Gardening therapy: 2019's hottest wellbeing trend

Gardening therapy: research supports it, public figures endorse it, and even GPs now prescribe it, so take up gardening now and feel better

Gardening therapy is good for wellbeing: natural swimming pool by Jo Thompson for the RHS flower show
(Image credit: Jo Thompson)

Gardening therapy is the latest wellbeing fad. Actually, let's not call it a fad, because everyone knows that gardening might be hard work, but it can also be fun and makes us feel good. And, according to experts, there is much, much more to the link between gardening and how it can make us feel: it's said to actively help alleviate stress and low moods, and perhaps even relieve depression, too. 

Hocus pocus? 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 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. 

Participants reported feeling 'empowered' by the flexible nature of gardening, as well as by the social element of gardening with other people. Another study, published by Harvard University, found that women who have access to green spaces lived healthier lives, with lower rates of physical and mental illness.

Most intriguingly, gardening therapy is now being prescribed by some doctors. GPs in London, for example, have recently teamed up with the Lambeth GP Food Co-operative to prescribe patients suffering from mental health problems gardening time. Patients at several health practices in the area are offered opportunities to garden and grow their own food.  

This reputation of gardening as therapy has reached the event where gardening trends are born: the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. This year, the Duchess of Cambridge will be co-designing a 'wellbeing garden' as part of the show. The RHS already has a history of designing a wellbeing garden – last year, it teamed up with the NHS and designed the Feel Good Garden, which celebrated the healing powers of nature, and was later donated to the Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust. 

And, it's well known that gardens attached to children's wards or within children's hospitals have a major impact on not just the children's recovery, but on the well-being of their much-stressed parents, too. Plus, these gardens are cited as therapeutic for the wards' staff, too, who face challenging daily routines.

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.' 

What better time 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.