Happy person gardening flowers centre for better ageing
An estimated 13 million women in the UK are peri or menopausal. Gardening and time in nature can be a great support to your physical and mental wellbeing throughout this time.
  • Time in gardens and nature can support mental wellbeing, helping you feel relaxed and decreasing anxiety
  • Nurturing plants and watching them grow can boost confidence and self-esteem
  • Gardening can be a good form of exercise, including strength-building activities like digging that can help with bone strength
  • Gardening can help you connect to others, whether through a gardening club, community allotment, or simply by sharing tips

With thanks

To Dr Louise Newson for support creating this guide. Dr Newson is a GP and menopause specialist. She is the founder of the free menopause support website and app, balance, and in 2019 set up Newson Health Research and Education to further research into the menopause.

Person walking outdoors centre for better ageing
A person takes a walk outside

Menopause and perimenopause affect a huge number of people. Some estimates suggest 13 million women in the UK are currently experiencing either one.

Menopause generally takes place between the ages of 45 and 55. For some it happens earlier, either naturally or sometimes as the result of certain surgeries or cancer treatments. The perimenopausal stage comes anything between a few months or as much as 10 years before this.

Menopause and perimenopause can cause a wide range of symptoms. These can vary greatly from person to person. Government research suggests around three-quarters of women experience some symptoms and a quarter severe symptoms.

Some commonly experienced symptoms include:

  • Mental health symptoms (low mood, anxiety, low self-esteem, problems with memory and concentration)
  • Hot flushes
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Muscle aches and joint pains
  • Changing body shape and weight gain

How long these last is also different for each person. Dr Louise Newson, Menopause Expert and founder of Balance app, reports patients with symptoms lasting between a couple of years up to 30+ years.

Gardening and menopause

If you are going through perimenopause or menopause, you may well have had contact with your GP. Around 15% of women in England aged 45-64 are currently prescribed Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to help with symptoms.

Alongside medical support, there are many ways to support your wellbeing throughout this time.

“Perimenopause and menopause can have a real impact on a woman’s mental health,” says Dr Louise Newson. “As well as looking at treatments for symptoms with HRT, it’s really important to take a holistic approach to the menopause, and that includes exercise and taking care of your mental health. That’s where gardening can come in.”

At Thrive, we have been promoting gardening for health for decades. Scientific research supports the benefits it can have for mental and physical health. You don’t need a large garden, or even a garden at all, to get these benefits. A balcony or windowsill works just as well.

As I approached 50 and menopausal, the garden was a therapy, to get me through some difficult times … I have been fortunate to get through the menopause without too many hitches, but I am sure the comfort of the garden has helped.

Anonymous, Thrive Gardening Club member

Here, we look deeper at how gardening and time in nature can support your wellbeing during menopause and perimenopause.

A person in a raincoat in a field of flowers
A person in a raincoat in a field of flowers

Gardening and time in nature can be a huge support for mental wellbeing. Gardening can help release serotonin and endorphins. These are our body’s natural feel-good hormones that promote mental wellbeing.

Gardening can also build confidence and self-esteem. The sense of joy, and achievement from growing or caring for a plant can be huge.

Regular gardening can bring a sense of purpose and structure. Needing to water plants can be a reason to get out of bed if your mood is low.

Time in nature can also be healing, helping restore mental fatigue. Attention Restoration Theory, developed in the 1970s, suggests this restorative power or nature works by giving time away from the stresses of life, something to occupy the mind and ‘fascinations’ that hold your attention.

Gardening is part of my own mental health toolkit. It’s like a hidden form of therapy: it gets me out in the fresh air surrounded by nature and it’s a form of exercise that takes my mind off my busy job.

Dr Louise Newson

A significant body of evidence supports this. Research in Sweden found access to a garden – which included just having a balcony - had a significant positive impact on stress.

Mental Health Foundation created a report on Mental Health and Nature. It highlighted how time spent in nature and how connected to it we feel can support good mental health.

Spending time outdoors in the garden and in nature really helped to alleviate my peri-menopausal symptoms. I was experiencing bad bouts of anxiety and using all five senses and practising mindfulness in my garden helped calm me.

Anonymous, Thrive Gardening Club member

There are many different activities you could choose to do in gardens and nature to support your mental health. The most important thing to think about is what you enjoy doing or are in the mood for. You may find that changes from one day to another.

We have a number of suggested activities at the end of this guide.

Gardening and increased anxiety

For some people, the menopause may create extra stresses in the garden. Finding activities more tiring than expected, struggling to remember what you've done or need to do and trying to keep concentration can all be sources of increased anxiety.

If you find this happens to you, try to think about the forgiving nature of gardening. If you need to leave something for another time, or haven't done it quite correctly, it really doesn't matter.

You could also swap more active gardening tasks for passive ones, like reading a book outdoors, or simply getting sensory enjoyment from what's around you. Think about what feels manageable and enjoyable.

If you feel at any stage like you need more urgent support for your mental health and wellbeing please try the NHS mental health services or contact your GP.

Person allotment wheelbarrow centre for better ageing
A person pushes a full wheelbarrow at an allotment

Regular exercise is recommended to help with menopause symptoms. The garden may well be the gym outside your window!

Gardening is a great form of exercise, particularly if you are suffering from joint aches and pains that low oestrogen levels can cause and may not be able to go for a run or feel like a high intensity exercise class.

Dr Louise Newson

To prevent osteoporosis, weight-bearing exercises and resistance exercises are recommended. More physical gardening activities, like digging, mowing the lawn and raking, can all be ways of getting this sort of exercise.

Half an hour of gardening burns about 160 calories and heavy gardening like digging helps build strength. Strength exercises are particularly important to help keep bones strong, as the risk of developing osteoporosis increases after the menopause.

Dr Louise Newson

Time in the garden or in nature on a sunny day can also trigger production of vitamin D, to support bone health.

Research shows exercise can also improve mental health, helping reduce anxiety, depression and low mood.

Staying active, together with a healthy diet, can be key to maintaining or losing weight.

A person picking apples
A person picking apples from a tree

Alongside regular exercise, a healthy diet is a good way to support your wellbeing during perimenopause and menopause.

A diet containing plenty of fruit, vegetables, and sources of calcium – including kale – can protect bone health and help minimize weight gain. A healthy gut can also positively affect mood, strengthen the immune system and improve energy levels.

Growing your own food is a fantastic way to combine the benefits of gardening with the benefits of good nutrition.

You don’t need a huge garden to grow food. There are lots of fruit and vegetables you can grow in a large container, from peas and beetroot to tomatoes and strawberries. This allows you to get growing on a balcony, patio or other smaller space.

Growing veg and bringing it into the kitchen is great … it's satisfying to produce my own food.

Lizzie, gardener

If you don’t have access to outdoor space, you could look into getting an allotment. As well as providing space to grow food, allotments are often wonderful community spaces. Many growers share their harvest with each other.

If you are interested in finding out more about getting an allotment – or joining a community allotment – we have information here.

Thrive battersea womens health herb garden
The women's health herb garden at Thrive Battersea

Plants have been used for centuries to support health and wellbeing. Our herb garden at Thrive Battersea Park has a section containing plants traditionally used to support women’s health. Some people look for herbal remedies for menopause, potentially as an alternative to HRT.

We think growing herbs in a garden – or inside – is fantastic for many reasons. Not least making a lovely cup of herbal tea. But we always exercise caution when it comes to promoting any medical benefit. It’s a good idea to speak to your GP if you’re thinking of using herbal remedies.

Rosemary and memory

Rosemary has been associated with memory throughout history. Current research is looking deeper into this connection. In a video for Salus Fatigue Foundation on 'Clearing the Fog', Dr Mark Moss explains more.

A person holding a book on a bench pixabay
A person lies on a garden bench with a book

Whether you are an experienced gardener, or are just starting out, there are a huge number of ways you can enjoy the benefits of gardens and nature.

If I want to look after my mental health, I repot a plant, prune something, or go into the garden and take a deep breath.

Maneesha, gardener

We have suggested a number of ideas depending on your mood and garden space here. You can find even more through the Get gardening section of our website.

High energy gardening activities

All these activities burn calories and can help with strength building:

Mow the lawn, fill the watering can, move pots, scatter compost – before you know it, you’ve done two hours of continuous exercise.

Sarah Bowers, Regional Manager Thrive Birmingham

Lighter physical gardening activities

The following activities keep you physically active, but at a slightly gentler pace:

Creative activities

If you are in the mood for something more creative or crafts based, try one of these:

Time in nature

A person sniffing a flower artem beliaikin 5y D Di Mcbn HM unsplash
A person sniffing a flower outside. Photo credit: Artem Beliaikin Unsplash

You don’t have to do gardening activities to get the benefits of nature. Sometimes, just spending some time in the natural world may be what you need to feel good. You could try one of these:

  • Take a walk. You could go to a park or public garden. Try and appreciate nature using all your senses
  • Do things outside that you would usually do inside – have food or a drink, do some exercise, or talk with friends
  • Practice mindfulness in the garden. Sit quietly, even for just a few minutes, and listen to everything around you
  • Hang the washing outside
  • Fill bird feeders, then wait and observe any visiting birds
  • If you don’t feel like going out, watch wildlife live on your computer. You could find a wildlife webcam so you can enjoy seeing different animals going about their daily lives

I didn’t realise menopause was the cause of how I felt … but gardening helped me escape to a place of calmness.

Diane, home gardener

We all have days where we’re not in the mood for doing much and that’s ok too. The garden and nature will wait patiently and still be there whenever you feel like it.

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

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Written in collaboration with
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