Gardening for better mental health

Between the global COVID-19 crisis and the fact that many of us are currently confined to our homes, 2020 has already been a pretty tough year. The certainty of a consistent routine - going to work, taking part in sports and other leisure activities, seeing friends and family - is important for mental health, but the current pandemic has thrown everything into chaos. This can lead to a range of issues, such as depression and anxiety.

One way to address these problems is to spend some time in your garden or partaking in gardening activities. Gardens can be full of wildlife and nature, and they're great for the environment - plus gardening has a long history that's closely tied to both science and medicine.

In this blog post, we're going to look at how gardens and gardening can be good for your mental health.

 

Bring gardening into your everyday life

Over the years, there have been several studies examining the benefits of being in the garden. These have shown positive correlations with improved social, physical and mental health. A particular study from Growing Health, a national scheme set up by the charity Garden Organic and the membership organisation Sustain, found that simply viewing a garden (or other green space) through a window can help you to relax and reduce stress levels. Other evidence also confirmed that the physical activity of gardening can improve your mental wellbeing, which leads us to our next point.

It's common knowledge that exercise is good for us, no matter what form it may take. The NHS considers exercise essential to living a healthy and fulfilling life, and it's been medically proven that individuals who participate in regular physical activity have up to 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. However, less is known of the role that gardening can play in keeping us fit and healthy. Did you know that the number of calories burnt from 30 minutes of gardening can be compared to playing volleyball or practicing yoga?

 

Find health and happiness

The benefits of being in your garden, of course, run far deeper than just exercise. A report from King's Fund found that the health benefits of gardening were broad and diverse, with studies displaying significant decreases in both depression and anxiety and enhanced social functioning.

Evidence suggests that there are two main modes of attention; focused and fascination. Focused attention is what we use whilst we are at work, whereas fascination is what we use whilst we participate in hobbies. In this theory, an abundance of focused attention can result in stress, where fascination then plays a part in bringing our attention back and alleviating the anxious feeling we get when we are placed under pressure or feel like we can't cope.

Whilst all of this research is crucial to understanding why we are inclined to find gardening therapeutic, it's fairly straightforward to think of the reasons why gardening can improve mental health. Whether it's an opportunity to be social, to get out of the house or to simply learn a new skill.

 

Going out in your garden

Now, with all of the uncertainty that is going on around the world right now, you may be wondering if you're able to even go out in your garden whilst self-isolating. In short, yes. Just because you're advised to stay at home doesn't mean you can't venture out into your garden and start gardening. We recently published a blog on the various things you can get up to while self-isolating at home and spending time in your garden - read it here.

If you feel a little daunted or overwhelmed by gardening, why not start off with an indoor houseplant first? Having a houseplant can help to make you feel calm as well as adding a natural aesthetic to your home. Most houseplants are fairly low maintenance, making it easy to learn how to look after them. There are lots of guides and advice that you can find about gardening for the first time, so start with some small and manageable and before you know it, you'd have learned quite a bit!

There are a lot of ways that you can begin to incorporate gardening and plants into your daily routine. Whether you suffer from mental health issues, know someone else who does, or simply want to enhance your wellbeing, there is a garden out there for all.

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