Simple, fun and inexpensive, gardening has been shown to be an effective way to boost mental and emotional wellbeing. It doesn't matter whether you've got a big garden, a tiny yard, or even just a balcony — you can still reap the benefits that growing a few plants can bring. Just read on to discover five of the ways that gardening can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Not only is gardening fun, but all that lifting, raking, digging and weeding make it an effective form of exercise, too. In fact, thirty minutes spent raking the lawn, pushing a lawn mower, or digging can be just as effective in the long-term as going to the gym, according to a report in the Daily Mail.
Regular exercise is a well-known way to help combat mental illness: when we exercise, our brains release endorphins, which lift our mood and make us feel more productive. Because gardening is a gentle form of exercise, it provides an effective workout while putting minimal stress on the body — unlike running or aerobics, for example.
Sunshine can trigger the release of the hormone serotonin, which acts as a mood stabiliser and helps us to feel more positive and productive, according to Healthline. Without enough sunlight exposure, our serotonin levels can drop, causing us to feel depressed, anxious and lethargic. So, getting out in the garden during the daylight hours can be a great way to combat depression and help reduce the effects of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Exposure to natural daylight can also stimulate production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which regulates our biological clocks, meaning a spell in the garden each day can even help you to get a better night's sleep.
Sometimes, if we're feeling low, we might feel that our lives lack purpose or meaning. But, if we know we need to tend to our plants, it can give us something to look forward to. Having a garden to care for can also give you a sense of responsibility towards your own health and wellbeing — after all, you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your garden.
For people with low confidence or self-esteem issues, this can be a really effective way to boost your self-worth. Growing you own veggies can be especially satisfying, as you get to harvest and eat your own produce, which can give you a sense of self-sufficiency that acts as a brilliant antidote to depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. If you don't have a gardening centre nearby, Wyevale have a wide range of vegetable seeds online, which can be used to grow a variety of healthy and delicious veggies.
Mental illness can be an isolating experience, especially if you’re struggling with confidence issues that make it difficult to put yourself out there and make friends. Having a support network can be an important part of the recovery process, so joining in with some community gardening activities can be a brilliant way to socialise. Plus, because you're bonding over an activity, you'll always have something to talk about.
Joining a communal allotment can help you to connect with others and make new friends, so take a look at what activities are available in your area. You can find your nearest community gardening group using this handy search feature from Farm Garden.
Nothing soothes the mind quite like reconnecting with the natural world. By cultivating an outside space that's pleasant to be in, you also provide yourself with a safe, peaceful place in which you can fully relax. Even if you only have a small area, like a balcony, just having somewhere with a bit of greenery can give you a valuable chance to escape the stresses of urban living, allowing us to focus on the calming sights, sounds and scents of nature instead.
Make the most of your new and improved space by practising some outdoor meditation, which can help quiet your mind and soothe troubling thoughts.
With all these benefits, it’s clear that gardening is an incredible all-round mood booster. So, if you're looking for a new hobby that will help calm your mind and lift your spirits, give gardening a go: you'll soon see, and feel, a real difference.