A gardener mists the plants in their greenhouse - mental health wellbeing
'Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.’

Whoever came up with this quote was definitely on to something. Gardens are special peaceful spaces with restorative qualities that can work wonders when we are stressed and under pressure.

Time and activity in nature is good for us. Evidence strongly suggests that if we spend time in a green environment, then we reduce stress, improve mood and come away self-reporting improved wellbeing. There are more benefits when we garden too which we explore further in our '5 ways to wellbeing using gardens and nature'.

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

Why gardening is good for mental health

There’s growing evidence that gardening can benefit our mental health, an important consideration at a time when the NHS is stretched and one in four adults are experiencing mental illness.

Research in Sweden*, for example, found that the more people used their gardens, the fewer incidents of stress they suffered.

A report in the Mental Health Journal* cited gardening as being able to reduce stress and improve mood, with a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Gardeners themselves agree:

  • Out of 317 people who took part in table-top gardening sessions run by Thrive across Berkshire, Hampshire and south Oxfordshire, 80 per cent reported better mental health as a result, with 93 per cent saying they had improved their confidence and motivation.
  • Across the pond in Philadelphia*, 144 gardeners were asked for the reasons they did it and mental health was second to recreation as the most important factors.

While gardens can be relaxing, they can also be places where our efforts result in a real sense of achievement, boosting confidence and self-esteem.

There’s also good evidence that just looking at a green space has positive effects on people’s mental health, helping them relax and de-stress.

Stress relieving gardening

Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.

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Gardening has so much potential for people with defined mental health needs, offering an enormous range of activities and options, more so than any other type of therapeutic activity.

Thrive works with people aged from 14 to 94 with life-long or long-term mental and physical health needs, as well as those recovering from illness and accidents.

190516 20 Designer garden

Gardeners' World presenter and Thrive Ambassador Mark Lane explains how gardening has helped him in this video.

Our Horticultural Therapists design gardening programmes that are tailored to individuals’ needs, working with them to set goals that will improve their health and wellbeing. We call this process social and therapeutic horticulture (STH).

STH and similar green care interventions can:

  • Reduce depression, anxiety and stress-related symptoms
  • Alleviate the symptoms of dementia, such as aggressive behaviour
  • Increase the ability to concentrate and engage
  • Reduce reliance on medication, self-harming behaviour

If you’re interested in finding out if Thrive could help you, or someone you know, please find out more about our regional centres and programmes, a gardening project in your area or contact us.

Our cultivating wellbeing in gardens and nature course is a free guide to show you how to connect with nature as a tool to restore wellbeing.

If you need more urgent support for your mental health and wellbeing, please access the NHS mental health resources or contact your GP.

Further reading:

Thriving with Nature - Mental Health Foundation and WWF

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


Sweden stress reduction -

Stigsdotter, U. A. (2005) Urban green spaces: Promoting health through city planning. In: Inspiring Global Environmental Standards and Ethical Practices, The National Association of Environmental Professionals’, NAEP, 30th Annual Conference, Alexandria, Virginia, USA

Stigsdotter, U. A. and Grahn, P. (2004) A garden at your workplace may reduce stress. In: Dilani, A (ed.), Design and Health III – Health Promotion through Environmental Design, Research Centre for Design and health, Stockholm, Sweden, 147-157

Mental Health Review Journal, 2013: ‘A review of gardening-based interventions for people experiencing mental health difficulties reported that benefits include a reduction in symptoms of depression and anxiety and an increase in attentional capacity and self-esteem. Key benefits include emotional benefits such as reduced stress and improved mood.’

Philadelphia gardeners –

Blair, D., Giesecke, C G and Sherman, S: A Dietary Social and Economic Evaluation of the Philadelphia Urban Gardening Project, The Journal of Nutrition Education, 23.

Table-top gardening in SE England -

Thrive Sow & Grow programme 2017

The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing by Garden Organic and Sustain

We change lives using gardening and nature

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Annual report 2015 15 cover