Aside from flower arranging, Gardening is a great way to connect with nature. Whether your are indoors or out, research has shown that gardening and caring for plants is incredibly beneficial, it can reduce stress, make us feel more energised, among other benefits!
During the difficult COVID lockdowns, many of us have found a new sense of appreciation for our gardens and local green spaces. For me, the garden was (and still is) a place of calm, joy and escapism. Nothing connects me more to my surroundings than gardening. There is a calm in gardening which cannot be found anywhere else; the perfect match with mindfulness. Nature and the outdoors is not a luxury, it is a resource that can be admired and enjoyed by everyone. Approximately 90% of British households do have access to some kind of garden. For those who do not have any outdoor space, there are opportunities at allotments or community garden scheme across the country, as well as indoor gardening growing house plants and herbs. With a modicum effort and a decent trowel, we can all find our little slice of Zen.
Benefits of Gardening
‘Gardening’ is defined as the activity of working in a garden, growing and taking care of plants, and keeping the garden attractive. It is an extremely popular pastime.
Previous studies have investigated what motivates people to garden in a residential setting. These include seeking intellectual challenge, the opportunity for self-expression, aesthetics, an escape from negative stimuli, a place for leisure, an opportunity to be creative, a chance to foster skill development and facilitate social relationships (link; link; link). Some gardeners acknowledge advantages to physical fitness (link), and others (link; link) cite therapeutic aspects and health/nutrition as promoting factors.
Other studies have shown that although health benefits are an important component of gardening, health per se is not the main motivating factor for gardening, and that joy, pleasure and aesthetics are greater drivers to engage with this pastime (link).
The RHS Science Team has over the last five years, in collaboration with universities in the UK and USA, been collating current scientific evidence on gardening and health, and is undertaking new scientific research. RHS Hilltop – The Home of Gardening Science have four gardens (three of which are new), all introducing a different aspect of green spaces and wellbeing, are to become an integral part of our flagship garden. They are as such living laboratories to aid research on how gardening, connecting with nature can impact our mental wellbeing, physical health, among other things.
- Wellbeing Garden – Designed by Matt Keightley, The Wellbeing Garden will be a series of ‘garden rooms’, enticing visitors to explore the many ways gardens, plants and garden design affect emotional wellbeing.
- The World Food Garden – Ann-Marie Powell has designed a contemporary ‘plot to plate’ experience, inspired by world food, using new innovations to invigorate and educate.
- Wildlife Garden – Ann-Marie’s Wildlife Garden will demonstrate the association of nature and gardens, and the importance of including a range of plant diversity to support common British wildlife, especially declining species.
- Back to Nature Children’s Garden – Co-designed by Duchess of Cambridge, the garden aims to enable children to develop skills for life through free play, building confidence, strength, creativity and resilience.
Another interesting research study by RHS found that a greener front garden can make you feel happier, more relaxed and closer to nature. The four-year scientific research collaboration was between the RHS and the universities of Sheffield, Westminster and Virginia. They examined the effect on participating households of adding ornamental plants to previously bare front gardens in economically deprived streets in Greater Manchester.
Dr Ross Cameron from the University of Sheffield said “This is an instrumental piece of research in that it ties in the very positive emotions people have with plants and gardens, with physiological health measures. It strengthens the evidence that gardening and ready access to green space are vital components in relieving stress and promoting positive mental health in our urban communities.”
“Since I started this research, it’s been fascinating to see how adding plants to front gardens had a transformative effect on residents’ lives. Those suffering from loneliness and other mental health issues found it especially uplifting and motivational”
Interestingly, authors Professor Alistair Griffiths & Matthew Keightley have written a book ‘Your WellBeing Garden‘. The book covers the act of gardening, along with plants and designs that aid your mental health. It explains why green spaces are good for you and shows how to use that knowledge to optimise your outdoor space. Click here to find online.
- Thrive helps the isolated, disadvantaged, and disabled through gardening.
- Social Farms & Gardens helps communities establish farms and gardens.
- The Green Care Coalition promotes high-quality and cost-effective green care services. Its vision is that green care becomes widely recognised as an effective option in health and social care.
- Horatio’s Garden creates and cares for accessible gardens in NHS spinal injury centres.
- The National Garden Scheme raises money to support nursing and health charities.
For more information on Mental Health Awareness Week and the Mental Health Foundation, click here.
To help raise awareness for Mental Health, this May we are selling WellBeing Flower Boxes. For every box sold £1 will be donated to the Mental Health Foundation. Click here to buy.