Teens suffering exam stress? Gardening therapy will boost their wellbeing

It's exam (stress) season, so if your teen is feeling the pressure, get them away from their books and screens and lure them into the garden. Gardening therapy really is the best medicine

Greenhouse gardening tomatoes
(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Exams season has arrived, and with it exam stress, felt not just by students, but their parents, too. If you're looking for an easy, uncomplicated way to relieve that stress and boost feelings of wellbeing for the whole family, the best solution is a couple of hours pottering in the garden.

Now, we're experienced enough with kids to know that not all of them will be easy to lure outside for a bit of raking, lawn mowing or cutting back (although bribes and trickery aren't against the law), but if you can get your teen outside labouring, if only briefly, they'll have a workout for the body and mind that can be beneficial beyond expectations. 

Gardening is proven not only to be good for the body, but the mind, too. It can even encourage kids to eat more healthily. Here, we look at just some of the benefits of gardening therapy.

container garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp Photography)

1. Gardening is a proven stress reliever

In a study conducted in the Netherlands, two groups of students were told to either read indoors or garden for 30 minutes after completing a stressful task. The group that took to the garden exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, than those who stayed in side. 

2. Gardening keeps the brain active, but calm

Repetitive actions such as weeding or planting can have a calming effect on the mind as it allows the brain to be active, without causing strain. Researchers have also found that gardening can decrease the risk of future dementia by 36 per cent for those over 60 (another good reason to get the whole family involved).

3. Gardening releases negative emotions

Bad day exam? Get them to grab a shovel and get digging. Or better yet, pick up the garden shears and take it out on those brambles hiding in the hedge. Transferring pent-up emotions to gardening can turn negative feelings into something positive plus having a good cut back only encourages renewal and growth, so let them hack away!

4. Gardening is good exercise 

Too much time spent at a desk makes kids lethargic and after a while even those most committed to revision will find that they're not retaining facts. So, taking regular breaks makes good sense. But staring at a screen isn't the kind of break that's really going to benefit them. Instead, half an hour's garden will help them work up a sweat, boost their dopamine levels, lower cortisone levels and get their brains ready for renewed action. It turns out that something as easy as mowing the lawn or trimming your hedges can burn up to 200 calories. Brb while we cancel our gym membership, too.

5. Gardening increases their immunity 

Kids spend so much time indoors, especially in the run up to and during exam time, and that can contribute to them feeling low both mentally and physically. Spending more time outside in the sun (we hope) increases their Vitamin D intake and in short, Vitamin D can help your body to absorb calcium, which keeps your bones strong and your immune system healthy.

Plants planted in a wheelbarrow

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

Maintaining a garden and keeping plants alive is a responsibility and there is definitely something very satisfying about nurturing a garden and seeing it thrive. This kind of satisfaction can be really beneficial to their mental health and just give them a little boost.

7. Gardening can make them you eat more healthily

If you have the space in your garden to plant fruits and vegetables, get them to do so. If you have a small garden or even just a window box, make room for a few herbs. Growing your own organic fruit and veg is only going to make them want to eat more healthily, plus it's way better for the environment – and that should please them, too.

organic vegetable garden

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)