In recent years mental health and wellbeing have really come into the spotlight in media, government policies and general conversation. Studies and research in the horticultural world have shown an abundance of evidence positively correlating gardening and wellbeing. Given the current situation we are experience globally, I feel it is an appropriate time to discuss the positives of getting out in your garden as a way to help elevate symptoms of stress, loneliness, and anxiety whilst we are living in uncertain and worrying times. I myself have found the benefit of gardening to my mental wellbeing. I recently experienced bereavement of a close relative, which resulted in increased levels of stress and anxiety, and I found myself withdrawing from everyone and everything around me. It wasn’t until I was back at work following my compassionate leave that I began to come out of my shell again. My stress levels began to decrease, my appetite came back, I was able to sleep peacefully at night and most of all I noticed the little things in life again. Birds chirping, the scent of beautiful flowers, and how gorgeous some plants look at first sunlight. I felt a sense of responsibility and purpose from gardening, and I got myself back on my feet. For this I will never stop discussing the real positive effect of gardening, as it is so much more than just flowers and greenery.
Gardening helps you to practice acceptance and to let go of stress. A lot of the time we find that our suffering derives from the feeling of needing to control things, especially those with anxiety. But when it comes to nature there is no such thing as complete control. Yes, you can plan and plan till your hearts content, but plants have a mind of their own. That’s what makes gardening so refreshing, nothing is predictable, and it makes you excited to see how plants will grow and thrive beyond what you expected. I believe by practicing acceptance on a small scale such as gardening, it can benefit you in other aspects of your life when things don’t go quite to plan. Setting yourself a big garden challenge, or deciding you want to spruce up a small corner in your garden can also help to improve confidence and self-esteem. You can be proud of all the work and thought that you’ve put into your planting, and you can see your achievement every day.
Reconnecting with nature can have a great impact on improving your mental health. In modern society we are becoming increasingly exposed to social media and pressures to conform to an unrealistic way of life, often making people feel inadequate or a as though they are missing out. There are plenty of studies to show that being surrounded by greenery and nature helps to elevate these stresses and anxiety. It makes us feel connected with the real world again. And the best thing about plants is that they don’t judge. A huge negative with social media is that there is a lot of judgement, leaving many of us feeling as though we must behave and think in a way that other people will accept. Looking after plants can help with your self-esteem, especially for those who struggle in social settings. When you are gardening you don’t have to worry about what other people think, you can clear your mind of all your stresses and focus on what you’re doing in the moment.
My favourite part of gardening is you can really let go of built up frustration and anger. Just grab a shovel and take your feelings out on the soil! There’s something rather therapeutic about ripping out weeds. I often feel as though I’m picking out all the little niggly thoughts that bother me during the day. I visualise my stress and removing it from an area, I can stand back and visualise my real thoughts being picked and ripped away. I could discuss the topic of gardening to improve mental health and wellbeing until I’m blue in the face, but that’s not helpful to anyone. Instead I’ll leave it to you…