Journalist Ella Hendrix explains how gardening help to alleviate the stresses and strains of modern living
There is a lot happening in the world at the moment, and it can sometimes be a little overwhelming and difficult to escape from.
Combine these global affairs with the general ups-and-downs of life and you might find yourself itching to be on the next plane to an unnamed deserted island in the Caribbean.
While that may be a little unrealistic, there may be a more simple remedy a little closer to home: gardening.
There is a wealth of research that shows the innumerable benefits gardening can have on one’s physical and mental wellbeing, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. One such study on the effects of gardening as a mental health intervention saw participants describe a range of benefits from the emotional and social, to the vocational and spiritual.
Mental health issues affect as many as one in four people at some point during their lifetime, with around 450 million people worldwide suffering from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health. The World Health Organisation actually estimates that depression and depression-related illness will become the greatest source of ill-health by 2020.
It has been suggested that the primary reason gardening has been so successful in improving people’s mental states is based on the ‘biophilia hypotheses’; the idea that humans have a basic need to affiliate with the natural environment within which they evolved.
Among the clear positives gardening appears to have on a person’s mental well-being, it can also appear to be as physically effective on the body as a gym session, despite the obvious differences in physical labour.
The reason for this is because of the duration of the session. Whilst gardening is of a much lower intensity, you could be happily pottering about for many hours, which may end up equaling the amount of calories burnt as a trip to the gym.
However, engaging in ‘green exercise’ – defined as activity in the presence of nature – and combining the benefits of exercise with those of being within nature seems to create double the positive effects.
As one trial reports, “while exercise alone helped lower blood pressure, improve mood and self-esteem, exercising with a view of the natural world could have a synergistic effect, with subjects reporting significantly greater positive effects on their mental wellbeing after such sessions than after exercise alone.”
Speaking to avid gardeners first-hand has also given affirmative results, as recent research found that 88% of people who spend time gardening do so because of the benefits it has on their mental well-being.
You may be inclined to think that gardening might not be something you’d be into or very good at, however, it can be more than simply planting and tending to flowers. Depending on your preferences, or just the space that you have available to you, some of the types of gardens that you may wish to create might include:
– Container gardens
– Raised bed gardens
– Fruit and vegetable gardens
– Flower gardens
– Urban gardens
– Butterfly gardens
– Woodland gardens
– Community gardens
– Indoor gardens
– Water gardens
Although many people within the UK do not have access to their own private garden, throughout the country are community gardens available in which you can help, along with vast numbers of urban, and rural, allotment gardens. It has, in fact, been found that allotment gardeners “have a higher life satisfaction, reduced loneliness, fewer health complaints and better overall health and well-being than non-allotment gardeners.”
With the breadth of research on how beneficial gardening can be to people, the government has even begun considering using gardening and horticulture research to inform future departments and policies, such as health and planning, along with justice, defence, local government and education.
Recently, £200,000 in government funding was used to create a project in Nottinghamshire aiming to boost the well-being and employment levels of people with mental health needs, including group sessions, activities and workshops in a variety of areas such as horticulture.
Gardening is a chance to learn from mistakes and grow, and the options and opportunities open to you are endless. Your garden can be an extension of your personality, adding another dimension to your home and to your life.
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