Imagine taking a relaxing walk in a wooded area, listening to the sounds of wind through trees, birds, and water running down a stream and seeing beautiful, vibrant shade of green. This type of an environment has shown numerous benefits, from cleaner air and water to increased health benefits like reduced stress and blood pressure.
Hospitals are embracing such benefits and expanding how they help their patients heal by incorporating green spaces and healing gardens to their facilities. The term “healing garden” is applied to green areas in hospitals and other healthcare facilities that aim to generally improve a person’s health passively to a wide variety of audiences. Experts suggest that these spaces should be green, have real vegetation, be interesting, engage multiple senses, be mindful of walkways, and make entry easy. Additionally, it has been proven that a ratio of at least 7:3 seems to work best for amount of greenery versus hard surfaces.
Hospitals have used the information on the health benefits of green spaces to implement healing gardens, which help patients experiences less pain medication, fewer post-surgical complications, reduced anger, reduced anxiety, promote faster healing, boost the immune system, and overall decrease hospital stays, to name a few. In fact, only three to five minutes viewing trees, flowers, or water can provide these benefits.
One study showed that tenants in Chicago who had trees around their buildings reported knowing more people, having stronger feelings of unity with neighbors, and have stronger feelings of belonging, all of which improve tenants overall mental state and health. Additionally, another study analyzed patients who underwent gallbladder surgery, half had a view with nature and the other had a view of a wall when recovering. Those with the view of nature slept better, reported less stress and spent less time in the hospital. It is also important to note one analysis found that different generations seem to value different things in gardens. For examples, middle-aged adults look for peace and quiet, while older adults are more likely to seek stimulation. All of these findings are important for hospitals and other healthcare centers to consider when developing healing gardens, and support their implementation.
There are already several hospitals and healthcare facilities in Wisconsin that have healing gardens. Community Memorial Foundation in Menomonee Falls has created a beautiful healing garden. The healing garden is approximately 7,500 square feet and is easily viewed and accessed from the main building. There is also a healing garden at Edgerton Hospital in Edgerton. This hospitals goal in developing this garden is to provide a serene and lovely location for patients, visitors, employees and the community to retreat for the revitalization of mind, body and spirit. These are only two examples of healing gardens, but all strive for the same thing, to improve the health of the people who visit, despite the fact that they all look different and have different elements (flowers, trees, water features).
Healing gardens are just one way to showcase the benefits of urban and community green spaces, especially trees. While healing gardens are specific to healthcare facilities, many of the same benefits and effects can be experienced by having a green neighborhood and including trees in neighborhood planning.
For more information contact Ellen Clark (EllenA.Clark@Wisconsin.gov), Urban Forestry Communication Specialist, at 608-267-2774.