A seed is planted, watered, and nurtured; as it grows into a blooming plant, so too can our mental health flourish with the therapeutic power of gardening. The horticultural practice that for so long has been associated with just an enjoyable pastime is now being recognised by health professionals for its profound benefits in managing depression, grief, and overall mental health.
A Natural Antidepressant: Gardening and Depression
Depression, characterised by persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest, affects millions worldwide. Alongside medical treatment, gardening is emerging as a powerful tool to help manage this mental health disorder.
A study in the National Library of Medicine found that regular exposure to nature and green spaces can reduce stress, improve mood, and decrease symptoms of depression. Gardening can provide this regular nature exposure, thus proving a natural antidepressant.
Engaging in gardening activities encourages mindfulness, a state of active focus on the present. This mindfulness can help break the cycle of depressive and anxious thoughts. Dr. Mechelli’s study supports this notion, suggesting that gardening, by facilitating a mindful state, can promote mental well-being and resilience to depression.
Processing Grief Through Gardening
Dealing with the loss of a loved one is an incredibly challenging time. The process of grief can often feel isolating and overwhelming. However, gardening may offer a means to navigate this difficult journey.
A study published in The Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture found that bereaved individuals who participated in regular or daily gardening showed significant improvements in symptoms of grief. The act of caring for a garden can mirror the healing process. As one nourishes plants, they can metaphorically ‘grow’ through their grief, finding solace and acceptance.
The repetitive tasks involved in gardening provide a form of active meditation, allowing for a quiet and gentle space to reflect, remember, and process feelings of grief.
The Overall Mental Health Benefits of Gardening
Gardening offers an array of broader mental health benefits. The physical activity associated with gardening helps release endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which promote feelings of happiness and relaxation.
Moreover, gardening can improve self-esteem and confidence. Witnessing the fruits of one’s labor, literally and metaphorically, can provide a sense of achievement and self-efficacy. In 2021, a study by Dr. Soga and his team from the University of Tokyo reinforced this, showing a strong correlation between gardening and increased self-esteem.
Finally, a recent review by CJ Wood confirmed the positive impact of community gardening on mental health. It reduces feelings of isolation, builds community connections, and fosters a sense of belonging, which is vital for overall mental health and well-being.
The tranquility and therapeutic nature of gardening make it a potent remedy for various mental health conditions. As we plant a seed in the soil, we also plant a seed of hope and resilience in our minds. Let’s recognise and embrace this green therapy, utilising nature’s own remedy to nourish our mental health.
The Bournemouth Observer brings you helpful gardening tips and advice.