'Many people are rediscovering not just a desire to grow plants but an appreciation of how their gardens can make them feel better in these uncertain times,” says Thrive Ambassador and Gardeners' World presenter Mark Lane, who fields a host of horticultural questions in a weekly Q&A online.
'It’s so encouraging to hear how the tranquillity of gardening is helping people and how the beauty, colours and smells of their gardens are providing a welcome diversion. In fact, six out of 10 people are actively gardening more than before lockdown.'
With Mental Health Awareness Week coming up, we decided to delve deeper into how gardening can help us.
1. Stress relief
Natural environments, like gardens and parks, are restorative.
Psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan noticed how they can help us overcome mental fatigue and that people consistently prefer natural environments over many others.
We know from environmental psychology that spending time in a natural setting has a positive effect on our brain chemistry, reducing the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Researchers have also found that viewing scenes of nature reduces heart rate and blood pressure for people who have been through acute mental distress.
To garden gives us a perfect environment to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give, the 5 ways to wellbeingDamien Newman, Thrive's Training, Education and Consultancy Manager
2. Connection to something bigger
Gardening is a social leveller. It’s one of the few activities that transcends age, economic background, health or disability.
The scale of your garden may vary according to whether you own a sprawling country estate, a suburban semi or an inner-city high-rise flat, but the wellbeing benefits of looking after it are the same for all.
Working in a garden, you become more mindful of the natural environment and you can’t escape being aware of nature’s processes and cycles, which, in contrast to the ups and downs of human life, remain largely constant and reliable.
This often leads to moments of reflection where we get a sense of being connected to something bigger than ourselves, and that can help give us a healthy sense of proportion.
3. Sense of purpose
Gardening has purpose, whether its nurturing seedlings, digging over soil or just taking time to just sit quietly and be at one with nature. Looking after plants is a meaningful activity with tangible results that motivates gardeners and connects them with inner desires to care and nurture.
Being a gardener provides focus and direction which when we have vegetables or fruit to eat, or flowers to admire, leads to a sense of achievement and an increase in confidence and self-esteem.
Ultimately, nurturing plants is an investment in the future that provides hope, something that is integral for mental wellbeing.
Damien Newman, Thrive’s Training, Education and Consultancy Manager, said: 'To garden gives us a perfect environment to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give, the five ways to wellbeing which are cited by the NHS and many other mental health services as important paths to mental wellbeing.'