Ask any gardener why they garden and they will often say that “it makes them feel good”. The therapeutic value and feeling of wellbeing that people get from gardening, growing food and the outdoor environment, has a strong and positive impact on our physical and mental wellbeing. Gardening can help people through difficult periods in their lives. It can help people restore balance when it feels like their life is veering out of control. Gardening can help us feel happier, more confident and healthier.
Gardening can be great physical exercise – which in turn helps boost our mood by releasing endorphins – our body’s own natural feel-good hormone. When you garden you can work at your own pace, doing as much or as little as you like. Regular gardening can help bring a new structure to your life. Gardening can also provide a great opportunity to meet new people if you want to – for example by joining a community gardening club or getting an allotment. Tending plants can literally give people a reason to get out of bed in the morning and the satisfaction of knowing that you made it happen. If you are finding everyday life hard to cope with, gardening outside could even help you take a first step out of the house.
Getting started If you are feeling low finding the motivation to start something new can be difficult. Gardening with someone else – maybe at a set time and place – might help. You could also try to set yourself small goals. For example, if tackling an already overgrown garden is too much, could you start in just one area of the garden.
If you don't have a garden indoor plants can be an inexpensive and easy way to experiment with growing things. Try local plant sales and car boot sales or ask a friend or neighbour for a cutting. Most health food shops and garden centres sell seeds and beans for sprouting – try growing your own beansprouts, which will be ready for eating in a week. Or try radish or cress which are quick growing and can give a real boost. Herbs thrive on a sunny windowsill – or plant the white root end of spring onions in a pot or your garden and watch them grow 2 feet high with white flowers on top. Youtube has lots of gardening videos to answer any questions you might have.
Of course you won’t get the exercise of more strenuous gardening but you’ll still benefit from the pleasure of seeing something that you have nurtured grow – and you can garden inside if the weather is bad or you just don’t feel up to venturing out.
One of the great things about gardening is that it appeals to a wide range of people – young and old and can be done in urban and rural areas. Gardening can help you connect with others as people share gardening tips. Being outdoors in nature, being grounded in the here-and-now as you work away, is restorative and calming. With gardening you are constantly learning and this can can be stimulating and build peoples confidence.
If you have any health issues or have been inactive for some time, consult your GP before making significant changes to your lifestyle such as gardening, to be sure you are fit to do so.