my garden This is a tiny corner of my garden.  This morning it was so bursting with colour and sunshine and birdsong  it was like stepping into a little bit of heaven.  It isn’t true that ‘You’re nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth,’  of course, because when we invite Christ into our lives His spirit comes to dwell within us and you can’t get closer than that!  But it’s easy to see why being in a garden on a sunny day can seem the next best thing to heaven.

It’s also might help stave off dementia.  Professor Tom Kitwood, the clinical psychologist who was the trailblazer in understanding people with dementia wrote about the importance of creating a benign chemical environment in the brain, saying that it could stimulate neuronal health. The scents and the sounds, the peace and pleasure of a garden are all contributors to the good feelings that make up a good brain environment.

Adding two more elements could increase your resistance to dementia.   One is walking.  According to the Harvard School of Medicine, walking releases oxygen into your lungs and improves blood flow to the brain.  It releases ‘feel good’ endorphins and lifts mood, especially outdoors.  It also helps strengthen a sense of balance in older people, building lower body strength.  It can strengthen the part of your brain that is responsible for forming new memories, and connecting emotions and senses, such as smell and sound to memories.

Warm social networks
Warm social networks

The final, and most important, is FRIENDS.  According to Professor Dunbar of Oxford University, the one thing that contributes to a long life, is sharing with friends. It’s such an important finding he marvels that it is ignored by the medical profession.  But then, how can you write a prescription for friendship?

Tear yourself away from your chores, your computer, or those bulky weekend  newspapers!  Walking with friends through a sunlit park, or large garden is such a pleasure, and could be doing you far more good than you thought!



Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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