Gardening for the Mental Well-Being of Homeless Women
To explore the perceptions of homeless women regarding their experience in a shelter-based garden project to promote mental wellness (Authors).
Purpose: To explore the perceptions of homeless women regarding their experience in a shelter-based garden project to promote mental wellness. Participants planted and tended the vegetable garden and prepared and ate the fruits of their labor. Design: A qualitative descriptive design with a conventional content analysis of narrative data. Method: Data were gathered in semistructured interviews. Participants were homeless daytime shelter guests who had participated in at least eight gardening sessions over 4 weeks. The project was started in the fall of 2010 and the interviews were conducted over 2 months in the summer of 2011. Findings: Two polarized themes were identified in the narratives, clustering around negative and positive thoughts. The "dark" theme centered on marginalization and the oppressiveness of shelter life. The "light" theme centered on stress relief, feeling socially included, and personal change. Conclusion: The gardening experience interrupted the participants' negative ruminations, offering stress relief and elements of social inclusion and self-actualization. Gardening is an inexpensive and positive intervention for a population with a high incidence of mental illness and distress (Authors).
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