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Here we explore how gardens and nature can help you to achieve the five ways to wellbeing. Connect, be active, take notice, learn and give.
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The five ways to wellbeing are a set of evidence-based public mental health messages developed by the New Economics Foundation aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of the whole population. What better way to look at the restorative power of gardens and nature than to look at how they meet these five ways to wellbeing.

There is strong evidence that indicates that feeling close to, and valued by, other people is a fundamental human need and one that contributes to functioning well in the world. - (5 ways to welbeing, Mind)

How can gardens and nature help me to connect?

  • At Thrive we find that group work in gardening is a very effective way to enable to work together and bond. This includes people with communication difficulties and social anxiety, as it enables them to grow confidence in interacting with others. We use an approach called Social and Therapeutic Horticulture, which has many proven mental and physical health benefits.
  • Gardening can help you reconnect with people and nature after a serious health incident. Read Nicholas' story on how he used gardening to rehabilitate physically and mentally from his stroke.

The evidence

  • The reported benefits of social and therapeutic horticulture include increased self-esteem and self-confidence, the development of social skills, an increased sense of general well-being and the opportunity for social interaction.
  • When more than 300 people aged over-50 took part in a Thrive gardening project, 86 per cent of them said afterwards they felt less isolated and socialised more, while 76 per cent said they had become more engaged in their local community.

Regular physical activity is associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety across all age groups. - (5 ways to welbeing, Mind)

How can gardens and nature help me to be active?

  • Pushing a lawn mower is cited as moderate aerobic exercise, while digging is classified as a strength building activity.
  • Studies show that exercising in nature as opposed to a gym leads to greater feelings of revitalisation, stress reduction, and motivates people to exercise for longer.
  • It’s estimated that work in the garden will help you consume 250-500 calories an hour.
  • Gardening can be used as part of rehabilitation programmes for people with debilitating illnesses or traumas, such as strokes, helping to improve motor, speech and cognitive skills

The evidence

  • A two-year community outreach gardening programme run by Thrive, called Sow and Grow, involved more than 300 people aged over-50. Afterwards 65 per cent of those who took part reported improvements to their physical health.
  • In another Thrive gardening programme aimed at people living with a lung condition, a third of participants reported a reduction in the number of times they needed to visit the doctor and hospital.

Studies have shown that being aware of what is taking place in the present directly enhances your well-being and savouring ‘the moment’ can help to reaffirm your life priorities. - (5 ways to welbeing, Mind)

How can gardens and nature help me to take notice?

  • Interacting with nature is a multi-sensory experience. Whether you're in your garden or taking a walk in nature, you can take time to notice through your different senses what is around you. Feel the soil in your fingers, listen to the birds tweeting and look at the different flowers and trees around you.
  • Working in a garden, you become more mindful of the natural environment. 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.

The evidence

  • Researchers have found that viewing scenes of nature reduces heart rate and blood pressure for people who have been through acute mental distress.
  • Practicing outdoor meditation is associated with greater feelings of regeneration and energy.

Cultivating Wellbeing in Gardens and Nature

Cultivating Wellbeing in Gardens and Nature is a free-to-access online resource to encourage you to use your garden to spend more time connecting with nature as a tool to restore wellbeing and improve your physical and mental health.

Find out more

Continued learning through life enhances self-esteem and encourages social interaction and a more active life. - (5 ways to welbeing, Mind)

How can gardens and nature help me to learn?

  • No matter how much time you spend in nature or how many horticulture books you read, there is endless learning you can do about gardens and nature.
  • Learning about gardens and nature can be a wonderful personal journey for someone to go on. Click here to read about Carly's journey of learning and the impact it had in her life.

The evidence

  • Research has shown that gardening and nature-based activities have the benefit of increasing our work skills and sense of personal achievement.
  • A study of introducing gardening to schools showed that it increased scientific knowledge, greater speaking and listening skills and a development of motor skills.

Individuals who report a greater interest in helping others are more likely to rate themselves as happy. - (5 ways to welbeing, Mind)

How can gardens and nature help me to give?

  • Growing some vegetables, flowers or other plants and giving them to a loved one can be a very well-received gift. To know someone has nurtured something and given it to you is a very feel-good moment, for all involved. 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!

The evidence

  • Evidence shows that people prefer gifts that are handmade, so a nature-based homemade gift is a winner!

Our free online resource to learn about how gardens & nature can improve your wellbeing

Cultivating Wellbeing in Gardens & Nature
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