, connection, journey, trust, joy, freedom, forgiveness, reflection, gratitude, and fulfillment) and involved 6 designated sites along the mile path at which the participants were to stop and reflect on the garden surroundings and the written descriptions on the point marker.
The intent of the study design was to create integrality - a state in which "the human and environmental energy fields are integrated, inseparable, and affect each other," according to the authors. The researchers concluded that the combination of reflective journaling and experiencing the natural beauty present on the garden walk helped the subjects to feel part of the "big" picture and to develop an understanding of how they fit into that picture. It is thought that this connectedness results in inner peace and alleviates depression.
Holistic Nursing Practice; September/October 2010; pp. 252-259; "Garden Walking for Depression: A Research Report"; Ruth McCaffrey et al.