This article has been written by Jack Teare, the Head of Content at Affinity.
According to recent research, up to 20% of the UK population may need additional mental health support thanks to the Pandemic and its effect on our lives. Many of us are struggling to accept loss, change and lack of human contact, but there are ways to cope while you wait for professional help. Exercise is the most common option, but we’re not all up to that. Gardening is much more accessible, however.
- Why is gardening good for your wellbeing?
- Gardening tips for smaller spaces
Let’s discover the benefits of gardening for mental health and mental wellbeing together…
To start with, all kinds of gardening is very good exercise. From weeding to pruning, even mowing the lawn, it gets us moving around. There’s dynamic lifting and carrying movements to improve our stretching and joint movement, and the increased use of our muscles gently builds strength. Gardening is an excellent form of low impact exercise – so it’s incredibly accessible to anyone who can so much as lift a trowel. And, as we know, exercise is one of the best ways to improve your mood – it’s been found that people generally feel more content and calm post-exercise, and reduces stress too.
Let’s take a closer look at the wellbeing and mental health gardening benefits.
Why is gardening good for your wellbeing?
Professor Alistair Griffiths, RHS Director of Science, says that “The act of gardening helps us to keep fit and connect with others, to enjoy and be part of nature and to revel in colour, aroma, wildlife and beauty. Simply contemplating nature helps to rest and recharge our brains.” It is restorative, calming and so much more:
- Order from chaos
In a world where things such as illness, other people’s perceptions and your anxiety are sometimes out of your control, gardening can give you a semblance of order and stability. You can prune that plant, move this one, plant different bulbs every year and move those container plants wherever you like. It’s your space, so you are free to do whatever you want to, and that control can help you cope with the rest of the day.
- It’s a safe space
Your indoor or outdoor gardening space is 100% yours, so it’s safe from other opinions and rules. Your plants are not going to judge you if you start singing to them (they may even like it), or question what you’re wearing or look like. You can be you with no outside influences which can build your confidence and help you become more equipped for social situations.
- Get that accomplished feeling
Seeing a little green shoot up from the soil, or a burst of a colourful bud on a plant is exciting. It’s proof that you have done something right and achieved something new which does wonders for your self-worth. Why not see how proud you are when you dig into a plate full of home-grown veg?
- Stress-free and therapeutic
When we’re trying to juggle loads of deadlines, issues and projects, it’s hard to focus on one thing at a time. Gardening helps you focus on the simple task of pruning or weeding and takes your mind off more troubling matters. It gives you a break and boosts your mood as a result, helping you come back to the issues with a clearer, less stressed-out mind.
- Recharge with nature
To be a bit science-y – gardening puts you in close contact with several chemicals, compounds and minerals, two of which are oxygen and vitamin D. Purer oxygen-rich air is a natural by-product of photosynthesis, and this atmosphere around plants helps us breathe easier and cleaner too. Vitamin D we absorb from the sun while we are gardening which helps our bones, teeth and muscles stay strong while improving mood regulation.
- Good (not so clean) family fun
You may all get covered in mud and mess, but gardening is a valuable family bonding activity. It helps children understand nature and to be patient while learning to respect your experience. It can be fun and happy in plenty of ways, and beneficial for their health as well as it’s shown to help improve their immune systems.
Gardening tips for smaller spaces
Now you know the benefits, let’s take a look at putting it into action. You don’t need acres of land or greenery to get started, you can get going with a single houseplant if you want to. It’s such an accessible activity, so here are a few ways you can get gardening in smaller spaces:
- Vertical Gardening – You can get special planters and kits to help you grow a living green wall. This is especially useful for those with no soil or growing areas outside.
- A container garden – a patio or balcony is an ideal space to plant in pots. You can move them around, change up the colours and plant within your spatial means.
- House plants – you can get creative with things like spider plants growing well up high, colourful flowers on the sunny windowsills and terrariums if you’re in a low-light space. The choice is endless.
- Window boxes – for those with little to no outside space, consider window boxes or a hanging basket. These take up zero floor space and can give you brilliantly bold displays with every season.
- Dwarf Varieties - If you have a smaller garden with a bit of planting space, consider exploring dwarf varieties of plants – they’re just as interested, but in a miniature size.
What space (or lack thereof) you have available to plant and grow shouldn’t dictate whether you can garden or not. Gardening is a universal and completely accessible activity that can do wonders for your physical and mental health, and mental wellbeing too. From window boxes and container gardens to full green spaces and acres of land – we all have the same opportunity to go green-fingered, so take advantage and discover why gardening is good for your wellbeing.