A garden can provide a wide range of mental health benefits. From spending time in green space to enjoying the scent of flowers or harvesting herbs, gardening can be physically and emotionally rewarding.
Last year’s lockdown saw a big surge in the popularity of gardening, with many people spending more time in their outdoor spaces, and using gardening as a way to boost their mood. This, combined with the abundance of good news stories around gardening for health and wellbeing, means we’re all becoming more aware of gardening as a powerful and accessible tool that can help us look after our mental health.
If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health concern, please reach out for help. Licensed mental health professionals are available to offer support and advice at MyTherapist.
The many mental health benefits of gardening
So how exactly does gardening benefit mental health? The simple answer is in lots of really fantastic ways.
Let’s take a look at how gardening benefits mental health in more detail.
Twelve ways that gardening benefits mental health
1. Decreased symptoms of depression
Gardening can promote mindfulness, which is helpful in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness is living in the moment, being focused on what you are doing, and engaging your senses so that your mind has a break from negative thoughts. Gardening can also increase positive feelings by offering a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Seeing things growing and thriving can be affirming.
2. Lower levels of stress and anxiety
Spending time in nature provides a break from life’s stresses. As little as ten minutes in a natural space can offer a mental reset, and help to lower stress levels. The physical activity involved in gardening can also be a stress-buster; gardening can help lower blood pressure and decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
3. Improved mood
Gardening is a hopeful act that can make you feel positive. When gardening, you are tending to living things and showing confidence in future growth. Both of these actions can produce fulfilling, optimistic feelings.
4. Higher self-esteem
The act of gardening and seeing the results of your efforts – whether that’s a vegetable harvest, a beautiful floral display, or simply a neat lawn – can offer a sense of improved confidence in your own ability. This in turn can raise self-esteem and enhance self-perception.
5. Improved attention
Gardening can help you focus on the task at hand. It requires concentration, and offers a break from distractions. Getting stuck in with some garden jobs is a simple way to work on improving your attention span, while also enjoying some time outdoors.
6. Increased social bonds
Gardening in a community garden, at home with family, or near neighbours and friends is a great way to combat feelings of isolation and strengthen social connections. Working on a shared goal with others is a very natural way to build bonds and develop positive relationships.
Gardening is a physical activity. As well as being good exercise, physical movement can release endorphins, the “feel good” hormones. This can help to improve mood and lower stress levels.
8. Essential vitamin D
While food can be a source of vitamin D, the body absorbs vitamin D mainly through exposure to sunshine. Research has shown there is a link between depression and low levels of vitamin D. Spending time in the sun while gardening can boost levels of vitamin D, which can be important if feelings of depression are related to vitamin D insufficiency. Vitamin D also offers other crucial health benefits, such as supporting the immune system, healthy bones, and calcium levels. Always be sure to take care of yourself in the sun, and make sure you apply sunscreen regularly.
9. A sense of purpose
Gardening offers a sense of empowerment and purpose. The ability to grow and improve something tangible can have strong emotional effects. When you see the results of your efforts, you also benefit from a sense of achievement and all the positive emotions associated with this.
10. Healthy eating
A healthy, nutritious diet can boost and protect mental health. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is an easy, low-cost way to give yourself a steady supply of natural, vitamin-packed foods.
11. Mood-boosting sunlight
Research has shown that on sunnier days, the brain produces higher levels of the mood-enhancing chemical serotonin. Spending time gardening in sunlight is a simple, natural way to promote a more positive mood.
12. Better sleep
Healthy sleep patterns – getting the right amount of sleep at regular times – are important for mental wellness and can help us to regulate our emotions. Gardening offers a wealth of sleep-related benefits. Spending time in the sun has a powerful effect on the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Also, the physical activity of gardening can reduce stress, which is a common interrupter of sleep. And of course, all that exercise and fresh air can mean we’re more likely to be physically tired at the end of the day.
So many fantastic mental health benefits of gardening! It’s not hard to see why gardening as therapy is becoming more and more accepted as a proven way to look after mental health, is it?
Do you use gardening as a way to support your mental health?