With young royals highlighting mental health issues, T&M asks ‘Could gardening help?’
Prince Harry revealed last week that he has struggled with mental health issues due to bottling up his grief following the death of his mother.
He said in an interview in the Telegraph that he has sought help through counselling. However, not everyone with mental ill health is easily able to access the help they need.
Mental health issues are estimated to affect a quarter of us at one time or another, but services to help people are sadly not always immediately available. We often hear about the therapeutic benefits of gardening, so if something this simple could help, isn’t it worth a try?
Studies suggest that just 30 minutes of gardening can have a positive effect on mental health and it has been argued that if ‘horticultural therapy’ was actually prescribed by GPs for mental health issues, substantial savings could be made to the NHS and therefore the economy.
So why not give it a go?
Here are four ways that your mental health and well-being can be improved through getting out into your garden a bit more:
Many studies show that people who garden have lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, than those who take part in other relaxing activities. Whatever your job or occupation, gardening is a great way to shut out the distractions of life and to concentrate on the job in hand. When you’re gardening, your mind is focussed on your plants (or weeds!), digging your veg patch or pruning a rampant vine. It gives you a sense of purpose and reports show that this can considerably lift your mood and boost self esteem. Often the calm and relative peacefulness of your garden also allows you to relax and unwind.
Gardening as a therapeutic exercise has been shown to be good for the brain. Studies have linked gardening to better brain health and lower risks of brain disease such as Alzheimer’s. Many gardening tasks help to maintain good brain function; physical activity is known to boost brain health as does problem solving and sensory awareness. It’s good to know that the thought processes that go into battling with the ivy that is intent on bringing your fencing down are keeping your brain active and healthy!
Gardening gets you outside and moving. The kind of exercise you get in the garden is quite different to that which you might experience at the gym. You can burn up to 330 calories an hour with all the bending, stretching and lifting that is required in the average garden. We all know that exercise increases levels of ‘feel-good’ serotonin and dopamine – the old adage ‘a healthy body equals a healthy mind’ certainly rings true.
Gardeners often talk about a sense of pride and ownership in what they achieve in their gardens, whether large or small, which boosts mood and general well-being. People who wouldn’t normally call themselves ‘creative’ say that when it comes to gardening, they find their inner creativity, and are often surprised by what they can accomplish. This in turn boosts self-esteem.
Our message is to spend time in your garden! You’ll feel so much better for it.
Sonia works at Thompson & Morgan in the role of press and communications officer. She is a self-proclaimed ‘reluctant’ gardener and is generally amazed if anything flourishes in her garden. Sonia has a ‘hands off’ approach to gardening and believes that this helps to encourage bees, butterflies and other wildlife. (That’s her excuse anyway!)