Gardening for Health and Wellbeing

We all know how a little greenery can brighten up our lives. Regardless of where we live in the world humans will always strive to grow plants and trees. Whether in pots, on balconies, in back yards or gardens, growing plants is both rewarding and a lot of fun.

A key benefit is that gardening great mental health benefits. Regardless of how big or small the garden, even if it’s simply a window box or a few plant pots on a balcony, therapists tell us that you don’t need a large garden to enjoy very valuable and tangible mental health benefits from gardening.

People find that working with soil can be a very calming, relaxing experience. The process of preparing ground for planting or filling pots with an appropriate growing medium, in preparation for seedlings, is just one one of the routine gardening tasks that help people feel in control of their environments. Watering plants and removing weeds are routine gardening tasks that can become very relaxing, meditative activities contributing toward establishing a state of calmness and reflection. In today’s troubled world with a constant barrage of bad news, this is enormously valuable.

Research has clearly demonstrated that both observing and spending time in outdoor spaces with a lot of greenery has a measurable, positive impact on mental health resulting in lower levels of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. But humans respond positively to green spaces both inside and outside. Surrounding ourselves with plants, indoors, has been found to make us feel more socially connected. And like outdoor green spaces, taking care of interior plants and gardens can improve mental health and wellbeing by reducing stress and alleviating anxiety. As noted, simply by observing nature and plants people experience a release of seratonin which is why many people find plants and gardens so calming.

While getting out into big, natural outdoor spaces is clearly beneficial to our mental health the same benefits can readily be gained at home. Studies have found that home gardening can provide even more emotional benefit than spending time in the countryside. People report that they generally felt best after taking care of their plants, both indoors and outdoors.

Gardening can be very physically demanding. Digging holes for plants, laying turf and removing stubborn weeds all takes effort so gardening also provides a great physical workout. Physical fitness and health make a huge contribution toward mental wellbeing so this valuable aspect of gardening shouldn’t be overlooked. There is also something very satisfying in turning an overgrown, weedy garden into a wonderfully prepared bed for new planting.

Another important aspect of gardening outdoors is the benefit derived from exposure to sunshine. While it’s important to protect human skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, exposure to sunlight will boost the bodies production of vitamin D, which raises levels of serotonin in the brain, contributing to a healthier mood.

Gardening can also be a valuable escape. It demands our attention and uses both cognitive and psychomotor skills. The result is an immersive experience wherein we are focused on the task at hand, our plants and what they need to thrive. The result is a break from the stresses of life as our brains are allowed to wander down creative avenues which our disciplined daytime demands generally prevent. Talk to any long-term gardeners and it’s often the escape aspect of their gardening that allows them to step away from the demands of daily life which they value the most.

Growing our own food is recognised as particularly beneficial as it allows people to feel more in control, self reliant and capable of looking after themselves. Another important aspect of growing vegetables and fruit is how it supports and fosters a greater sense of community. People who grow their own vegetables will often swap their excess with other gardeners and exchange tips and experiences, which can be enormously valuable. Making connections with other gardeners is another aspect of gardening that’s great for alleviating social isolation and loneliness.

And an extremely valuable aspect of growing your own food is the satisfaction in knowing that your vegetables haven’t travelled many miles to get to your table. They’ve not been loaded onto aircraft and transported half way around the world with the obvious negative impact this has on our environment. Furthermore, our home grown fruit and veg hasn’t been sprayed with insecticide or pumped full of growth stimulants. We can grow varieties that we simply don’t see in supermarkets because they don’t have the shelf life or the thick skins that supermarkets need to make their produce profitable. The quality of produce we grow for ourselves is much higher than the quality we get from green grocers and supermarkets and this makes a valuable contribution to both physical and mental health.

Flower gardening is also enormously satisfying, stimulating and beneficial to our mental health. Looking after plants until they bloom with gorgeous, fragrant flowers has got to be one of the most enjoyable and satisfying aspects of gardening.

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