Gardening therapy may be the answer to the stress and anxiety millions of us are experiencing as a result of the Covid-19 breakdown. Self-isolation is not easy even for those of us who are normally anxiety free, but it is particularly unforgiving on those who already suffer from poor mental health. The remedy? Spend more time in your garden – or if you don't have one, take on some indoor gardening projects, such as planting seeds or planting out window boxes.
Does gardening therapy work?
Reputable research is beginning to back up the claims that gardening can be used as a therapeutic remedy for a range of mental health problems, from anxiety to depression. In fact, a study (opens in new tab) published in the journal Health and Social Care in the Community has revealed the overwhelmingly positive results recorded when a group of people who had accessed mental health health services took part in an experiment that saw them attend a gardening project in South East England.
Obviously right now we're not able to garden communally, but there's plenty of evidence that even gardening on your own is tremendously beneficial to our mental health. Some GPs have begun prescribing gardening to alleviate stress, while hospital gardens have long been known to support the recovery of patients.
RHS director-general Sue Biggs comments on the therapeutic potential of gardens, 'Gardeners have known about mindfulness for generations and, with increased pressures through things like social media, now more than ever we need to get outside, moving and loving nature to calm us, get exercise and be kind to ourselves.'
Gardening therapy for children: use in combination with home schooling
Gardening, it also has been found, is great for children: it makes children more confident and helps them develop leadership skills. This is because taking responsibility for growing a plant and seeing the results makes a child feel competent and capable. Dr Wendy Matthews, a consultant for Mindprint Learning, explains that gardening does wonders for a child's confidence 'as they engage in a real life activity that they might have previously seen as only for adults'.
Moreover, gardening can positively affect your child's academic performance, making them more likely to engage with STEM subjects. As well as being relaxing and fun, gardening is actually a highly logical activity that requires understanding cause and effect, for instance what happens when you give a plant too much water. It's a real-life activity that encourages thinking ahead and solving problems, and children who do gardening have been found to be better at maths.
Finally, gardening from an early age will make your child physically stronger (it's an excellent workout for the upper body) and will instill healthy eating habits. Children who understand how food grows are more likely to snack on fruit and vegetables, according to a recent study (opens in new tab).
Gardening therapy: where to get started
What better way to increase the time you spend in your garden than to transform it into an outdoor living space? Be inspired by our outdoor living space design ideas gallery to create your own wellbeing garden. And if it's growing your own that brings you the most pleasure, find out how to plan a kitchen garden.
Tiny garden or just a balcony or window sill? You can still take advantage of the therapeutic properties of gardening by starting a container garden. Use our guide to container gardening for small spaces to help you.
- Find more tips on how to deal with anxiety in our guide