The mental health benefits of gardening are broad and diverse. Studies have shown significant reductions in depression and anxiety, improved social functioning and wider effects, including opportunities for vocational development. Regularly being in green and open spaces is linked to improved levels of mental health in all ages and cultures as it can improve companionship, give a sense of identity through a feeling of being at one with nature and boost chemical transmitters important to the feeling of happiness.
Other obvious benefits are exercise, fresh air and Vitamin D, of which many of us are a bit deficient. Research has shown that what some people call ‘forest bathing’ – otherwise known as a walk in the woods – has the effect of boosting our immune system and reducing hormones like cortisol which are a response to stress. Time spent in nature has been shown to improve mood in people suffering from depression with the professional gardener Monty Don telling how gardening brought him back from a severe depression following a business failure.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that connecting with nature helps us to be more creative. Monet famously said his garden was his most beautiful masterpiece. (Can’t travel? Check out Monet’s garden on Youtube).
There are also a number of case studies detailing how gardening has helped people recover from the most severe forms of trauma and stress. This may be because gardening is a nurturing thing to do, teaching us patience and the need to give up control.
The good news is that you don’t even need a garden: houseplants can also have a beneficial effect on your mental health and even help you breathe that bit better. Planting a pot of basil on your kitchen windowsill may do more than enhance your next bowl of pasta. As can noticing the trees and green patches on a daily walk.
So, alongside your other strategies for taking care of your health add in a bit of gardening, even if it’s just some cress seeds on a tissue!