The wellbeing benefits of gardening are many, from reduced anxiety and stress to improved physical fitness. Gardening in our own quiet space offers a myriad of creative possibilities and helps to naturally alleviate the pressures of day-to-day life when we need it most.
It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented a number of challenges that impact both physical and mental wellbeing on a large scale. According to The Mental Health Foundation, the number of people in the UK reporting they were coping well with the pandemic has dropped from 76% in April 2020 to 61% in July 2021. Those with a prior mental health diagnosis also reported higher levels of anxiety and worry in July 2021.
At a time when the population’s physical and mental health is suffering so severely, it’s vital to seek effective methods to ease the mind and find new ways to cope in these ever-changing circumstances. A study from the Royal Horticultural Society revealed that individuals actively gardening every day had wellbeing scores 6.6% higher and stress levels 4.2% lower than those that didn’t garden, indicating the positive impact that picking up those gardening tools can have. In addition, NHS practitioners recommend spending time in natural surroundings or taking part in community gardening activities as part of a ‘green prescription’ to reduce anxiety and feelings of stress.
How Gardening Helps our Mental Health
Access to Green Space
Exposure to green space has been known to strengthen human resilience, improve sleep and reduce negative emotions. ONS figures show that 9 in 10 people agreed that natural green space benefitted their mental health and wellbeing in May 2020. More than 40% also noticed that nature and wildlife has been significantly important in helping them cope during the pandemic.
For many people, the nostalgic element of green space is a contributing factor that can help stimulate a positive mood and sense of optimism. Time spent among nature can often remind us of our childhood which can help us recapture positive memories. The aesthetic value of natural surroundings also evokes feelings of calmness and can help to mitigate feelings of anxiety or stress. Gazing at a natural vista or beautifully curated garden can encourage feelings of gratitude and happiness that help us overcome difficult circumstances such as the pandemic.
Growing Organic Food
One of the less obvious reasons to take up gardening to improve mental health and wellbeing includes overall improvements to your diet and lifestyle. Planting and growing organic fruit and vegetables in the garden not only paves the way to a healthier way of living in terms of diet, but it also helps to reduce plastic wastage from store-bought foods. This in turn supports more sustainable living and can feel incredibly rewarding.
Improves Physical Health
When it comes to gardening for health and wellbeing, exposure to vitamin D and green space during outdoor gardening provides numerous physical health benefits from strengthening the bones to boosting the immune system. Aside from a good dose of vitamin D, gardening can account for a large portion of our daily exercise which in turn supports improved mental wellbeing. Three hours of gardening can compare to an hour’s intensive workout in the gym and according to recent findings from Harvard Medical School mowing the lawn can burn up to 231 calories in just 30 minutes.
Responsibility and Reward
One of the main reasons to garden for improved mental health is the sense of accomplishment that can be experienced from taking responsibility for a gardening project and seeing it through to fruition. Completing various tasks around the garden, from cleaning to digging and even planting a new raised flower bed, allows us to focus on the present and detach from worries of the past or future. Watching as seeds and topsoil flourish into a vibrant arrangement of flowers is an undoubtedly rewarding and fulfilling experience that can help ease feelings of anxiety and stress throughout the pandemic and beyond.
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