The short answer is, yes. The benefits of gardening are endless, mentally as well as physically.
Many people spend hours pottering around their garden, pruning shrubs and planting bulbs because they enjoy it and they want their outdoor space to be a place they can show to their friends and enjoy spending time in when the weather permits – but there is so much more to it than that.
In fact, it has so many benefits that it is now used as ‘horticultural therapy’ – to treat hospital patients and even to calm prisoners in jails. They are particularly beneficial to stroke patients, those recovering from physical trauma, or people with disabilities.
A Royal Navy veteran who suffers from PTSD has found solace through gardening, at a Help for Heroes Recovery Centre. Mark Penhallurick, who suffered an injury to his leg following his time at sea, enrolled on the City and Guilds NVQ level 2 horticulture course and attends once a week to work with other wounded, injured and sick serving personnel and veterans. He says, “I’d recommend it to anyone, there are raised flowerbeds for wheelchair users, even with an injury it hasn’t limited me – it’s made me realise I can do it.”
Horticultural therapists say that gardens produce the most positive effects on mental health – just looking at a garden can give you a positive boost! But, how does it aid mental health?
Gardening is a distraction, it can alleviate pain and depression simply by taking the gardeners mind off troubles, as they concentrate on the job in hand.
Similarly, stress is the cause of many illnesses and gardening allows you relief from this. A study conducted by Gardeners World Magazine found that 90% of gardeners, from a poll of 1,500, think it improves their mood – due to the fact they can take their negative feelings out on the garden. While lowering levels of fatigue, depression tension and anger, it heightens self-esteem, mood and sense of worth.
Talking in The Pool, Kat Lister explains, “I don’t think it is a coincidence that, when I lost control of my life in a momentous way, I quickly found solace in nature.” She goes on, “It was perhaps serendipitous that we acquired our first garden in tandem with the news that my husband was seriously unwell.”
“Craving shelter outdoors, I bought a pair of gloves and a trowel… when I closed the living room door, I felt in control of things… I could breathe deeply. I felt calm. And squelching in the flowerbeds, I forgot about everything else.”
It is belived that substantial savings could be made to the UK economy if gardening was used more widely as treatment, particularly for mental illness, loneliness and obesity.
So, perhaps now is the time to dust the cobwebs off your spade and start tending to your garden – not only will you have an outdoor space you enjoy spending time in, you will also receive the many health benefits that come with it.