This is a collaborative post in partnership with BetterHelp.
When we think about ways to improve mental health, counselling and therapy are usually at the top of the list. Other well-known methods of alleviating symptoms of mental health disorders involve a healthy lifestyle, such as getting enough sleep, eating healthily, managing stress, exercising regularly, and staying hydrated.
There is also another proven way of combating depression, dementia, and other mental health problems: gardening. This may not come as a surprise; many of us are familiar with the mood boost we receive from spending time outdoors and enjoying nature. But what may be surprising is just how effective gardening can be in improving mental health.
Lets take a look at the ways gardening combats depression and dementia in more detail.
Why gardening is recommended for those living with dementia
It’s reported that patients who participate in indoor gardening experience improved sleep and cognition, as well as less agitation. Plus, this type of therapy helps dementia patients recover lost skills and learn new ones. It’s been shown to reduce stress, increase relaxation and calmness, foster a sense of accomplishment, and improve self-esteem.
One of the best things about gardening as a therapy is that it’s inexpensive yet highly effective. It’s also a non-pharmacological intervention that improves overall quality of life.
Outdoor gardening increases exposure to sunlight, which improves bone density and helps to optimise sleep cycles. It serves as a distraction from fixations, and offers a sense of ownership and community. Gardening is also a simple way to increase physical activity and lessen injuries and falls. Plus, gardening at a facility makes the environment feel less institutional and more welcoming.
Not only is gardening fantastic for those who have dementia, but it’s also thought that gardening can reduce risk factors for getting dementia in the first place by 36%.
Gardening combats depression
With all of the benefits that gardening has for dementia patients, it’s not surprising that it’s also highly beneficial in combating depression.
Very few complementary therapies for depression have proven their effectiveness, but gardening (and nature in general) is one of them. Gardening is a nearly universally available and low-cost way to improve mental health and alleviate symptoms of depression.
Other health benefits of gardening
Aside from the specific benefits gardening provides to those living with depression and dementia, there are many other positive effects that gardening has on health.
Gardening can boost mood, improve self-esteem, and increase attention span. It functions as a form of exercise, and thus benefits physical health as well as mental, increasing strength and dexterity. It even promotes social bonds in the case of a gardening club or other community group.
Exposure to nature and sunlight can lower blood pressure and increase vitamin D levels. In addition, the veggies and fruits grown in the garden are a healthy and nutritious addition to the diet.
Studies show that patients recovering from surgery in rooms with plants and views of nature have fewer complications. They also have a higher pain tolerance and less fatigue. Those recovering from physical health issues tend to enjoy exercise in gardens, and experience more positive effects than when they exercise in a formal setting.
People living with learning disabilities can also benefit from gardening. Those who garden on a regular basis generally have increased alertness and focus in school, as well as better academic performance and even an enhanced sense of confidence.
In general, gardening lowers cortisol (the stress hormone), increases energy, and optimises productivity. It’s truly amazing just how big an impact gardening can have on mental and physical health.
While gardening may not fully cure depression, dementia, or other mental health conditions, it’s been proven to have a dramatic positive effect on them. In fact, gardening has so many benefits that it would be advantageous to just about anyone to embrace it as a new hobby!