The Wellbeing Benefits of Gardening
Whether gardening is a hobby you dabble in occasionally, or it’s an all-encompassing passion, spending time stretching your green fingers is a delightful way to fill your days. Gardening brings with it even more benefits than you might have ever imagined. Here are just some of the ways.
According to HSL’s Independent Occupational Therapist, Julie Jennings Dip COT HCPC, increased stress can result “in higher incidents of depression and anxiety, plus other mental and emotional problems”. As such, you should seek to lower stress levels wherever possible. What better way to do this than to busy yourself in the garden?
Water the plants, sow some seeds, prune your bushes – soon the time will have disappeared and you will have spent hours focussing on green solutions, rather than something you had worried about so much before. Whilst working in your garden, cortisol levels are reduced (the chemical in your body that is produced in response to stress) – even more so than when reading a book.
Sense of achievement
The past year has been a strange one; days stretching on endlessly with the time to do everything you’d been putting off. How many of us actually accomplished learning that new language? Taught ourselves to play the piano? Painted our masterpiece? Very few people did, and that’s completely okay. Just getting through the year was enough. If, however, you want to feel like you’ve achieved some small victories, then where better to start than in your garden? Nature has an amazing way of giving us those ‘mini wins’.
Perhaps you’ve never believed you were naturally gifted in the garden? The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be as simple or as complex as you choose. Do a little planting, nurturing and harvesting of plants and before you know it, you’ll see a different person building inside you: you’re someone who is connected to the earth and can grow things! It always brings an immense sense of achievement to accomplish new tasks. After all, if you can look after your garden, what can’t you do?
After the winter months of dark and cold, you might have inadvertently stayed indoors longer than you might have realised. Getting outside can give you that burst of fresh air that your body so desperately craved. Not only does fresh outdoor air feel great, but it is also shown to clear your lungs, give you more energy and focus, lower blood pressure and heart rate, help you heal faster, and improve your digestion.
You might not feel up to going for a lengthy mountain hike, but instead, spending a few hours in your garden can help you get the fresh air that is so beneficial to your body.
Awakens your senses
When was the last time you took the opportunity to just let your 5 senses take over? There’s a movement that has become increasingly popular in recent years called ‘mindfulness’. People have, in fact, been doing a form of this (meditating) for centuries. The reason is that, for many, it really does work. Be more aware of the moment you are in; this includes your thoughts and feelings, your body, and the world around you. Whilst you’re in your garden, this is the ideal opportunity to connect with your senses:
Sight: Look around you – what colours can you see? Really appreciate the beauty of a rose, the intense green of the leaves, or the lushness of a blackbird’s feathers.
Smell: Close your eyes and take a deep breath in through your nose. Flowers, soil and trees all have their own distinct aroma. Drink it in.
Hearing: Keep your eyes closed and listen for a few moments – what can you hear? A buzzing bee? A bird’s call? Perhaps if you listen very carefully, you’ll hear the grasshopper’s chirp.
Touch: Whilst you’re pottering around in your garden, take the time to really experience it. What does the breeze feel like on your skin? Crumble the soil in your fingers and appreciate the sensation. Run your fingers lightly through blossoms and enjoy their silky-smooth texture.
Taste: This one takes a little longer, but after you’ve put in the work, take the time to really enjoy the taste of your home-grown produce.
When we become more aware of the present moment, it can help us enjoy the world around us and understand ourselves better.
There are so many fruits and vegetables that you can grow in your own garden. Whilst in the British Isles, we may not have the scorching weather to grow oranges or bananas, there is plenty of amazing produce we can. Some of the most common UK-friendly vegetables to plant in spring are: carrots, spinach, broad beans, leeks, radishes, parsnips, onions and even brussels sprouts (not just for Christmas!). These are all best sown in March and April – with many of them being very hardy and able to mostly take care of themselves!
So, you’ve prepared the ground, planted the seeds, tended to the vegetable patch, kept the garden pests at bay, watered, weeded, and finally, your produce is ready to harvest! You feel less stressed, you’ve achieved that sense of accomplishment, your lungs are full of beautiful garden-fresh air, you’ve taken mindful moments and awoken your senses – now, it’s time to enjoy your food.