In the UK, 1 in 4 people experience mental health difficulties each and every year. Mental health support is needed now more than ever. But getting counselling is expensive. If only there was a way to alleviate mental health difficulties for free…
But there is! Gardening has innumerable benefits for mental health. Here, you’ll find 24 different ways gardening helps your mental health.
1. It Gets You Out in Green Spaces
Just being out in green spaces such as parks, rural lands, and forests improves mental health and reduces the risk of developing psychiatric disorders. Gardening gives you that well-needed time in green space.
2. Gardening Reduces Stress
The physical exertion of gardening, connection with the earth and exposure to fresh air reduce stress. Research even demonstrates that setting up gardens in workplaces is enough to reduce stress.
3. It Fights Off Depression
4. It Lessens Anxiety
Closely linked to stress and depression, anxiety also benefits from gardening. Studies show that people report improvements in their anxiety levels when they engage in green-fingered fun.
5. It Provides a Purpose
Having a job to do provides a sense of purpose. When it comes to gardening, hands-on jobs come in abundance! The feeling of achievement gained from watching something develop from your hard work is highly beneficial for mental health.
You see those flowering plants, herbs and vegetables? Only you made that happen!
6. Gardening Releases “Happy” Hormones
Gardening is good for the body, so it’s good for the mind, too. Immersing yourself in your natural environment and getting stuck in releases serotonin and dopamine, the so-called “happy” hormones.
Gardening also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, making us feel even better.
7. It Puts You in a Better Mood
The release of “happy” hormones during gardening improves your overall mood. Gardening can also increase contentment and peace with yourself and your surroundings. Of course, reducing anxiety and depression also boosts your mood.
8. It Lowers the Risk of Alzheimer’s
By improving our concentration and memory, gardening fights off the risk of Alzheimer’s. One long-term study found that daily gardening lessens the likelihood of suffering from dementia by 36%! This was even greater than a reduction in alcohol intake.
There’s still much to learn about Alzheimer’s. But as gardening taps into strength, endurance, learning, problem-solving and dexterity, it’s not a wonder it reduces Alzheimer’s risk.
9. You’re in Control
Life has a way of overwhelming you. Gardening puts you back in the driver’s seat – you get to decide where your plants go and how to position your climbers.
Being able to control these simple tasks can give you a better sense of control overall, instilling self-confidence and hope.
10. You Learn To Accept Yourself
When it comes to gardening, not everything comes up roses. Mistakes are made, plants die, plant diseases take hold. No matter how hard you try, you can’t control everything.
Unpredictability comes into play through the weather, the soil, and even the individual plants. Gardening teaches you to accept your limits – you can’t control everything.
With this, you learn to let go and accept what you can achieve.
11. You Learn to Take Care of Something
Gardening teaches you how to nurture plants so that they thrive. Caring for something makes you feel useful. This brings a necessary reprieve from the feelings of uselessness mental health difficulties often present.
Through learning how to take care of plants, you can acknowledge the importance of nurturing. This may encourage you to take better care of yourself.
12. Gardening Improves Your Immune System
The vitamin D and natural light you receive outdoors improve your immune system. And although dirt under your fingernails can seem like a right pain, it has benefits too!
Mycobacterium vaccae is a helpful bacteria commonly found in soil. Getting this under your fingernails can actually boost your immune system, reducing the symptoms of asthma, psoriasis and allergies.
13. Gardening Provides a Distraction
Let’s be honest, gardening isn’t always easy. It requires physical exertion and constant decision-making and problem-solving. So, gardening is often all-consuming, making you focus on the task at hand.
This provides a welcome distraction from the stresses of life. It becomes a form of escapism, enabling you to pause life’s many obstacles for a brief time.
14. It Prevents Perfectionism
Perfectionism has its benefits, but often it involves being highly self-critical. That’s not great for your mental health. The constant need for perfection frequently disappoints.
The unpredictability of your garden can remind you that perfection isn’t everything. In fact, it’s highly unrealistic in everyday life. You could think you’re providing a plant with everything it needs, yet it still wilts and dies. That’s just life.
15. Gardening Encourages Self-Esteem
Gardening is a form of exercise, and exercise boosts self-esteem. The sense of achievement you get from a beautiful plant or garden is excellent for your mental health too.
16. Gardening Provides a Non-Judgemental Space
Too often, we humans get caught up in stereotyping and judging those around us. Social occasions, particularly workplaces, can feel like you’re constantly being judged. And this feeling is heightened when suffering mental health difficulties.
But you can be confident that in your garden, nothing judges you. Your plants don’t like or dislike you; they either grow, or they don’t, depending on the attention you give them.
17. It Keeps You In the Present
Mental health difficulties can trap you in the past or hurl you towards the future. When your mind is in a tricky place, the last thing you want to think about is the present.
But being in the present is vital – many of our worries come from the past and future. Focusing on the here and now can remind you that life isn’t all bad – that beautiful flower that bloomed, that gorgeous new leaf that’s grown; they’re something to be celebrated.
18. It Enhances Your Attention Span
There’s a sense of immediacy in life today. People want things, and they want them right away. Trying to juggle deadlines and responsibilities can leave us with a short attention span.
Gardening encourages you to focus on a single activity for a more extended period. It requires all of your attention at that moment, veering you away from distractions attempting to pull at your attention.
19. It Fosters a Connection with Nature
The busyness of everyday life disconnects us from nature. The development of technology pulls us further and further away from our roots. We are all connected to the earth, and gardening reminds us of this.
Gardening encourages you to take notice of the earth, the plants, and the weather. It draws you away from life’s stresses and allows you to cherish something bigger than yourself.
20. It’s Keeps You Fit
Gardening is a form of exercise. In fact, there’s not much you can do in the garden that doesn’t require physical involvement. But unlike running or swimming, gardening doesn’t ask you to make a conscious decision whether or not to exercise. You just end up doing it.
21. It Builds Social Bridges
One thing’s for sure, gardeners love fellow gardeners. There are many social groups that you can join as a gardener. Joining a gardening group builds social bridges. Who knows, your new gardening friends may garden to improve their mental health, too.
22. Gardening Gives You a Growth Mindset
It’s easy to develop a fixed mindset nowadays, assuming that talents and capabilities are determined from birth, unable to grow and thrive. It can feel like you’ve been dealt a lousy hand, doomed from the outset.
But gardening fosters a growth mindset. You learn first-hand that a garden is more than just the sum of its parts and that plants can grow to be much more than they were initially.
It also reminds you that mistakes are part of the process; they’re not failures. Without mistakes, we wouldn’t appreciate success.
23. It Encourages Healthy Eating
You can’t grow a McDonald’s in your back garden – but you can grow fruit and vegetables. When you grow food yourself, you’re more motivated to eat it. And it tastes better than supermarket-bought!
24. You Can Unleash Your Anger
The physical involvement gardening requires is an excellent form of anger management. What better way to release your anger than by hacking at an out-of-control bramble?
Anger builds up inside us as energy; gardening helps release this energy, developing a more peaceful inner world.
Get Your Gloves On!
Gardening is your free therapy. It gets you outside, giving you hits of vitamin D and fresh air. It gives your happy hormones a nudge and sends your stress to sleep. Depressive and anxious symptoms will be kicked to the curb, making way for self-acceptance and self-esteem.
Getting out in the garden will lift your spirits and improve your immune system, providing physical and mental reprieve. It also enhances your attention span and encourages the formation of supportive relationships.
And you’ll go back to your roots, learning to appreciate our beautiful world and the present moment. So, get your gloves on.