Research from around the world has confirmed something many gardeners already know – gardening really is good for you!
Both gardens and gardening bring benefits to our physical and mental health, from providing exercise and keeping us active and fit, to getting us outside and connecting with plants, soil, and the natural world around us.
Gardens are great places to relax, and just being in or looking out onto gardens and green spaces has been shown to relieve stress, improving wellbeing and creativity. By creating a beautiful garden outside your own back door you’ll have a personal sanctuary to step out into, and somewhere to grow healthy food, welcome in wildlife, and spend time with family and friends.
Gardening is a creative, rewarding and productive pastime, with opportunities to learn new skills, find out about exciting new plants, share ideas and make new friends. All these have a positive and restorative affect on mental and physical health, keeping mind and body active, whatever your age.
In fact, gardening could be described as the Natural Health Service, as doctors recognise the numerous benefits gardening brings without the need for costly therapies and drugs, with their unwelcome side effects.
1. Developing a wildlife-friendly garden satisfies our feeling of achievement, bringing us outside and closer to nature to reduce stress and improve our wellbeing.
2. Surrounding yourself with plants brings you closer to nature, improving mood and relieving depression. Being out in a natural environment is relaxing and restorative, helping to lower blood pressure and reduce stress.
3. Flowers can make you feel calm and relaxed, reducing stress and improving mental health. Fragrant flowers, like lavender, have been shown to lower heart rate and blood pressure, too, which aids restful sleep.
4. Just looking out onto a garden can significantly decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, reducing stress and anxiety, raising our mood and increasing our feeling of wellbeing.
5. Researchers have found that seeing, smelling and picking fruits and berries can release dopamine from the brain’s reward centre, resulting in a feeling of mild euphoria and wellbeing.
6. Scented plants can relieve stress and depression as well as improve memory, focus and wellbeing. The scent of lavender has been shown to lower blood pressure and heart rate, while aromatic rosemary keeps you alert, improving focus and memory.
7. Togetherness has great value for our mental wellbeing, relieving boredom and providing opportunities to interact with others. Joining a gardening club and enjoying talks and events at your local garden centre bring like-minded gardeners together.
8. Experts believe we have an innate need to connect with the natural world – something they call ‘biophilia’. People who interact with nature tend to feel better, exercise more, eat better, and connect with others.
9. Working with soil can boost our immune system, probably by exposing us to beneficial bacteria. Studies have shown that children exposed to a variety of microbes have decreased incidence of allergies and asthma. Getting dirty in the garden could be just what everyone needs!
10. Research by University College London and Bristol University found that a common soil bacteria acts on brain cells to stimulate production of the ‘happy chemical’ serotonin, altering mood in a similar way to antidepressants.
11. Activities like raking, clearing, digging and planting provide physical exercise that maintains your body’s mobility, flexibility and strength. They also keep your mind active, which is good for mental health.
12. Gardening during winter can help reduce symptoms from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Red, gold, yellow and orange plants are uplifting and promote energy and warmth. Planted in bold bocks around a patio, and matched with furniture in equally uplifting colours, they’ll produce a joyful place socialise outside.
Blue, green, mauve, violet, white and silver plants have a calm, relaxing and tranquil effect. With soft chairs to sink down into you’ll create a peaceful and restorative space to sit out and meditate.