5 ways to wellbeing
Gardens and nature can help you achieve the five ways to wellbeing. We look at ways to connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.

The five ways to wellbeing were developed by the New Economics Foundation. They aim to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. They recommend we:

  • Connect
  • Be active
  • Take notice
  • Learn
  • Give

The amazing, restorative power of gardens and nature can help meet all five of these.

A group of people laugh as they garden together
A group of people laugh as they garden together

Feeling close to and valued by other people are fundamental human needs. Evidence shows these things help us to function well in the world.

How can gardens and nature help me to connect?

  • At Thrive, we find that group work in gardening is a very effective way to bond. This includes for people with communication difficulties and social anxiety. Working together allows them to gain confidence in interacting with others. We use an approach called Social and Therapeutic Horticulture. This has many proven mental and physical health benefits.
  • Gardening can help you reconnect after a serious health incident. Nicholas' story is an inspiring example. Gardening helped him to rehabilitate physically and mentally from his stroke.

The great outdoors, or at least a garden, can bring you closer to people than being shut away, as it were, in your own room. It's got a wonderfully beneficial social effect.

Chris Underhill, Thrive Founder

The evidence

  • Social & Therapeutic Horticulture has many reported benefits. These include increased self-esteem, self-confidence and the development of social skills. It can also help improve general wellbeing.
  • More than 300 people aged over-50 took part in a Thrive gardening project, Sow & Grow. Afterwards, 86 per cent said they felt less isolated and socialised more. Some 76 per cent said they had become more engaged in their local community.
A person digging in the flower bed
A person digging in the flower bed

Regular physical activity can lead to lower rates of depression and anxiety.

How can gardens and nature help me to be active?

  • Pushing a lawn mower is moderate aerobic exercise. Digging is a strength building activity.
  • Studies show exercising in nature can have better results than in a gym. It can lead to greater revitalisation, stress reduction, and motivation to exercise longer.
  • Work in the garden can help you use between 250-500 calories an hour.
  • Gardening can be used as part of rehabilitation programmes. This includes for people with debilitating illnesses or traumas, such as strokes. It can help improve motor, speech and cognitive skills.

I live in a flat now, with no garden, but I have an allotment. There’s always lots of clearing and digging to be done, so it’s a good way of keeping fit.

Mark, Thrive client gardener

The evidence

  • Some 65 percent of Sow & Grow participants (see above) reported improvements to their physical health.
  • We surveyed participants on another Thrive gardening programme. This was aimed at people living with a lung condition. A third reported a reduction in the number of times they needed to visit the doctor and hospital.
A person enjoy the scent of lavender
A person enjoying the scent of lavender

Being aware of what is happening in the present can enhance your wellbeing. Evidence shows savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities.

How can gardens and nature help me to take notice?

  • Interacting with nature is a multi-sensory experience. In your garden or on a walk, you can take time to notice what is around you. Feel the soil in your fingers. Listen to the birds tweeting. Look at the different flowers and trees around you.
  • Working in a garden, you become more mindful of the natural environment. You are aware of nature’s processes and cycles. In contrast to the ups and downs of human life, these remain largely constant and reliable.

When we’re outside surrounded by nature and we hear the birds tweeting or the grass rustling in the breeze, these sights and sounds have a tangible effect on us and uplift our spirits.

David Domoney, TV gardener and Thrive ambassador

The evidence

  • Research published in Environmental Science & Technology Journal found viewing scenes of nature reduces heart rate and blood pressure. Studies were carried out on people who have been through acute mental distress.
  • According to Yoga Journal, practicing outdoor meditation creates feelings of regeneration and energy.
  • Bloom and Wild examine the positive impact flower arranging can have on mental wellbeing
Sowing seeds in a drill using a long cardboard tube
Sowing seeds in a drill using a long cardboard tube

Continued learning enhances self-esteem. It encourages social interaction and a more active life.

How can gardens and nature help me to learn?

  • Gardens and nature offer endless learning opportunities. No matter how much time you spend in nature or how many gardening books you read, there is always more to learn.
  • Learning about gardens and nature can be a wonderful personal journey for someone to go on. Read about Carly's journey of learning and the impact it had in her life.

When you grow something from seed to the plate, there’s a real sense of achievement.

Mark, Thrive client gardener

The evidence

  • Research from Garden Organic shows gardening and nature activities increase our skills and sense of achievement.
  • A study by National Foundation for Educational Research looked at gardening in schools. It showed how it helped increase scientific knowledge, speaking, listening and motor skills.
A bowl full of harvested tomatoes
Two people holding a bowl full of harvested tomatoes

People with a great interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy.

How can gardens and nature help me to give?

  • Vegetables or flowers grown and given to a loved one can be a well-received gift. To know someone has nurtured something and given it to you is a very feel-good moment. Do you know the favourite vegetable of someone you're close to? Imagine how they'd feel if you grew it for them!
  • You could also use nature to craft a gift. You'd be amazed what you can put together with some sticks, bark and leaves. You could create a replica of a loved one's favourite animal. You could also make someone a bug hotel.

Gardening has helped me overcome and achieve more than I ever expected. I'm now incredibly passionate about inspiring others to see how gardening can make a difference to them.

Annabelle Padwick, Thrive ambassador & Founder Life at No 27

The evidence

  • Evidence from Journal of Marketing suggests people prefer gifts that are handmade. A nature-based homemade gift is a winner!

Help us continue to make gardening accessible for all. Make a donation to Thrive today. Thank you.

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