The relationship between gardening and mental health is the topic of much discussion at the moment. According to a recent piece published by The Guardian, GPs are now prescribing gardening as a treatment for depression and anxiety.
As a society, we are becoming more aware of mental health issues: Mental Health First Aid England has reported that 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems every year. Whether or not you have been diagnosed with a mental illness, we can all benefit from an active approach to improving mental wellbeing.
This article discusses how nature, gardening, and bringing the outdoors in can instill in us a tranquil mindset and improve our mental health.
Nature and Wellbeing
Nature and wellbeing have been thought to be associated throughout history. A 2016 study published by the University of Derby has confirmed the significance of this association from a scientific point of view. Working with the Wildlife Trusts, the researchers found that participants who engaged with nature each day for 30 days reported sustained increases in health and happiness.
The paper suggested that we feel happier after prolonged exposure to natural surroundings as a result of a heightened sense of inclusion in nature and belonging to the natural world. Contact with nature has been shown to improve self-esteem in children and help to calm ADHD sufferers, enabling them to concentrate.
Gardening and Mental Health
In light of the recent increase in the diagnosis of mental illnesses, psychologists have also begun to explore the connection between gardening and mental health. For many of us, natural outdoor spaces such as forests and reserves are not regularly accessible. As such, taking up gardening is a brilliant way to increase the time you spend outdoors.
Combining exercise and contact with nature can improve our mental wellbeing even further. Those fortunate enough to have larger gardens can take a stroll outside and relax in a natural setting. If this isn’t possible, then even taking the time to grow some potted plants on a patio or balcony can help.
It isn’t just the outdoor exercise that makes gardening so beneficial for our mental health. The practice of nurturing plants provides us with a sense of responsibility and connection with nature, whilst helping to increase the release of serotonin and dopamine (happiness hormones) and decrease cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
Creating an outdoor space of your own, planning which plants to place where, and watching it all grow together can be incredibly fulfilling. The task of regularly watering and tending to your plants also develops into a routine, which can help us to stay grounded in its own right. The added benefit of improving your garden’s appearance is an additional stimulus for mental wellbeing.
Bringing the Outdoors In
As we progress into autumn and the cold sets in, we tend to spend less and less time in the garden. Although the earlier evenings and worsening weather can limit our time outdoors, there are plenty of changes that we can make to our homes to bring the outdoors in.
Some home improvements are simple and cheap to implement. Growing more indoor plants can provide some of the mental health benefits of outdoor gardening, giving us something to look after whilst creating a sense of tranquillity in our homes. In addition to this, plants can improve the look of your home and give you something to feel proud of.
It’s also important to allow these house plants to have access to as much light as possible. Recent research suggests that exposure to natural light promotes a regular sleep cycle and encourages deep sleeping, which has a direct impact on our physical and mental health. Another cost-effective way to increase the light levels in your home is to choose window dressings that let more light in and leave internal doors open so that the light can spread through rooms that might otherwise require artificial lighting.
If you’re in a position to invest in larger changes to your home, then it might be worth making structural alterations that increase your contact with the outdoors. Adding patio doors or a conservatory to your home is an excellent way to allow light to flood in and reduce the barriers to your garden. During the summer months, these home improvements will also stimulate mental wellbeing by encouraging you to do more gardening.
Relaxing in a light-filled garden room can be a helpful substitute for outdoor gardening time over the colder months. With all that added light, conservatories are also the ideal place to grow house plants and benefit from improvements to our mental wellbeing in this way. Enhancing your home with a conservatory needn’t be too expensive a modification to make either, with the option to choose from new or refurbished fittings.
This article was written by Terry Hill, Managing Director at KLG Rutland. Terry has been working in the home and garden improvement sector for over 10 years and loves helping people to get more from their living space.
Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.