A woman walking through a park
Spending time in nature can be good for our health and wellbeing. You don’t need a garden of your own to benefit. A simple planter or time in a park can still work wonders.
Two people walking outside in autumn
Two people walking outside in autumn

Most gardeners say time spent in the garden makes them feel good. A daily stroll around the garden to see what has grown or changed can be one of the most enjoyable activities.

It turns out, there is science behind this instinctive pleasure. A study in Japan looked at the benefits of indoor plants. It found just looking at a plant could help reduce stress, anger and sadness. It could also lower blood pressure, pulse rate and muscle tension.

I love how good gardening makes me feel, the physicality and fitness it gives me, plus the simple pleasure of being out in the fresh air enjoying nature.

Annabelle Padwick, gardener, writer and wellbeing practitioner

There’s evidence that time in nature can make us feel refreshed. It helps our brains release serotonin and cortisol. These chemicals regulate our body’s response to stress.

Many people come to Thrive to join a Social & Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) programme. They experience how time in a garden can improve their mood and wellbeing. People often continue with activities in nature after their programme ends.

Damien Newman, Thrive Training, Education and Consultancy Manager, says: “Most people feel better for being outside. Most of us recognise the relaxation that time in nature provides. Despite this, few people use it as a strategy for mental wellness. Given that access to gardens and nature can be free, not making the most of it is a missed opportunity.”

“We want to see more people using gardening to maintain good health,” continues Damien. “Gardens are safe spaces. We can get a tremendous sense of purpose from nurturing plants. And, there are a huge variety of gardening activities. There is always a way to focus on what we can do, rather than what we can’t.”

Did you know?

Biophilia has been defined as "the passionate love of all that is alive." The idea is that humans have an innate tendency to connect with nature and living things. No matter how strongly you feel this connection, research still shows that time in nature can benefit human health.

Annabelle Padwick on a visit to Thrive Reading
Annabelle Padwick on a visit to Thrive Reading

Thrive ambassador Annabelle Padwick is a well-known allotmenteer. She is also the founder of wellbeing organisation Life at No. 27.

Gardening has been a healing activity for her. An ear infection triggered anxiety and a series of panic attacks. Time at the allotment has helped overcome these in place of medication.

Watch this short video to find more about the transforming power of gardening.

Blogger Annabelle Padwick on how gardening can make us feel good
The verdant balcony garden of Jason the 'Cloud Gardener'
The verdant balcony garden of Jason the 'Cloud Gardener'

Time in nature is a worthy aim. What happens if you don't have a garden or easy access to parks or woodland?

Thrive ambassador Jason, also known as the Cloud Gardener, is an inspiring example. For him, an inner-city balcony has become a green haven.

His gardening journey started during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic. Like many people, he felt his mental health was negatively affected. His only access to outdoor space was the balcony of his 18th floor Manchester apartment.

As someone with anxiety and depression I can struggle with getting out of bed in the morning. If I know I need to get up early and water my plants, it gives me an extra incentive to go outside.

Jason, The Cloud Gardener & Thrive Ambassador

Deciding to make the most of the space he had, Jason first grew a few marigolds. The success with these led to the addition of a lemon tree, suited to the sunny aspect. From here came fruit, veg, a tiny greenhouse and the arrival of high-flying insects. As he started creating videos, a community of followers became interested in his achievements.

Jason realised spending tending to his plants was positively affecting his mental health. He was starting the day with purpose, feeling refreshed and with a will to keep learning.

Jason 'The Cloud Gardener' on how gardening has improved his mental health

Would you like to learn more about the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening and nature?

We have developed a free online course called 'Cultivating Wellbeing.' It includes ideas and advice on using gardens and nature for physical and mental health.

Sign up to receive gardening inspiration and tips to get the most out of your own gardening space, and improve your health and wellbeing at the same time

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