During Mental Health Awareness Week (May 14-20) Thrive is urging people to use the garden as a place of relaxation, fascination and as a place to enjoy gentle exercise and simply breathe in the fresh air.
Research has shown that two thirds of us experience a mental health problem in our lifetimes, and stress is a key factor in this.
By tackling stress, we can go a long way to tackle mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and, in some instances, self-harm and suicide.
Therapeutic gardening has proven to be a key factor in how we can tackle stress and help improve our mental health.
Gardening can be a great stress reliever from everyday pressures and being outdoors can help you sleep better and boosts your mood. You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic or expert gardener to get out there and pull up weeds!
Improving mental health can come about from the fresh air and exercise that gardening brings and the nurturing and caring aspect of gardening is important as it gives hope, purpose and a sense of achievement which is so important for mental health.
Gardening is better and cheaper, and we think a more pleasant experience than going to a gym! You are doing something with purpose which can boost self-esteem, and physical, regular exercise, like gardening, can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD and more.
The physical act of gardening causes seratonin and endorphins to be released, our body’s natural feel-good hormone, which promotes mental wellbeing, while working with plants gives us an opportunity to nurture life, which has incredible psychological benefits. People with mental health issues might be unable to take care of themselves, but if they look after a plant, they can learn self-care.
There’s a wealth of evidence to outline the positive aspects gardening can have on our mental health and wellbeing.
Optimism, offering a regular routine, a sense of purpose and achievement all contribute. The eminent biologist Edward Wilson says we all feel better when we’re in contact with nature and believes we all have a ‘green gene’.
Developed by the Kaplans in the 1980s, Attention restoration theory (ART) asserts that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature. Their research showed that people who experience high levels of stress and anxiety such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia show very different behaviours in a health care setting such as a hospital compared to when they are in a garden.
Natural environments are full of "soft fascinations" which a person can reflect upon in "effortless attention", such as clouds moving across the sky, leaves rustling in a breeze or water bubbling over rocks in a stream.
Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, says: “Gardens offer a sense of hope and fasciation; just being able to be outdoors, in nature offers a sense of wellbeing.
“The physical activity of gardening offers a sustainable interest which can help people connect with others and can be a social experience which can also boost your mental health.
“And when you garden with others, the benefits are huge. It gives a sense of belonging, of being part of something. You don’t need a high level of skills to be part of it and it helps combat social isolation. Something we see every day at Thrive.
“Tending plants can literally give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning and the nurturing aspect of gardening is very important as it give people hope, purpose and a sense of achievement which is really important for mental health.
“Gardening can build up your muscle strength, increase stamina, improve balance, mobility and ultimately people’s confidence.
“At Thrive we believe that just 30 minutes spent outside each day is good for you, helping to build up strength and stamina, relax your muscles, help movement and balance, keep your heart healthy and use up calories.”
The Government’s ‘Mental capital and wellbeing’ report considered how to improve everyone’s mental capital and mental wellbeing through life.
Evidence suggests that a small improvement in wellbeing can help to decrease some mental health problems and also help people flourish.
These five steps to improve personal wellbeing have been researched and developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) – we believe all can be connected to gardening.
- be active
- take notice
- keep learning
Thrive offers courses on how to use social and therapeutic horticulture to benefit people with mental health support needs. Thrive has also created a new course entitled 'Building resilience using nature'. The course is suitable for anyone involved in using nature within a health interventional, promotional and educational context.
For more information contact Thrive’s information service on 0118 988 5688 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Thrive’s website www.thrive.org.uk for information on all courses and to download Gardening: The feel good factor. How can gardening improve my mental and emotional wellbeing?