Roo Friend has a deep appreciation of the benefits of spending time in the garden. Growing his own food fills him with joy, fulfillment and wonder.
The Brisbane-based music therapist, educator and diversional gardening therapist has experienced first-hand how growing things can improve your life.
After many years of living with depression and anxiety, Roo went to counselling and began to make small changes that ultimately became the habits which helped him to find happiness.
Along the journey, Roo discovered the power of exercise, meditation and gardening. He became involved with a local community garden, then went on to study permaculture and composting. As his knowledge grew, he began applying the principles he had learnt through his work as a music therapist to gardening education.
“Within a couple of years, I was growing and eating lots of organic produce. Every morning before my walk, I ate a few sprigs of raw greens and a small tomato. I noticed my mood elevating and my body strength increasing. Bad habits dropped away. It was like therapy for me. I studied other gardeners and discovered there was a link between gardening and health and happiness. It really was therapy!” he said.
Reintroducing people to nature.
Diversional gardening therapy is about reintroducing us to Mother Nature – the seasons, sun, moon, wind, soil, water and weather … and lots of animals, birds and bugs.
Gardening involves a nice mix of creative design, socialising, physical labour and learning. Regardless of your age or ability, there’s sure to be something that you can do in a garden.
“Gardening covers everything from science, to art, to using tools,” Roo explains. “You can build a worm farm, learn about bees by making a bee hotel or learn the basic chemistry of compost.”
“Your projects can be as small or as big as you like. There are little crafty activities, painting or drawing. You could build a balcony garden. Or, you might want to plan a large backyard garden which can be grown over years for your pleasure.”
Roo works with NDIS participants and groups across Brisbane and south-east Queensland as Roo Friend Urban Gardener. His programs and activities are tailored to the needs and goals of each participant and can be located at a participant’s home or in a venue or community garden.
The benefits of gardening therapy.
Connecting with the natural world can divert our attention from our minds to something else and deliver loads of benefits along the way.
“Gardening therapy can be really valuable for people who don’t quite know why but find their spirit is sinking. They may be living in a place where there isn’t much nature or be socially isolated,” says Roo.
Other benefits can include:
- Increased independence
- Improved movement, strength, coordination and balance
- Enhanced creativity and problem solving skills
- Better ability to deal with success and failure
- Making new friends
- Greater confidence.
Roo has recently been working with an NDIS participant who hoped gardening may help her manage anxiety and develop new skills. She hadn’t much success with gardening in the past but now has a thriving food garden in a pot, complete with integrated worm farm. She has even built an owl box!
“Gardening gives my client a break from the issues that flood the mind with anxiety and allows her to concentrate on something else. She can use a power saw safely now and has more confidence with tools. In fact, she has more confidence generally and that has positively impacted other areas of her life. She’s excited by what she’s achieved,” Roo said.
Anyone can grow stuff.
It’s hard to believe that Roo’s early experience with gardening was “tragic” and that nothing he planted grew.
The change is proof that anyone can learn to grow plants. All you need is a space (which can be a large pot, small balcony or garden), sunlight, water, some soil and plant food. Of course, it’s also important to make a commitment to looking after the plants in your care.
“Growing something can reboot your sense of personal power and it’s a great feeling when you plan it, prepare it, plant it, see it change and finally eat it. Or simply sit there and be with it and enjoy its smell and colour. Gardening therapy can be beneficial for anyone who wants to improve their life and wellbeing,” Roo said.
We’re here to help.
If gardening therapy sounds like something you would like to get involved in, Leap in! can help. Whether you are located in Queensland or anywhere in Australia, you can explore providers near you on our Provider Network Directory.
Call us on 1300 05 78 78 to have your questions answered or chat with us online on our website.