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A gardener mists the plants in their greenhouse - mental health wellbeing
Gardens are special spaces. They can improve our wellbeing in many ways, helping us feel calm or giving a sense of purpose.
A person relaxes on the grass reading a book
A person relaxes on the grass reading a book

Gardens can work wonders when we are stressed and under pressure.

Gardening can help us achieve the 'five ways to wellbeing using gardens and nature'. Through them we can connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.

A decision to go outside in my wheelchair one day saved my life. Sitting in the sun, my shoulders dropped, my breathing slowed … something had changed and it felt very positive.

Mark Lane, gardener and TV presenter

Our training and education manager Damien Newman explains more in this short video.

Damien Newman talks about why gardening is good for mental health
A group of people gardening together around a raised bed
A group of people gardening together around a raised bed

Around one in four people per year in England experience a mental health problem of some kind, according to Mind. This makes the role of gardening so important, particularly when the NHS is stretched.

A significant body of research confirms that time in gardens and green spaces can support mental health:

  • Research in Sweden found access to a garden had a significant positive impact on stress. This was true even if the person had a simple balcony.
  • An article in Mental Health Review Journal reviewed a large body of research. It showed the positive effects of gardening on mental health. This included reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.
  • A study by University of Exeter Medical School looked at green spaces for mental health. They discovered people moving to a greener area (in terms of parks and gardens) experienced an improvement in mental health. This continued for at least 3 years after moving.
  • A report in Nature Medicine found that hobbies such as gardening, reading, and arts and crafts are linked to lower levels of depression in people aged 65 and older.
  • Mental Health Foundation created a report on Mental Health and Nature. It highlighted how, alongside time spent in nature, that the extent we feel connected to nature is also important for supporting good mental health.
  • A systematic umbrella review of evidence supporting the relationship between physical activity and the prevention of mental health complications was published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. It found that physical activity reduced the risk of depression by 23% and anxiety by 26%. A particularly strong association was found between low and moderate physical activity, including gardening.

Thrive research agrees with these findings. We surveyed 317 people at our table-top gardening sessions in Berkshire, Hampshire and South Oxfordshire. Of these:

  • 80 per cent reported better mental health
  • 93 per cent said their confidence and motivation improved

Gardens can be relaxing. Just looking at a green space can help us de-stress. They can also give us a sense of achievement, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

Further reading: Thriving with Nature by WWF-UK and the Mental Health Foundation

When you feel depressed you don’t feel capable of anything. Gardening … delivered something with immediate results.

Anonymous client gardener

Do you need urgent support for your mental health and wellbeing? Please try the NHS mental health services or contact your GP.

There are a number of other services and organisations that offer help and support directly to people with mental health problems. Find details on Mental Health Foundation's Get Help page.

Mark Lane shares how gardening changed his life

Gardening has huge potential to help people with defined mental health needs. There are so many activities and options - more than any other type of therapeutic activity.

Mark Lane, Gardeners' World presenter and Thrive ambassador, shares how gardening has helped him.

Video of Abi's story

In this short film, Abi talks about how gardening and nurturing plants helps her to feel free from her PTSD.

Thrive courses and workshops

Are you using gardening to help support others? You may be interested in our courses and workshops. These range in level from those starting out in STH to experienced practitioners.

With thanks

To Dr Ben Plimpton for reviewing the advice on this page. Dr Plimpton is Project Manager for Empowerment and Later Life at the Mental Health Foundation.

Written in collaboration with
Mental Health Foundation

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