How gardening improves my mental health


Every week, one in six of us experiences a common mental health problem. On World Mental Health Day, Thrive Ambassador Mark Lane explains how gardening brought him back from a low ebb and remains a powerful force for good in his life.

Thrive Ambassador Mark Lane

After my car accident in 2001 my recovery was slow, and my mind started to go to some very dark places.

I was diagnosed with co-morbid depression and I am still living with it today.

I have my "spectre of depression" sitting on my shoulder all of the time, but talking to family, friends and professionals I am able to live with and manage my depression.

The largest positive determining factor in my life is gardening and how it and being outdoors has improved my mental health and wellbeing.

I am a great believer, and the research backs this up, that gardening can help reduce anxiety, improve cognitive recall, help with dementia, can help combat isolation, improves physical health and stamina and, of course, makes us feel good by releasing the brain chemical serotonin – the same chemical released when eating a bar of chocolate.

We need to talk

Gardening has helped me greatly. I used to spend days, sometimes weeks, in bed, not wanting to talk to anyone or go outside, but gradually through the introduction of houseplants I started to find my love for gardening again.

As soon as I ventured outside, I loved the feeling of the sun on my face and a breeze across my cheeks. Gardening pushed my "spectre" to the back of my mind. This is why Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) is so important.

I had an amazing occupational therapist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, following my car crash, and she showed me how to pace myself, how to focus on my breathing and how to garden again despite being in a wheelchair.

I owe a lot to her and to STH. We need to talk about mental health more openly, share our experiences and remove its stigma. Thrive has been helping people for 40 years and I am so proud to be one its Ambassadors.

So, join me today and celebrate mental health rather than hiding it. Thank you.