Gardening to Help Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Whether it’s financial worries as a result of the cost of living crisis and rising energy prices, concern at the state of the environment and the effects of climate change, or the fears raised by the Russian invasion of Ukraine and war in Europe, it’s hardly surprising that more and more people are struggling with stress and anxiety.
In May 2022, the Office for National Statistics released the results of a study that showed that one in five adults in the UK suffered some form of depression during the coronavirus pandemic – twice the rate that existed beforehand. Worryingly, that trend continued into 2021.
Meanwhile, according to Mental Health UK, more than 10% of those in the UK – that’s over 8 million people – are living with some kind of anxiety disorder at any one time.
With professional help either difficult or too expensive to access for many people, finding our own way to cope can often be the only solution – and lots of us are finding that spending quality time in the garden can work wonders for our mental health.
The evidence and the science
- “I find simply walking around in nature provides lots of distractions to take my mind off of worries” – Jack Wallington, Garden Designer
There have always been those who swear by the benefits of gardening to help them relax, but now there’s also empirical data and hard science that supports the theory.
Research, conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society working with the University of Sheffield and the University of Virginia, has shown that those who garden every day have higher wellbeing scores and lower stress levels than those who don’t garden at all.
Co-author Dr Ross Cameron of the University of Sheffield said: “This research provides further empirical data to support the value of gardening and gardens for mental restoration and promoting a calmness of mind…We also found a greater proportion of plants in the garden was linked with greater wellbeing, suggesting even just viewing ‘green’ gardens may help.”
That observation is supported by writer and mental health advocate Emma Mitchell in her book The Wild Remedy, in which she describes how even just being out in nature – whether that’s in the garden or walking in a forest – can lower the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in our bodies while also releasing serotonin (the feel-good chemical). In other words, just being in green spaces has a physical effect on our bodies that leaves us feeling better able to cope with anxiety, stress and depression.
Meanwhile, a 2016 study at Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, entitled Landscaping in Lockup: The Effects of Gardening, found that engaging in gardening had numerous positive effects on prisoners in three key ways: an increase in self-efficacy and self-worth, a decrease in anxiety and depression spectrum symptoms and even a reduction in recidivism rates.
It seems, then, that there is now plenty of data backing up the idea that gardening is good for our mental, as well as our physical, health. But why would that be the case?
Why does gardening reduce stress and anxiety?
“I always see gardening as escape, as peace really. If you are angry or troubled, nothing provides the same solace as nurturing the soil.” – Monty Don
Apart from the lower cortisol and higher serotonin levels described above, gardening can also have the following benefits for our minds and bodies:
- Improving our mood: concentrating on an activity like gardening can distract us from our worries.
- Providing exercise: much of what we do in the garden involves exercise, even if some of it may seem like it is only gentle – nevertheless, it will still be helping to reduce depression, anxiety and even help prevent dementia.
- Boosting our self-esteem: accomplishing things in the garden, whether it’s producing a colourful spring display or growing our own vegetables, helps us to feel positively about ourselves.
- Giving us a sense of purpose: most gardening has an aim – whether it’s to produce beautiful flowers, grow veg, clear debris or restore order out of chaos – that can counter negative feelings.
“Life begins the day you start a garden” – Chinese proverb
If you’re considering starting a gardening or landscaping project, Neil Sullivan & Sons has a wide range of tools and products to help you on your way, from high-quality topsoil and turf to decorative aggregates and railway sleepers.