For many people, gardening is a much-loved hobby and an integral part of their life. For others, it can be a transformative coping strategy. Research carried out by the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) showed that 79% of people believe that access to a garden is a key factor for quality of life. Similar studies have shown that indulging in a bit of time outdoors, tending to or growing plants, can have life-changing benefits.
A natural antidepressant
Thrive is a UK charity dedicated to using gardening for therapeutic purposes with a wide range of people, including those with depressive illnesses, veterans dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder and more. Its recent research with early-onset dementia patients, for example, showed that after a year of regular gardening, mood and sociability had notably improved.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or access to an allotment, gardening can be a hugely beneficial form of exercise and can be as gentle or intense as you like. Exercise releases endorphins and raises levels of serotonin and dopamine in our body, which contributes to improved happiness and lower levels of stress.
Even more impressively, there is also evidence that contact with soil itself may have antidepressant effects on the body. A study by the University of Bristol and University College London found that bacteria in the soil activated the neurons that produce serotonin.
A mindful garden
But you don’t necessarily have to have a reason for using gardening as therapy. Having green fingers, whether it’s a whole garden or just a potted plant in your bedroom, is a positive and proactive way of looking after your wellbeing that can benefit anybody, irrespective of circumstance. Looking after plants in any capacity allows us to become nurturers and experience a sense of responsibility, which in turn improves self-confidence.
One of the main causes of stress is our inability to slow down and remain ‘present’. We live busier lives now than ever before, and many of us are regularly in contact with the online world in our downtime, never taking the time to stop and appreciate the little things. The gardening process is all about patience and care, resting an anxious or frazzled mind and making us more aware of what’s right in front of us.
Although horticultural therapy is increasingly being prescribed by doctors and counsellors as a form of self-care, anyone can benefit from gardening. It’s an incredibly accessible hobby that might just get you away from the hustle and bustle of your daily life and make you a whole lot happier.