We know gardening keeps us active and therefore digging and planting can help with physical health, but can gardening actually improve mental wellbeing? Gardens and landscapes have long been used as sanctuaries to escape from the stresses of life and It turns out there are a number of reasons why gardening can help us to feel happier. It bears little surprise really, especially when you consider the amount of time that many people will spend in their gardens – especially those with garden buildings such as sheds.
Lowering stress-hormones and providing us with a sense of reward, are just two of the ways gardening can be good for our mental well-being. We spoke to charities who use gardening to help people with mental health problems and asked them what the direct effects of gardening had on their mental health, the responses were positive and inspiring!
Ecotherapy: Improving Mental Health Through Being Outdoors
Ecominds was created by the mental health charity Mind. Between 2009 and 2013, the charity funded 130 eco-projects across England and many of these projects still remain active with ecotherapy offering a wide range of programmes aimed at improving mental and physical well-being through activities in nature.
Ecotherapy helps to manage existing mental health problems and takes place in both rural and urban settings, such as parks, gardens, farms and woodlands. It can include activities that focus on working in nature, such as a conservation project, gardening or farming.
What Are the Benefits of Gardening?
1. Reduced risk of stroke
2. Burns calories
3. Stress relief
4. Improved immune system
6. Live in the moment
7. Free anger therapy
9. Growing fruit and vegetables
10. Decreases osteoporosis
11. Reduced risk of dementia
12. An altered state of consciousness
Many people take pride in their gardens. They are keen green thumbs who enjoy the smell of fresh flowers whilst gardening. But with that comes health benefits. So, what are the 12 reasons why gardening is good for you?
Did you know that gardening such as pulling weeds and planting flowers can cause you to burn 200-400 calories per hour? On the other hand, if you mow the lawn, you could burn between 250-350 calories per hour.
Not only can gardening be an effective form of workout, but it can also benefit your mental health too. Spending time outside can help reduce depression, anger and stress. Furthermore, gardening is good for you as it can help reduce the risk of diseases such as stroke and osteoporosis as well as improving your immune system.
1. Reduced Risk of Stroke
According to The British Medical Journal gardening can help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke. When looking at the age group 60+ gardening can help prolong life by up to as much as 30%.
2. Burns Calories
Gardening can be a hard workout, depending on what you do and for how long. A simple 1 hour of gardening could help you to burn up to 330 calories. Also, if you garden for three to four hours, you could easily burn as many calories as you would from one hour in the gym. This can be accomplished through basic gardening tasks, such as raking leaves, mowing the lawn or trimming hedges.
Therefore, The National Institute of Health recommends 30-45 minutes of gardening for three to five times per week. Which could be a perfect solution for those not wanting to visit the gym, making gardening an ideal exercise for those who prefer low-intensity workouts.
3. Stress Relief
Gardening as a form of exercise can be good for you as it helps to release endorphins, the hormone that helps to make people feel satisfied and relaxed. Furthermore, being outside in direct contact with the sunlight could help improve your mood. Similar to that of Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression that occurs during the winter months where sunlight is restricted.
Experts have shown that the level of a stress hormone in your brain called cortisol could be reduced through gardening. High levels of cortisol in the brain affects a person’s memory and learning.
4. Improved Immune System
Also, another advantage of the sun is that it can help you absorb plenty of vitamin D. In short, Vitamin D can help your body to absorb calcium, which in turn, can help keep your bones strong and your immune system healthy. Vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem across the UK, and studies show that 1 in 5 Brits lacks this nutrient in their systems.
Spending more time outside and under the sun helps increase the levels of Vitamin D in your body. In return, it enables you to absorb more calcium, which makes the bones stronger and the immune system healthier.
Gardening activities provide purpose and a sense of worth. Having a living thing to care for, such as the plants in your garden, gives us a sense of responsibility. It could be highly beneficial for people suffering from mental health issues as it can be a simple activity to keep them busy and occupied.
6. Live in the Moment
Being outside in your garden and experiencing the change of seasons as and when they happen can help you feel connected to the world. This is like sitting in an office all day with only a glimpse out of a window can make time go quickly before you know it it’ll be New Year’s Eve again. Therefore spending the time outside and experiencing the flowers as they bloom can be a great way to keep track of time.
7. Free Anger Therapy
If you have experienced a bad day simply grabbing a shovel and doing some heavy digging or drastic pruning could be a great way to rid of your built up of negative feelings. Furthermore, destroying unwanted brambles and weeds is a convenient way to exert anger as if you don’t destroy them they may soon take over your garden!
Distracting yourself from your life’s stress through gardening is an excellent technique because this activity is connected to growth and renewal. Your plants will swamp your garden space if you don’t cut them so mow them down whenever you feel troubled.
Spending time in the garden is a great way to enhance your sensory system. With all the different smells, colours and textures of plants around you can easily make the most of your body’s abilities. This could be particularly valuable for young children who are learning about the different senses they have.
9. Growing Fruit and Vegetables
Growing fruit and vegetables in your garden can be good for you as you can include your products in your diet. Apples, tomatoes, carrots, in your garden, could all help you reach your daily five a day.
Imagine seeing your garden bloom with fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs — it will surely serve as a motivation for you to pursue a healthier eating habit! Once you start consuming a nutritious diet, you’re laying the foundation for better health in the future.
10. Decreases Osteoporosis
Osteoporosis is a disease that can weaken bones and therefore increases the likelihood of a broken bone. Therefore, by regularly gardening you will take part in repetitive tasks that can ensure all the major muscle groups are getting a good workout. This can help decrease the risk of osteoporosis.
11. Reduced Risk of Dementia
There has been research that suggests engaging in physical activity such as gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia. For instance, one study following a group of people in their 60s and 70s for 16 years found that those who gardened regularly had between a 36% – 47% lower risk of developing dementia compared to non-gardeners.
12. An Altered State of Consciousness
Gardening can help you enter the ‘zone’. This can also be known as an altered state of consciousness where you enter a magical and spiritual place where you can experience the best of who you are. Similar to what an athlete will enter before and during a competition, or the mood you enter during yoga or meditation.
Once gardening you won’t need to worry about the bills you need to pay, upcoming deadlines at work or people who have done something to offend you. Just breathe in the fresh air, give some attention to your garden and forget about any worries you may have.
Overall, gardening regularly is proven to be good for you in many different ways. From health-related benefits that can help reduce the risk of a heart attack to helping you relax after a stressful day. What’s better than getting fit and maintaining a healthy lifestyle whilst making your garden a lovely environment you will want to spend time in.
No longer does gardening need to be seen as a chore, but rather an investment into your health and well-being.