In May, Brookhaven Retreat begins work on its 2013 garden. The garden is being planted with a variety of vegetables, including cherry and Roma tomatoes, bell peppers, squashes and runner beans. It will also include a wide range of culinary herbs as well as berries and ornamental flowers.
Clients and dining staff work together to develop and maintain the garden as a communal project. Studies have shown that gardening decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol and improves mood. A Norwegian study found that gardening significantly improves symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. The option to garden helps women at Brookhaven Retreat manage stress and anxiety by caring for plants.
The communal garden also gives women the opportunity to provide input in the types of plants that go into the garden and ultimately, the food that is prepared. The garden supports Brookhaven Retreat’s menu by enhancing dishes with fresh, quality ingredients that are grown on site.
Brookhaven Retreat has found that gardening is a powerful tool for wellbeing, and that time spent in the garden helps speed recovery from mental health and substance abuse issues. Women who help grow fruits and vegetables for consumption feel a positive emotional reward and benefit from increased self-esteem and improved mood.
Brookhaven Retreat encourages women to participate in the community garden as a way of self-soothing and increasing both physical and mental wellness. It also hopes that upon completion of its program, women will continue to garden as a healthy habit that maintains recovery.