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Happiness is homegrown.
A little bird song, bees or butterflies floating by, the light breeze on your skin, the warmth of the sunshine on your face – it is certainly good for the soul. In fact, with a few deep breaths, it is hard to remember why you felt so stressed.
Increasingly absorbed in the digital world, we turn to technology for news, entertainment, hobbies and even social interaction, unknowingly isolating ourselves more than ever before. It is no wonder that we start to feel that we are missing something, feel low and turn inward.
“A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.”
The clear impact that gardening can have on your physical health has been well reported. Gardening is great for cardiovascular health; it’s proven to cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke by as much as 30% in the over 60’s*. It also significantly lowers blood pressure and digging over that veggie patch will certainly burn some calories. No matter what size, our gardens also have an extremely positive effect on our mental health and personal well-being.
Extensive research has discovered that those with access to green spaces had significant reductions in stress and anxiety along with other chronic conditions, such as migraines, asthma and diabetes. Numerous worldwide University research findings are shaping government policies across the world, not least here in the UK with the NHS announcing plans for ‘social prescribing’ in 2019. Social prescribing, or community referral, means referring patients to methods of treatment that use a social element and focus on being non-clinical - community support groups, for example.
Taking a break from our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and getting outside has been proven to reduce stress, anxiety, aid relaxation and boost sleep. Depression and anxiety often drive people into isolation - both socially and mentally - and it can be hard to gather the motivation and momentum to climb back out. Gardening is a great way to build confidence and reconnect, not only with the outside world, hearing life all around you, but also with a wider gardening community; those with a shared interest. You’ll share tips on online forums, learn from others and discover a new skill; maybe even teaching others in the future.
Finding your tribe will do so much your personal life, and the gardening tribe is a nurturing collective that dedicates its time to watching things grow and sharing the good life experience. There are few pursuits that so wholeheartedly encourage mindfulness and simple pleasures.
There’s no need to be barefoot, sitting crossed legged on the grass (unless you want to) but gardening is a really easy way to practice mindfulness – removing that weed, pruning your rose bush, feeding the tomatoes in the greenhouse, or simply watching the water tumble from the can. You will find that you naturally give your mind a break; gardening helps you relax intuitively as you focus on the task in hand, and live in the moment surrounded by nature.
Spark your creativity:
You are in control. Whether you are planning your allotment or designing your entire garden, you are in charge. You will find inspiration everywhere… what colours to choose, what design to create and what to grow; building confidence and self-esteem when you’re creating something wonderful.
Imagine the bouquets of freshly cut flowers that will adorn your own home and the dinner parties with homegrown veg recipes you've invented yourself.
Start from scratch:
Sowing from seed is very rewarding. You will gain a sense of responsibility for your new seedlings as they pop their heads above the soil - you'll be checking on their progress so often that their wellbeing will become synonymous with your own. A greenhouse is perfect place to house new seedlings and tender plants throughout the year and you can really become a part of the growing and the seasonal changes that come with it. The garden and greenhouse will become a shelter for your plants and you - a retreat and a sanctuary where you control and nurture all that lies within your grassy kingdom.
A sense of accomplishment:
Regular gardening is now known to be a great preventative measure when it comes to low mood. Even after a little weeding, you will feel an improvement in your self-worth as you accomplish something not only constructive but that you can look upon, smile and say, “I did that.”
Grow your own:
As nature is so good for the soul, it is no wonder that gardening therapy became one of 2019’s biggest trends; many new gardeners choosing to grow their own. Not only will the activity of gardening help your well-being, but your crop also provides your very own supermarket of wonderfully fresh, flavoursome produce on tap. Picked as and when you need it, your crop will be packed full of nutrients – you’ll be eating healthier and feeling better in yourself as a result.
Start simple with tomatoes, lettuce or strawberries, you will feel a warm feeling of achievement when you serve homegrown food to your family. What’s more, recent research found that when you harvest your crop, your body releases Dopamine - that's right, pulling up your own vegetables from the ground and picking your own fruit from the vine literally gives you a natural high. It’s believed that this evolved from our hunter-gatherer days.
Top tips - Get the most from your gardening therapy:
Use all your senses - Allow yourself time to notice your garden - the sights, sounds, smells… and recognise how it makes you feel. The best time to ‘smell the roses’ is just before dusk. This is when the scent from your garden is strongest, having been warmed all day by the sun.
Grow flowers that attract wildlife or put up a bird feeder. Tune into the calming chips of our UK songbirds, a sound we often take for granted.
Throw off the gloves - Evidence suggests that the physical feeling of touching soil and plants releases Serotonin – our happy hormone and our body’s natural anti-depressant. Our world is becoming ever more sterile, but a little dirt actually boosts your body’s immune system, keeping bugs at bay.
Being outside, also kick starts your body into producing more vitamin D; great for bone strength. And of course, your physical strength is bound to improve too.
Unplug – Get away from any distractions - Leave your phone or tablet in the house and take yourself out of the digital world for an hour or three.
The natural environment automatically influences our mood, instinctively helping you relax, de-stress and perhaps restore a missing inner peace. Take to your garden and take a little time for yourself.
* https://www.sciencedaily.com Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine
Updated - December 14, 2022
Published - April 15, 2020