The therapeutic benefits of gardening have long been recognised. The notion that gardening can have a positive impact on our well-being has existed since ancient times.
Today there exists a sound evidence base to demonstrate the beneficial effects on both mental and physical health, and a positive relationship between a healthy environment and people with disabilities.
Local gardening projects are flourishing around the country with social farms and allotments helping vulnerable adults, families, communities and people with mental health issues and physical and learning disabilities reconnect with nature, learn new things and promote mental wellbeing, physical health and enable socialising with others.
Every year in August it’s National Allotments Week and there is no better time to get involved in a local gardening project near you.
The ancient benefits of gardening
The idea of gardening as a therapeutic activity is an ancient one. The first recorded use of horticulture as promoting positive benefits for wellbeing dates back to Ancient Egypt. Physicians prescribed walking in palace gardens as therapy for royalty when they had what we would now call poor mental health.
It was perhaps the Victorians though who planted the seed (get it?!) for the widespread promotion of gardening and horticulture which exists today as a means to boost exercise, mobility and socialisation along with promoting mental health and the opportunity to learn new skills.
Indeed, Victorian mental asylums were designed with large grounds in the belief that gardening and farm tasks offered purposeful work in the fresh air which would be good for the soul and alleviate the symptoms of mental illness.
Why gardening is good for your soul
Green spaces, gardens and landscapes have long been designed as a means of retreat from the stresses of everyday life. From the sprawl of Windsor Great Park to the humble allotment in Broughton, outdoor spaces offer the simple pleasure of connecting with nature.
But the benefits of gardening go way beyond the passive enjoyment of time in the outdoors. Research has found that the activity of caring for plants is an effective therapeutic tool which promotes learning of new skills, educational benefits and the rewards associated with achievement and accomplishment.
Horticultural therapy is now well recognised as an effective treatment for stress and depression. Studies on school gardening projects note that gardening promotes self-esteem, personal responsibility and teamworking skills in students. Daytime occupation has been found to be crucial in reducing loneliness, isolation and boredom.
The benefits of ‘green exercise’
There are also huge physical benefits to be had from ‘green exercise’. Use of a garden, allotment or community horticulture project offers a safe and secure space for people to mix socially, make new friends and learn practical skills which can help them become more independent.
Gardening improves physical health through exercise and can aid people with reduced mobility to learn how to use or strengthen their muscles. Active interest and involvement in gardening can be part of a rehabilitation process and alleviate the deterioration associated with degenerative conditions.
Most of all, people simply feel better from being outside in the fresh air, being in touch with nature and from being out and about with others in the great outdoors. So try to find somewhere to breathe the fresh air and bathe in the beautiful sunshine (here’s hoping!). Local to us we have lots of different parks in Preston and your council will usually have a list of green places to visit.