Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Gardening and emotion

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Gardening and emotion:
How does gardening influence emotion?

Overview[edit | edit source]

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Emotion, what is it?[edit | edit source]

Emotion is highly subjective to individual experiences, while being defined as “A concious mental reaction subjectively experienced as strong feeling which is usually directed towards a specific object and is typically accompanied by physiological and behavioural changes in the body; emotion is the affective aspect of consciousness” (Sieb, 2013). This definition has 3 components which make up emotions, firstly there is the physiological reaction of the emotion, secondly there is the behavioural reaction and finally the concious feelings of the emotion.

Just like how[awkward expression?] different emotions can be caused by different events, physiological reactions are different depending on what emotion is currently been experienced. A fearful emotion may cause an increase in heart rate, sweating, flight or increased breathing, freezing, adrenaline, and fearful facial expressions. The physiological effects of happiness can include smiling, decreases in heart rate and breathing, and an openness or approachable body language. Emotions may share these physiological traits with other emotions like fear and anger, happiness and joy, with different varying levels of intensities.

A behavioural response to emotions are as suggested, the behaviours emotion cause[say what?]. Fear may cause shaking, freezing or fright. Shock my cause the sudden use of twitch reflex muscles often in the form of a small jump. Happiness is most recognisable through a smile while sadness is a frown, or tears (Sieb, 2013; Schumacher, Herwig, Baur, Mueller-Pfeiffer, Martin-Soelch, Rufer, & Brühl, 2015; Stellar, Cohen, Oveis, & Keltner, 2015).

The conscious aspect of emotions is just being aware that you are experiencing them. Not the same with being able to label which emotion you are feeling at any given time, the concious awareness that you are experiencing emotions (Sieb, 2013).

Gardening effects on emotion[edit | edit source]

Gardening is generally viewed as a positive experience which can stimulate positive emotional responses with many applications for treating mental health, spirituality, dementia and improved family relationships through community gardening. Gardening has the power to create a strong sense of responsibility, a sense of hope waiting for the plants to bloom or ripen and even potentially create enthusiasm within an individual (Alaimo, Reischl & Allen, 2010; Baker, 2009; Edwards, McDonnell & Merl, 2013).

Gardening has traditionally been viewed as an activity which can relieve stress from an individual as it helps distance them from every day worries and hardships (Eriksson, Westerberg & Jonsson, 2011). As a result[awkward expression?] of this view, horticulture therapy came about to tackle several health issues.

Horticulture therapy is commonly used to treat mental health, improve overall well-being, and improve physical strength and flexibility[factual?]. Mental health, including both anxiety and depression, is becoming increasingly common among youth and elderly alike. (Gonzalez, Hartig, Patil, Martinsen, & Kirkevold, 2009; Gonzalez, Hartig, Patil, Martinsen, & Kirkevold, 2011; Thomas, 2014) As a lot of populations become older and the life expectancy becomes longer, more health issues may arise. Gardening studies have been used to tackle the effects of dementia and attempted to reduce the symptoms and likelihood of diagnosis (Edwards, McDonnell, & Merl, 2013; Larner, 2005; Lee, & Kim, 2008; Stern, & Konno, 2009).

Spiritual effects of gardening have also been explored in health based research. Health research has its own definition of spirituality being defined as transcendence, connectedness, meaning, and purpose in life[factual?]. Gardening, like other nature based leisure activities such as hiking, camping or sailing, give time for reflection and contemplation (Unruh, & Hutchinson, 2011).

Community gardening has also shown positive effects on emotion through connecting with other individuals, family members and society. Along with other health benefits and assisting in reducing anxiety, community gardening can create a desire to learn and improve skills.

Benefits of Horticulture Therapy[edit | edit source]

The easy gardening activities immersed in by people undergoing horticulture therapy is[grammar?] designed so that people can distance themselves from the everyday hardships and demands placed upon them. The aim is to relieve stress, symptoms of depression, and anxiety. However, in the United Kingdom the term social horticulture is used in place of horticulture therapy, better illustrating the social aspects in which this therapy incorporates. Another benefit of horticulture therapy is the light muscle use, which can cause muscle growth and improved physical well being in the elderly. Horticulture therapy is defined as 'a process that uses plant-related activities through which participants strive to improve their well-being through active or passive involvement' (Gonzalez et al., 2011) .

Horticulture therapy has shown both significant and non significant findings in improving the quality of life of participants[factual?]. Evidence also suggests that horticulture therapy can reduce anxiety levels, along with the severity of depression (Gonzales et al., 2009; Gonzales et al., 2011)[grammar?]. Along with these benefits, personal growth, healing, and restoration of ones self may also be generated by horticulture therapy. Additionally, an increase in exposure to sunlight can reduce the severity of depression and sleeping disorders, which a lack of sunlight may cause (Baker, 2009).

The physical benefits of horticulture are not extreme or overly dramatic, however an increase in motor control or dexterity have been noted through the act of digging, weeding and planting seeds. Trimming plants to grow in certain ways can also improve motor skills. Along with the motor benefits of gardening, the movement around a garden can improve strength, relieve tension and improve flexibility (Wang, & MacMillan, 2013). As research has shown, people who exercise are generally less anxious or depressed than people who do not exercise (Baker, 2009).

The mental benefits of horticulture therapy could be viewed alongside the spiritual effects of gardening, however there are several differences. Horticulture therapy has been shown to improve creativity or self expression and connectedness to the environment[factual?]. With a sense of responsibility for the garden which the participant is tending, a sense of purpose can be developed and a desire to learn new skills. As some participants in horticulture therapy are unable to join the workforce due to mental health reasons, this provides a substitute to work and regain a sense of responsibility. Other applications to the mental benefits have been considered, but with no data to support it, like the reality of the life cycle and how it can apply to oneself, helping the elderly come to terms that their own life cycle is coming to an end (Baker, 2009).

The emotional benefits of horticulture therapy are quite vast, ranging from simply feeling better, to improved confidence and self-esteem as new skills become mastered and the gardens grows into a finished product[factual?]. Frustration, anger and other negative emotions can have an outlet in gardening, using that energy to dig a hole for a new plant or pulling weeds out of the ground can have[say what?] a soothing effect[factual?]. Anxiety, stress, worry and other similar emotions have been noted to decrease while gardening, as part of horticulture therapy is to remove oneself from the stresses of daily life[factual?]. The mundane yet complicated task of gardening allows one to feel connected to nature as one learns about which plants do well in full sunlight, shaded areas or minimal lighted areas. Overall, horticulture therapy allows a positive experience act as a distraction from the troubles which one may be facing outside of the garden, giving a positive experience to think about instead of a negative one (Baker, 2009).

The social benefits of horticulture therapy, or social horticulture if you are in the UK, has the possibility to help people connect with others who have similar interests, in this case, gardening. Whether the therapy is one on one, or a group activity, feelings of isolation can be diminished or removed completely[factual?]. These relationships are not restricted to therapist and participant but to anyone who is interested in gardening, including other participants of horticulture therapy or other gardeners who are not undergoing therapy. The social aspects of horticulture therapy should not be understated, as isolation from society has been said to be as damaging or dangerous as excessive alcohol consumption and smoking. Isolation has also been correlated to increased likelihood of being diagnosed with a mental illness, such as depression(Teo, 2012). Social horticulture can also be used to create a social support network which assists in recovering from poorer mental health (Baker, 2009).

Horticulture therapy has been used to help reduce symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders since as early as the 1900s (Gonzalez et al., 2009). Many of the diagnosis factors of depression being internally negative, the treatment of horticulture therapy helps relieve these symptoms by placing participants in a natural environment where the outside worries of the world are not apparent. Depression is considered quite common amount mental health disorders with around 6% of all men and 10% of women diagnosed (Gonzalez et al., 2009), making the benefits of horticulture therapy relevant in real world application. The physical activities conducted in the garden assist could potentially reduce the symptoms of depression in an individual. research suggests that people who exercise have reduced or weaker symptoms of depression compared to someone who does not exercise. More accurately, lower levels of physical activity is associated with increased symptoms of depression and other mental health disorders (Josefsson, Lindwall, & Archer, 2014). Horticulture therapy also combats against the social shyness which is associated with depression, allowing depressed individuals to interact with therapists, other patients, fellow gardeners, or members of the public if the therapy is taken place in a communal garden[factual?]. This helps individuals dealing with depression to form bonds with like minded people and improve on interpersonal skills and develop a support network (Gonzalez et al., 2011). Horticulture therapy, as a treatment for depression, has been examined through the attention restoration theory. The theory is based on the concept that during depression, an individuals ability to concentrate on daily tasks diminishes. Attention restoration theory offers an explanation as to why horticulture therapy provide relief for depression symptoms(Gonzalez et al., 2009).

How gardening effects negative emotions[awkward expression?][edit | edit source]

Gardening and stress relief have much in common with horticulture therapy, however the occurrence of stress relief, unlike the treatments of mental health disorders in horticulture therapy, is not specifically targeted by the every day actions of gardening. As a recreational activity, gardening has been considered to be a stress reliever, relaxing and a source of revitalisation from the every day hardships someone might face (Van Den Berg, & Custers, 2011). Most of the data available related to stress and gardening activities are self-report data. There has been a few significant negative association between stress and gardening found as of yet, however more research is required on this area of study. Speculation as to why gardening appears to reduce stress is still discussed. The light to moderate physical activity conducted while gardening has been associated with other physical activities of similar intensity, in being a factor to reduce stress, depression and stress related diseases[factual?]. For example cardiovascular disease. Another factor which suggests that gardening reduces levels of stress in an individual is the restorative effects of interacting with nature. Relating to attention restoration theory, as to why gardening helps in reducing stress, as it revitalises an individual to feel more proactive about returning to the rest of their lives (Eriksson et al., 2011).

Stress related ill health has also been treated by horticulture therapy or similar gardening activities. Health issues including chronic mental illnesses, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, and notably, dementia has also been treated using gardening methods (Unruh 2011).

Gardening: Emotional influences on the elderly and dementia[edit | edit source]

Like most effects of gardening, there are several key benefits of gardening and the elderly, some directly effecting emotion and others indirectly[factual?]. Gardening has helped the elderly understand and come to terms with a sense of loss and morality which they may face, opportunities to demonstrate creativity and self expression. Social interaction is also another benefit for the elderly who participate in gardening, along with improved self esteem and sensory stimulation. There are physical benefits such as improved motor skills and flexibility, improving general physical well-being. These benefits are quite common among all gardeners, with differing levels of improvement among the physical benefits. Spiritual effects of gardening have also been noticed, most notably in the form of poetry and self expression through other art forms (Wang, & MacMillan, 2013).

The physical benefits of gardening in the elderly are well known. There are significantly lower risks of physical difficulty among the elderly who participate in gardening activities than those who do not. Elderly who undergo gardening activities have lower risks of physical dependencies for every day tasks and are less likely to suffer physically[factual?]. Elderly who find difficulty in every day to day task are expected to be more agitated than elderly who do not[Rewrite to improve clarity]. This general well-being improvement and life satisfaction is expected to improve the emotions of elderly who participate in gardening activities (Stern et al., 2009).

Dementia care has often used gardening, or horticulture therapy as a means of occupational therapy and stimulation therapy[factual?]. Along with treatment, gardening has been considered as a useful tool to help prevent dementia in later life. People with dementia who participate in gardening or garden activities report positive emotions about the experience, including, feeling calmer, more relaxed and rejuvenated[factual?]. Sensory stimulation is used in the later stages of dementia, allowing patients recall lost memories through their sense of sight, touch, smell and sound (Edwards, McDonnell, & Merl, 2013).

Gardening has an significant role in reducing the levels of agitation among people with dementia[factual?]. This has been noted due to the increase in natural light which, through observational data, can sometimes be a deficiency among people with dementia. The increased light exposure has also been connected to an increase in overall sleep time and reductions sleep disturbances. It has been summarised that these two are connected in some form but has yet to be proven(Edwards, McDonnell & Merl, 2013). It must be noted that gardening or therapeutic horticulture is only relevant on mild to moderate dementia, [grammar?] any stronger categorisation of dementia is too heavily impaired to participate in gardening activities[factual?]. Overall, gardening reduces agitation among people with mild to moderate dementia, while it it is argued that the outdoor activity and exposure to sunlight gained through gardening causes an improved sleep pattern (Lee & Kim 2008).

Spiritual effects of gardening[edit | edit source]

Gardening has been known to be a spiritual experience, spiritual not explicitly meaning a religious practice but also being connected to nature, an expression of inner being or a journey. Spirituality is also considered a place where they feel connected to nature. Gardening is not unique in the sense that people get a spiritual feel from doing the activity. The spiritual feeling originates from the natural environment in which one is surrounded. Common activities excluding gardening are hiking, bush walks, trekking through nature reserves. Any activity where nature surrounds an individual can be considered to have spiritual effects on emotion.

Many people who garden speak out about feeling connected to their garden in one way or another. The feelings of being close to nature and having a bond between themselves and the garden they grew is common for gardeners, especially as they watch animals and birds flock to their nurtured gardens. Feelings of being needed by the garden to help it develop in the ways each plant wants to makes gardeners feel connected to nature and gain pleasure from doing so. Feelings of sadness are often felt when the season changes, or unexpected frosts damage the plants causing them to perish. Realisations that elderly gardeners might also be entering their final stages of life have been observed as they watch seasonal plants die off to make room for the next plant. Gardeners have viewed the cycle of life in gardens as a metaphor for their own lives. At the start lots of attention is required to help nurture and develop, then the peak of life when minimal intervention is needed, finally the last period before the plant dies off.

Spirituality in being connected to nature also comes from being connected to past, present and future plants. Many gardeners with health issues considered whether they were gardening for the present or future[factual?]. Gardeners who aimed for the future did so because they had hope, for the garden and themselves[factual?]. Gardening has a spiritual effect on emotion, through the feelings of connectedness to nature[factual?]. The feelings of connectedness range from past, present and future and can also inspire the feelings of hope.

Gardening has also been felt by many to be a significant portion of who they are or were. The creativity given to gardeners allowed the spiritual feelings of expression of ones[grammar?] inner being to come through. Three[say what?] different gardeners reflect the expression of inner being through different messages, but all relate that their unique garden is a part of themselves and reflects as much. Just as with the spiritual feelings of connectedness to nature, the expression of inner being also experience sadness when the garden perishes, for what ever reason. In relation to emotion, the spiritual effects of expression and gardening can both be positive and negative. Positive when the garden shows a part of the gardener, through colour and creativeness but can also be saddening when that part perishes[grammar?].

The spiritual feelings experienced while in a garden, either actively helping the garden grow or sitting back and taking in the garden for what it is have been shown to have similarities to meditation[factual?]. Gardeners have spoken about how they feel at peace while in any cared for garden, admitting to feeling a spiritual bond to the garden and nature in general. Watching the circle of life has also been associated with the spiritual feelings which are experienced in a garden, watching new shoots fight for sunlight, or watching the passing of plants as the seasons change. The spirituality of a garden doesn't stop there, as a place. Often people who are grieving or have health issues view gardens as a spiritual refuge where they are able to escape from their worries and recharge, and rejuvenate[factual?]. A rather beautiful quote from a gardener, Kristine, who recently passed away after saying this about gardening “You are out there and you are working, and you are at peace. … You are using your body. Your body is at one with the soil, with the earth. It's like you are... It's like I'm not a person in the garden. I'm within the garden.”(Unruh &Hutchinson, 2011) This quote portrays an individuals experience with the spiritual nature of gardens. The connected nature they felt towards the garden and even though no emotion is mentioned, the quote feels very at easy in a garden.

Community gardening[edit | edit source]

Community gardening is growing in popularity with over than 18,000 community gardens located in the United States of America and Canada[factual?]. The benefits of community gardening range from the already mentioned, physical benefits, the social benefits and also the quality of food intake. Community gardening has also assisted in improved food security and vegetable intake, while also potentially improved social connections and family bonds. The social and family benefits are particularly strong for migrants who lose those networks when they move (Zick 2013; Carny 2012).

Community gardening has very similar emotional benefits to other forms of gardening, including recreational gardening to horticulture therapy[factual?]. The physical benefits of community gardening are the light to moderate levels of exercise and improved general well-being. Benefits of increased natural sun light is also a possibility if the community garden is located outdoors. However these physical improvements are not unique benefits of community gardening. Many studies which focus on community gardening focus on either the community aspect of the activity as it differs from gardening in ones backyard or the therapeutic aspect of horticulture therapy. Or the health benefits gained from growing fresh produce for consumption are also benefits common to community gardening (Carney, Hamada, Rdesinski, Sprager, Nichols, Lui & Shannon, 2012.

Alaimo, Reischl & Allen (2010) state that community gardens are health initiatives that have the potential to stimulate improved nutrition through growing of vegetables, physical activity within neighbourhoods and to improve social capital. Community gardens are especially effective in areas with economic or structural barriers hindering access to fresh produce and/or recreational activities.

Growing vegetables in a community garden have shown surprising changes in the level of vegetable intake in adults and children. Carney et al. (2012) conducted an experiment which resulted in adults improving their vegetable intake over two growing seasons by up to four times, and with children up to three times. Feelings of satisfaction were expressed knowing how the vegetables were grown and the knowledge that no pesticides were used on the vegetables. Growing of these vegetables also improved food security among families which had limited income, with a drop in concern over food from 31% to 3% after the gardening project ended. No change in skipping meals was reported. The same study discovered that the community gardening helped people bond as a family, bring relaxation, enjoyment and relieved stress.

Community gardening experiments have shown to improve relationships between participants of the studies. Whether they are family members, friends, relatives, members of society or even students. Schools which participate in community gardening are found to be more connected with the community while offering the development of skills and connections between students and members of the community (Langhout, Rappaport & Simmons, 2002). Other studies have also shown improved family relations with people and reporting that the perceived benefits that the garden helped the health of the family were overwhelmingly positive(Carney et al., 2012). The cooperation between gardeners in a community garden, and the sharing of resources, are viewed as required for community gardens to succeed. This cooperation also brings satisfaction as it helps the garden thrive while forming friendships and bonds (Glover, Shinew & Parry, 2005).

Overall, the emotional experiences gained through community gardening are mostly positive, with little or no publications of negative experiences[factual?]. The physical well-being gained from working in the garden, ranging to the positive experiences of making new friends and watching ones effort pay off to witness a prosperous garden.

Theories about the emotional benefits of gardening[edit | edit source]

There are not many theories mentioned when considering why gardening is a positive experience in relation to ones[grammar?] emotional state. However one theory, the attention restoration theory (ART) is often considered alongside directed attention fatigue (DAF) to explain why gardening assists in a positive emotional state. The key concept of ART is directed attention, which in intentionally controlled which is then used to fight off distractions from other stimuli[Rewrite to improve clarity]. While also making it possible to focus on what is important compared to stimuli which is distracting (Kaplan, 2001)[grammar?]. Gardening can be seen as an example of this, as people escape the hassles of every day life and can direct their attention to the garden. Attention is then intentionally directed towards the garden, allowing time for ones attention to restore and focus on what is important.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

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See also[edit | edit source]

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References[edit | edit source]

Alaimo, K., Reischl, T. M., & Allen, J. O. (2010). Community gardening, neighborhood meetings, and social capital. Journal Of Community Psychology, 38(4), 497-514. doi:10.1002/jcop.20378

Baker, L. M. (2009). Nature's pervading influence: A therapy of growth. International Journal Of Disability, Development And Education, 56(1), 93-96. doi:10.1080/10349120802682091

Carney, P. A., Hamada, J. L., Rdesinski, R., Sprager, L., Nichols, K. R., Liu, B. Y., & ... Shannon, J. (2012). Impact of a community gardening project on vegetable intake, food security and family relationships: A community-based participatory research study. Journal Of Community Health: The Publication For Health Promotion And Disease Prevention, 37(4), 874-881. doi:10.1007/s10900-011-9522-z

Edwards, C. A., McDonnell, C., & Merl, H. (2013). An evaluation of a therapeutic garden's influence on the quality of life of aged care residents with dementia. Dementia: The International Journal Of Social Research And Practice, 12(4), 494-510. doi:10.1177/1471301211435188

Eriksson, T., Westerberg, Y., & Jonsson, H. (2011). Experiences of women with stress-related ill health in a therapeutic gardening program. Canadian Journal Of Occupational Therapy / Revue Canadienne D'ergothérapie, 78(5), 273-281.

Glover, T. D., Shinew, K. J., & Parry, D. C. (2005). Association, Sociability, and Civic Culture: The Democratic Effect of Community Gardening. Leisure Sciences, 27(1), 75-92. doi:10.1080/01490400590886060

Gonzalez, M. T., Hartig, T., Patil, G. G., Martinsen, E. W., & Kirkevold, M. (2009). Therapeutic horticulture in clinical depression: A prospective study. Research And Theory For Nursing Practice: An International Journal, 23(4), 312-328. doi:10.1891/1541-6577.23.4.312

Gonzalez, M. T., Hartig, T., Patil, G. G., Martinsen, E. W., & Kirkevold, M. (2011). A prospective study of group cohesiveness in therapeutic horticulture for clinical depression. International Journal Of Mental Health Nursing, 20(2), 119-129. doi:10.1111/j.1447-0349.2010.00689.x

Josefsson, T., Lindwall, M., & Archer, T. (2014). Physical exercise intervention in depressive disorders: Meta‐analysis and systematic review. Scandinavian Journal Of Medicine & Science In Sports, 24(2), 259-272. doi:10.1111/sms.12050

Kaplan, S. (2001). Meditation, restoration, and the management of mental fatigue. Environment And Behavior, 33(4), 480-506. doi:10.1177/00139160121973106

Langhout, R. D., Rappaport, J., & Simmons, D. (2002). Integrating community into the classroom: Community gardening, community involvement, and project-based learning. Urban Education, 37(3), 323-349. doi:10.1177/00485902037003002

Larner, A. J. (2005). Gardening and dementia. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 20(8), 796-799. doi:

Lee, Y., & Kim, S. (2008). Effects of indoor gardening on sleep, agitation, and cognition in dementia patients--A pilot study. International Journal Of Geriatric Psychiatry, 23(5), 485-489. doi:10.1002/gps.1920

Schumacher, S., Herwig, U., Baur, V., Mueller-Pfeiffer, C., Martin-Soelch, C., Rufer, M., & Brühl, A. B. (2015). Psychophysiological responses during the anticipation of emotional pictures. Journal Of Psychophysiology, 29(1), 13-19. doi:10.1027/0269-8803/a000129

Sieb, R. (2013). The emergence of emotions. Activitas Nervosa Superior, 55(4), 115-145.

Stellar, J. E., Cohen, A., Oveis, C., & Keltner, D. (2015). Affective and physiological responses to the suffering of others: Compassion and vagal activity. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 108(4), 572-585. doi:10.1037/pspi0000010

Stern, C., & Konno, R. (2009). Physical leisure activities and their role in preventing dementia: A systematic review. International Journal Of Evidence-Based Healthcare, 7(4), 270-282. doi:10.1111/j.1744-1609.2009.00144.x

Teo, A. R. (2013). Social isolation associated with depression: A case report of hikikomori. International Journal Of Social Psychiatry, 59(4), 339-341. doi:10.1177/0020764012437128

Thomas, S. P. (2014). Therapeutic horticulture deserves wider implementation. Issues In Mental Health Nursing, 35(3), 155. doi:10.3109/01612840.2014.883790

Unruh, A., & Hutchinson, S. (2011). Embedded spirituality: Gardening in daily life and stressful life experiences. Scandinavian Journal Of Caring Sciences, 25(3), 567-574. doi:10.1111/j.1471-6712.2010.00865.x

Van Den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. G. (2011). Gardening promotes neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. Journal Of Health Psychology, 16(1), 3-11. doi:10.1177/1359105310365577

Wang, D., & MacMillan, T. (2013). The benefits of gardening for older adults: A systematic review of the literature. Activities, Adaptation & Aging, 37(2), 153-181. doi:10.1080/01924788.2013.784942

Zick, C. D., Smith, K. R., Kowaleski-Jones, L., Uno, C., & Merrill, B. J. (2013). Harvesting more than vegetables: The potential weight control benefits of community gardening. American Journal Of Public Health, 103(6), 1110-1115.

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