Scientific research has found that spending two hours in nature each week 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 minds a rest from the other thoughts getting us down.
Gardening Connects Us with Nature
We live in an increasingly urban, technology-driven world. 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. It also allows us to overcome feelings of self-absorption and 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 (happy hormones) which make 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 afterwards! These cathartic activities are useful for the garden too, as they prevent plants from overgrowing and keep weeds at bay.
The Benefits of Gardening
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 flowers, 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 about outside of the house. Without a particular motivation (such as a garden to tend to) this can often feel impossible for lots of people.
University researchers have found that time outside in natural environments can reduce levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in comparison to the same time spent in a city location.
So, What Can You Do?
There are lots of reasons why people might be hesitant to start gardening, perhaps because they don’t own their own garden, they don’t know where to begin, or they don’t know enough. Whether you’re a nature novice or compost connoisseur, 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 some natural beauty to the home. Most are low maintenance so learning to care for them can be easy. Look out for advice and 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! Eating your own produce can bring an immense feeling of satisfaction and 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 hundreds up and down the country, some with prizes and events involved!
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 17th January 2022 to reflect current information.