Our grateful thanks to the not-for-profit social enterprise Life at No. 27 for their contribution to our on-air report which you can hear again via the audio player at the bottom of this page. To access the 'Growing for Well Being Week' resources pack from Life at No 27 click here.
Gardening and Wellbeing
According to the British Psychological Society, there is a substantial body of research demonstrating the positive benefits of gardening-based activities on wellbeing and mental health. Engagement in gardening activities (either integrated in the school curriculum or community and home based) has shown to promote social relationships, family connection, emotional and mental wellbeing, moderate stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve cognitive and educational outcomes.
Further personal well-being effects include increased enjoyment, sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride from nurturing the plants; feelings of mastery and empowerment for children who do not excel in the traditional academic setting; provide quiet time for reflection and increased confidence and self-esteem. Participating in gardening activities appears to have a similar positive impact on adult wellbeing and mental health, with improvements in life satisfaction, vigour, psychological wellbeing, positive affect, quality of life and reductions in stress, anger, fatigue, depression and anxiety symptoms reported.
Why? There are a number of reasons for the positive effects of gardening on wellbeing and mental health. First, there is the strenuous physical exertion underpinning gardening activities. The benefits of physical activity and exercise for mental health are well known, with 30 minutes of daily exercise sufficient to improve and maintain wellbeing and mental health. Planting, weeding, digging, raking, and mowing are considered physically intense and avid gardeners can easily exert the same amount of energy as running or going to the gym. Gardening provides a more creative and enjoyable way to undertake physical exercise and meet the national exercise recommendations, which in return contribute to improving psychological health.
Gardening also allows individuals to interact with nature. In recent years, a growing number of studies led by researchers at Essex University, have demonstrated the benefits of ‘Green Exercise’ (GE; being physically active within a natural environment or greenspace), on wellbeing and mental health, with reductions in stress and depression, increases in self-esteem, mood and wellbeing reported in children and adolescents, adults, and vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Even small doses, such as five minutes of nature, is considered to improve self-esteem and mood. Furthermore, GE can provide greater benefits than physical activity, exercise, or nature contact alone for wellbeing and mental health. Gardening therefore offers an opportunity to not only interact with nature but also engaging in physical activity, therefore reaping all the health benefits of GE.
Community and therapeutic gardening projects offer a social context to the activity for social interaction, which can counteract feelings of loneliness and social isolation, especially for those with pre-existing learning difficulties and mental health. It provides an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, connect with people to develop a network or inner circle and draw support from like-minded people.
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