Scientific research has found that spending two hours a week in nature is linked to better health and wellbeing. Taking part in community gardening can also encourage people to adopt healthier behaviours. This includes walking and eating fresh produce… And the evidence base is growing. Furthermore, the NHS are increasingly prescribing time in nature and community gardening projects as part of “green prescriptions”.
The NHS is using social prescriptions (non-medical treatments benefiting our health) across the UK to tackle anxiety, loneliness, and depression. These often involve referrals to community and voluntary organisations, who carry out activities to meet social and emotional needs.
How Is Gardening Great For Your Mental Health And Wellbeing?
Gardening is therapeutic
Instead of worrying about the everyday stresses of life, gardening allows us to redirect our focus. In the garden, concentrating on a physical task gives our mind a rest from the other thoughts getting us down.
Gardening connects us with nature
The world we live in is increasingly urbanised and technology-driven. Gardening allows us to reconnect with nature which has a huge impact on our mental health. Spending time in outdoor spaces helps individuals destress and relax. Also, overcome feelings of self-absorption and to feel more at one with the world.
Gardening is great exercise
Research shows that a 3-4-hour session of gardening can match the calorie burn of an hour at the gym. But gardening doesn’t require a membership! In addition, exercise releases endorphins (the happy hormone) which makes people feel happy and relaxed. It is well known that regular exercise has proven mental health benefits, and can improve other aspects of our lives – such as sleeping well.
Gardening as a way of venting
Certain aspects of gardening, such as cutting, chopping, and digging, are perfect ways to vent some anger or stress. And you’ll have something to show for it afterward. Destructiveness in the garden is useful; it prevents plants from overgrowing and keeps weeds at bay.
Aspects Of Gardening & Their Benefits
Community gardening projects
Community gardening projects can have many benefits, all different to a private garden or allotment. These projects require cooperation and collective planning. Working together on shared goals can create a real sense of community. In a garden, the feeling of connection can even expand from other people to the living world.
Growing your own
Spending time growing your own plants, fruit and veg is a way of caring for something regularly. The satisfaction of simply keeping a houseplant alive, and the responsibility that comes with it, is enough to give us a real sense of purpose and pride.
Getting Outside Of The House
For some, gardening can simply provide a reason to get up and outside of the house. Otherwise, feeling like an impossibility.
University researchers have found time outside into natural environments can lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) in comparison to the same time spent in a city location.
So, What Can You Do?
Many people feel they can’t garden because they don’t own their own garden, they don’t know where to begin or they don’t know enough. Nature novice or gardening amateur, there are opportunities to get involved with gardening in all different forms.
Gardening can be very daunting, so start simple. Start with an indoor houseplant. A houseplant can help one to feel calm, and bring aesthetics to the home. Most are low maintenance so learning to care for them can be easy. Look out for advice, literature in local charity shops, online or just people around you can help!
When you have got to grips with the basics, you can start to venture to grow things outdoors. No space is too small! Even just a window box can be transformed into a rewarding haven.
Start with herbs or veg, see what you can produce! Eaten your own produce can bring a great sense of reward.
If you really don’t have the gardening space at home, or you’re looking for the social side of gardening. Why not join a local gardening group? There are 100s up and down the country, some with prizes and events involved!