Labyrinth in the Australian Botanical Gardens, Shepparton
We are excited to be involved in an innovative approach to health and wellbeing through connecting people to nature, meditation and gentle exercise! Together with local community, government and the health sector in Greater Shepparton, we are looking to build resources towards the construction of a labyrinth in the Australian Botanical Gardens, Shepparton. We are also looking to raise funding to make a significant contribution to research regarding the health and wellbeing benefits (both physical and mental) of walking labyrinths. In the interest of progressing the conversation about personal and community health and wellbeing needs, particularly in regional towns and rural/remote areas, we are asking for support and donations from the wider public.
Labyrinths are used all over the world, in different countries and cultures, as a tool to promote mental and physical health. Already in Australia they are increasingly being built in hospitals, hospices, retreat centres, churches, parks and gardens - and research is starting to prove their benefits.
We’re working with a dedicated local community in Greater Shepparton to integrate a labyrinth within the existing native flora in the garden through carefully considered design and materials choices. Our aim is for the labyrinth will provide a new dimension in recreation and health care for the people in the area, as well as attract more visitors to the stunning Australian gardens located just outside Shepparton's city centre.
The proposal, supported by active, dedicated members of Greater Shepparton's health community, Greater Shepparton City Council and Friends of the Australian Botanical Gardens, Shepparton is to situate the labyrinth in a location within the gardens that will draw people to the labyrinth and encourage regular use.
The proposed site for the labyrinth has been chosen to meet the needs of labyrinth-users in relation to the needs of other gardens visitors. The quiet, slightly secluded area of the gardens where the labyrinth will be situated is peaceful and tranquil, away from the more active areas of the gardens.
Ultimately, the aim is to bring the meditative qualities of the labyrinth into a totally natural setting. Nestling the labyrinth within the gardens' native flora brings with it the additional health and wellbeing benefits of connecting people to nature.
How can a labyrinth facilitate improved health and wellbeing?
For those who have already walked a labyrinth and experienced its benefits, there is no need to explain further. You may have found positive physical, mental, emotional, spiritual or social outcomes from the gentle, meditative walking into the centre and out again. You may have done it once, or repeatedly and each time experienced something different – a new insight, a sense of peace and calm, the ability to listen to your world and to yourself and forge a new path through life. You may have done it alone or with others, where the effect was both personal and community-orientated. Research, still in its early days, has shown some benefits for mental health issues, sleep, blood pressure, problem solving, improving stress (including at work), or just providing gentle exercise, connecting with other people, and connecting with your surroundings.
Why do we need labyrinths in regional areas like Shepparton?
People living outside major metropolitan centres in regional towns and rural areas have an increased risk of some health problems compared to their city-based counterparts. Instances of both mental and physical problems, such as obesity (a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, depression and many other illnesses) and suicide, increase in rural areas. Research has demonstrated that there is an inter-relationship between physical and mental health, so that addressing one of these can assist the other. A number of indicators for health reveal that, on average, rural populations are more sedentary. There may also be fewer health professionals per capita to help people prevent or manage potential or existing conditions. Country people are renowned for managing with what they’ve got, adapting to what is needed and coming up with additional strategies to stay healthy. The labyrinth is one such strategy.
Motivating people to change their behavior to include more healthy ways of living can be hard – we all know what we should do, but it’s hard to get started if we don’t see instant results. The labyrinth is a gentle way of getting started – it doesn’t take long to walk it, it doesn’t feel like ‘exercise’ or ‘stress management’, yet it is known to provide similar benefits.
The many benefits of walking a labyrinth have attracted researchers looking to quantify the effects, which will be an important aspect of the installation of a labyrinth at the Botanic Gardens site in Greater Shepparton.
How can you help?
Please click that Donate button and help us make the Australian Botanical Gardens, Shepparton Labyrinth a reality!
Walking the labyrinth is a form of mindfulness – a walking meditation. It can be used by people across a range of ages and abilities (including those using wheelchairs or walking frames) and provides a space for gentle exercise, reflection or time out. There is now increasing evidence that any form of mindfulness has beneficial effects on both our physical and mental health. Research also shows us that practising mindfulness outside in nature improves our health.
Labyrinths don’t represent any particular culture or religion, so they appeal to people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Most importantly, labyrinths invite people to tap into their inner resources - offering a way of addressing the spiritual, emotional, and psychological aspects of healing.
Access to a labyrinth provides people with a place to retreat, regroup and renew, but also to relinquish things they don’t need to carry through life, to receive and to re-energise. The evidence for the benefits of meditation and mindfulness is undisputed - the labyrinth represents a quiet place where the simple act of walking offers a proactive ‘task’ to undertake within a quiet haven, enabling people to learn to deal with stress in a positive way.
The labyrinth offers many benefits, including:
- an inviting way of getting exercise outdoors in nature
- a way to clear the mind and focus attention
- a healthy ‘time out’ – an alternative to a smoking break
- a calm environment in which to prepare for dealing with challenging situations.
- a place to regain calm, focus, balance and perspective