Gardening is good for you! A new report from the mental health charity Mind confirms what we gardeners have known for years. Growing your own plants, fruit and vegetables is great therapy for mind, body and soul.
Community and conservation projects are massively beneficial for anyone who is feeling lonely and isolated, but just an hour pottering about outside is enough for anyone to feel the benefits of “ecotherapy” – whether simply enjoying the flowers in a public park or garden, or getting your hands dirty doing something creative and enjoyable.
You can get massive satisfaction when you raise your own plants from seed or cuttings, grow your own vegetables or cut flowers. It isn’t just the cost saving, and the fact that home grown vegetables are packed with nutrients – it’s the feeling of achievement and pride that you gain.
Gardens also provide homes for all manner of furry, feathered and four-legged friends that bring health and wellbeing benefits of their own. Of course, fur and feathers don’t always mix!
To encourage birds, bees, butterflies and other insects all you need to provide are some very simple facilities. A bird feeder or nest box, plus a pile of logs left to rot down. It is better to plant single flowers instead of doubles as they produce nectar and pollen, and trees and shrubs that produce berries and fruit.
Peace and quiet
Create natural sounds to mask noise: you can plant grasses with tall, airy leaves so they gently rustle in the breeze and have a water feature to create that gentle trickle in the background. The sound of snipping and clipping is in itself therapeutic, so avoid using noisy power tools; a bit like willow on leather from a village cricket green.
Gardening gets more oxygen circulating round the body and brain, so it is believed that it can help to delay or even prevent many age-related conditions. Being in the sun also allows the body to make vitamin D although gardening early and late in the day is advised, otherwise use a high-protection sun cream and in bright sunshine, wear a hat.
Gardening is a great way to burn calories, apart from its numerous mental health benefits. Brisk gardening, such as digging over beds and mowing the lawn, burns around 275 calories per hour, while less vigourous jobs like pruning, hoeing and watering still burn three or four times as many calories as you’d use sitting still.
Gardening gives you a gentle whole-body workout, slowly toning muscles and maintaining the flexibility of joints. Try doing a range of different jobs for perhaps five to 10 minutes at a time before changing to something else.
Not everyone is has a garden of their own but there’s bound to be a community project in your area that you could join; some municipal parks take volunteers. You can find out more about therapeutic horticulture at thrive.org.uk.