Mental Health Awareness Week is taking place this week (18-24 May 2020), and with it coincides with the completion of our teacher training.  Therefore, although a bit of a departure from the lighter subjects we talk about, it seems fitting to share our findings on flower arranging and improved mental health.

Let us begin by acknowledging that mental health is something we all have, only sometimes it is good and other times it is not. Sound familiar?  Okay, we will all agreed on that one.

So, let us jump back to 18 months ago and we decided to embark on a Post Graduate Diploma in Education.  The simple reason for this was to know if we were doing it right, you know, teaching lots of people about floral design through our workshops.  Who were we to know?  We know our craft, but it is a big assumption to assume you can teach it and do it well!

What can we tell you now we are at the end?  We know a lot about teaching and learning!  Nevertheless, it also gave us the outlet to discover much more.  One such thing was the opportunity to explore the connection between flower arranging and mild to moderate mental health.

Historically, flower arranging has been treated and taught as a vocational subject pursued in post-compulsory education and training or further education – think colleges and distance learning.  While it still holds huge value as a vocational subject, we have felt that the topic is being over-looked as an art form and as a tool to improve people’s mild to moderate mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.  We want to challenge how it is presently positioned as a discipline and explore the benefit of floristry as a wellbeing discipline.

What we know…

  • Studies such as The King’s Fund report on Gardens and Health (2016) have shown the links between gardening to a significant reduction in depression, anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects. This report was commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme in 2015. Its intention is to contribute to the understanding, assessment, and development of the links between gardens, gardening, and health. It sets out the evidence base on how gardens and gardening relate to health across the life-course.

 

  • Arts and creativity activity enhance social and emotional wellbeing, and consequently our ability to learn (Ewing, 2018).

 

  • Flower arranging is a sensory experience; by this we mean it includes a range of senses from the touch and smell to the visual involvement.

 

  • Being with nature improves mental health: doctors are being asked to refer patients to work on allotments and gardens under a new scheme funded by the Royal Horticultural Society with the NHS (Simmons House Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatient Unit being the first to take part) in 2019.

 

  • Ministers have urged doctors to prescribe hobbies such as gardening and art classes as part of efforts to boost activity, lift mood and reduce reliance on medication. Health officials detailed plans to refer almost 1 million patients to “social prescribing” schemes offering more personalised care.

 

  • A study led by University of North Florida called The Impact of Flowers on Perceived Stress Among Women, conducted in 2018, it concluded that adding flowers to indoor environments results in a statistically significant and meaningful reduction in stress.

 

One of the ways floristry as subject can benefit the individual is to actively put them in sensing mode as opposed to a thinking mode. A Community Learning Mental Health Report (2018) identified that when a person has an opportunity to focus on something other than day-to-day life, to make time for themselves to do something enjoyable, and by having something to look forward to, this had positive effects on the persons mental health and well-being.

Findings from this report also suggest that the process of learning something new, be it floristry or another subject, contributed to the positive effects on mental health and well-being in the individual (Probert, 2017). However, the report does acknowledge that the positive effects on mental health were by their nature largely limited to the time period during which learners were taking part; many individuals were saddened when their course ended, with some identifying this as a setback.

However, if floristry (much like a mindfulness technique or exercise) were to be used as a coping mechanism in times of anxiousness or depression, the positive impact of this craft could be ongoing. Floristry offers something other art-forms cannot: to paint, having the paint is not enough, there is a necessity of some level of skill; similarly, with knitting, needle felting or pottery that having the materials is not enough. With flowers, Mother nature has done the hard work for you and is simply a case of composing the elements.

What does this mean?

Floristry is an art-form and is tied with nature (it is nature!) and has the potential to offer positive mental health benefits through participation, but there needs to be a conscious realignment of the subject to enable individuals to understand the benefits.

We are not saying that flower arranging alone can solve mental health problems, but like many complimentary therapies, exercise, and other coping resources, it is a good tool to have in your bag!  The whole experience lead us to attend a Mental Health First Aid course with MHFA England.  We thoroughly recommend this course – it is designed to give people the facts about mental health and the practical skills to support wellbeing in our communities.

Maybe we will see you at one of our workshops in the future?  We are looking at devising ways to continue with our teaching safely, that can include being able to participate from home.

 

Stay safe.

 

References

Books:

Aprill, A., Burnaford, G., & Weiss, C. (2001). Renaissance in the classroom: Arts integration and meaningful learning. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Armitage, A. (2016). Teaching in post-14 education & training (Fifth edition.). Maidenhead, Berkshire, England: McGraw-Hill Education, Open University Press.

Ashcroft, K., & James, D. (1999). The Creative professional: learning to teach 14-19 year olds. London: Falmer Press.

Bamford, A. (2006). The wow factor: Global research compendium on the impact of the arts in education. Berlin, Germany: Waxmann Verlag.

Biesta, G. J. J. (2014). The beautiful risk of education. London, UK: Paradigm.

Bloom, B. (1984). Taxonomy of educational objectives: the classification of educational goals. New York: Longman.

Curzon, L and Tummons, J. (2013). Teaching in Further Education: An Outline of Principles and Practice (Vol. 3). New York: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Fawbert, F. et al (2008). Teaching in post-compulsory education: skills, standards and lifelong learning. London: Continuum.

Freeman, R., & Lewis, R. (1998). Planning and implementing assessment. London: Kogan Page.

Gershon, M. (2015). How to use Bloom’s taxonomy in the classroom: the complete guide. Great Britain: Mike Gershon.

Gravells, A. (2012). Preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector (5th ed.). Exeter: Learning Matters.

Huddleston, P., & Unwin, L. (2013). Teaching and learning in further education diversity and change (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Knowles, M. (1990). The adult learner: a neglected species (4th ed.). Houston: Gulf Pub. Co.

Muijs, D., & Reynolds, D. (2018). Effective teaching: evidence and practice (4th ed.). London: SAGE.

Petty, G. (2014). Teaching today: a practical guide (5th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Race, P. (2014). Making learning happen: a guide for post-compulsory education (Third edition.). Los Angeles, California: SAGE.

Tummons, J. (2011). Assessing learning in the lifelong learning sector (3rd ed.) Exeter: Learning Matters.

Vygotsky, L. (1962). Thought and Language. (2nd ed.) Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Vygotsky, L.,& Cole, M. (1978). Mind in society : the development of higher psychological processes . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wallace, S. (2011). Teaching, tutoring and training in the lifelong learning sector (4th ed.). Exeter: Learning Matters.

Winner, E., Goldstein, T. R., & Vincent-Lancrin, S. (2013). Arts for art’s sake Overview, OECD Publishing.

 

Journal:

Drew, V., & Mackie, L. (2011). Extending the constructs of active learning: implications for teachers’ pedagogy and practice. Curriculum Journal, 22(4), 451–467. doi: 10.1080/09585176.2011.627204

Field, John. (2009). Good for your soul? Adult learning and mental well-being. International Journal of Lifelong Education. Pages 175-191. doiI: 10.1080/02601370902757034

Huta, V. & Ryan, R. (2010). Pursuing Pleasure or Virtue: The Differential and Overlapping Well-Being Benefits of Hedonic and Eudaimonic Motives. Journal of Happiness Studies. 11. 735-762. doi: 10.1007/s10902-009-9171-4.

Largo-Wright, E. et al (2011). ‘Healthy Workplaces: The Effects of Nature Contact at Work on Employee Stress and Health’, Public Health Rep, 126(Suppl 1), pp.124–130. doi: 10.1177/00333549111260S116

Vygotsky, L. (2004). Imagination and creativity in childhood. Journal of Russian and East European Psychology, 42(1), 7–97. doi: 10.1080/10610405.2004.11059210

 

Web page:

Gravells, A. Minimum Core Skills. Available at: http://www.anngravells.com/information/minimum-core-skills (Accessed: 5 March 2019)

Professional Standards for FE Teachers: Available at: https://www.et-foundation.co.uk/ (Accessed: 18 March 2019)

Higher education in numbers: Available at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/facts-and-stats/Pages/higher-education-data.aspx (Accessed: 2 May 2019)

Health by Design: University Research Reveals Surprising Solution for Relieving Stress: https://aboutflowers.com/quick-links/health-benefits-research/stressless/ (Accessed: 1 May 2019)

The Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scales: Available at: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/sci/med/research/platform/wemwbs (Accessed 29 April 2019)

Horton, H. GPs can refer patients to new therapy gardens in town centres as RHS funds mental health treatment pilot: Available at: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2019/04/22/gps-can-refer-patients-new-therapy-gardens-town-centres-rhs/ (Accessed: 1 May 2019)

On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being: Available at: https://www.reproductive-revolution.com/hedonic-eudaimonic.html (Accessed: 13 April 2019)

What Is Ikebana? The Japanese Art That’s Making a Comeback: Available at: https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-thriving-art-ikebana-japanese-tradition-flower-arranging (Accessed: 8 May 2019)

 

Reports:

Buck, D. & The Kings Fund (2016) Gardens and health Implications for policy and practice commissioned by the National Gardens Scheme. Available at: https://www.kingsfund.org.uk/sites/default/files/field/field_publication_file/Gardens_and_health.pdf (Accessed: 29 March 2019)

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Community learning mental health research project: phase two evaluation report. Available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/community-learning-mental-health-research-project (Accessed: 29 April 2019)

Ewing, R. (2018) Making a difference in learning through arts-rich pedagogy: Available at: https://research.acer.edu.au/research_conference/RC2018/12august/4/ (Accessed: 29 March 2019)

Morrison Gutman, L. and Vorhaus, J. (Nov 2012) The Impact of Pupil Behaviour and Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes: Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/219638/DFE-RR253.pdf (Accessed:10 March 2019)