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.
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