National Gardening Week and Mental Health
After a year in lockdown, many of us have come to rely on our gardens and green spaces for more than just physical well-being. They have helped us to reconnect with nature and helped us with our mental health well-being.
It’s the UK’s biggest annual celebration of gardening, and this year it is from Monday 26 April to Sunday, 2 May 2021.
Green spaces, gardens, and gardening can help make us feel better both physically and mentally. Sometimes just getting out and walking in nature can change how we think.
The Royal Horticultural Society commissioned a OnePoll Survey in 2020 that more than half of adults who took part enjoy being surrounded by greenery. A further 53% said it boosts their mood.
In response to the survey, gardening expert Monty Don said: “We garden to nurture our little corner of nature but just as importantly, to nourish our souls. More and more people are tapping into gardening’s healing power. Plant a seed that becomes a beautiful flower, and your life is immeasurably enriched. Simply sit in a garden and listen to the birds, and the world is set in a perspective that is empowering. Gardens are fun and beautiful and rewarding – but much more than that, gardens are desperately important, and we need them now more than ever for our physical and mental well-being.”
Even houseplants proved to have a touch of healing magic, with 34% of owners saying that they value them more now than before lockdown.
Gardening and enjoying nature have excellent benefits.
Getting out in the sun means you are absorbing Vitamin D from sunlight. – Vitamin D is responsible for regulating the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. These nutrients keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy.
How much vitamin D do I need?
- Babies up to the age of 1 year need 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.
- Children from the age of 1 year and adults need 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day. This includes pregnant and breastfeeding women and people at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- From about late March/early April to the end of September, the majority of people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight on their skin.
To find out more about the benefits check out the NHS Vitamin D page here.
Don’t forget to apply sun cream!
Enjoying some fresh air and exercise. Whether you are planting, mowing the lawn or walking, all of these exercises are good for you in moderation. Moving around and getting out of the house can help improve your mood, help you sleep and increase your sense of well-being.
If you’re gardening, it can help to increase or retain hand strength as you plant, prune and weed your garden. It can also help to maintain your muscle strength. This is especially important in people older people. It is vital to build up to this slowly if you have not been active recently.
Scents can unlock powerful memories, reduce stress, improve our moods, and lower blood pressure. Going for a walk in a herb or sensory garden when you’re feeling down can really lift your spirits. Why is this? Because plants like sacred basil, lavender and rosemary have therapeutic qualities. Plants with powerful scents can help people with dementia connect with memories of people, places and childhood. They can be an important part of reminiscence work.
Scared basil: It has strong medicinal properties and is used to boost the immune system.
Lavender: Lavender has a long history of medicinal use and is suggested to possess anticonvulsant, antidepressant, anxiolytic, sedative, and calming properties.
Rosemary: Being the herb of Remembrance, it’s used to strengthen memory and lift one’s spirit.
To find out more, check out Soil to Suppers 7 Stunning Sensory Plants here.
Mental Health and coming out of lockdown.
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, many are people look forward to going out, seeing friends and family and getting back to normal. But for many, lifting restrictions and returning to ‘normal’ may cause anxiety or stress and affect their mental well-being.
This is perfectly normal; some people are more cautious than others. How you transition back to the ‘new normal’ is entirely up to you. Sometimes small adjustments are easier to adapt to than sudden large changes.
Go at your own pace
It can be helpful to remember that it’s up to you what your transition from lockdown looks like. Sometimes small adjustments can be easier to adapt to than large, sudden changes. You can add activities and habits back into your routine at a pace that feels comfortable for you. One of the advantages of gardening or enjoying green spaces is that you can do it with others. Just one or two to start with and then you can invite more as your confidence grows. Here are a couple of ideas of things to do with friends or family:
Putting together a pile of logs, twigs and leaves in your garden will attract all sorts of wildlife and minibeasts. They are easy to build and will attract birds, hedgehogs, and other creatures to your garden too!
Check out the Wildlife Trusts, How to make a log shelter here.
A different kind of garden
You can grow pretty much anything you like in any kind of container if you look after your plants. One cheap, easy and unusual planter is guttering! Gutters are made to be weatherproof, hard-wearing, and really cheap. They work well in any kind of garden or somewhere with minimal space. They have the added advantage of being great for accessibility too.
One of the best things about a gutter garden is that you can grow almost anything you like fruit, veg and flowers, albeit on a small scale. You can attach them to a steady outside wall, strong fence or even to raised beds/planters.
They are perfect for small flowers, cacti, strawberries, salads and herbs, and you can paint them if you want to make them even more beautiful.
For more gutter garden ideas, check out the Garden DIY ideas.com article here.
Invite a friend or a small group of friends around for lunch in the garden. Ask them all to bring a cutting from their garden or a plant they love to share with you. You can then plant them after lunch, and they can tell you all about the plant and how to care for it. Let people know that you are anxious about the lifting of the restrictions; don’t just keep saying no to invitations. People understand and want to include you.
If you have a friend who keeps refusing invitations, offer a social distance walk or ask if you can pop round for a cuppa in the garden. It may be that they are worried about being around too many people. Perhaps they are concerned that things are opening up too quickly. You can chat through their worries and talk to them about their well-being.
There are so many benefits to being in the garden or visiting green spaces, but exercise and well-being are the two most prominent. Many research studies, including the King’s Fund, Tokyo and Exeter University, found that people benefitted from a significant reduction in depression and anxiety and improved social functioning. They also found that gardening can prevent cognitive decline and help to maintain independence.
Researchers also found that the mental health of urban dwellers was improved when they lived near green spaces. They tracked 1,000 residents using high-resolution mapping to track where the subjects had lived for over 18 years. And found that those who lived near half a mile of green space had a lower incidence of illnesses, including depression, anxiety, and heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines.
To read all about how gardening has helped people across the UK from private plots to hospital gardens, churches, allotments, and prisons check out the RHS’s real-life stories here.
For more help
Possibly the most common emotional reactions to the lifting of restrictions are trepidation, anxiety, and hope. It is essential that we acknowledge that these feelings are reasonable and try to support and encourage each other to overcome these fears.
For more help with how to manage feelings of anxiety as lockdown eases, please check out Rethink’s article here.
Mind’s page Managing your feeling about lockdown here.
Mental Health.org page Looking after your mental health as we come out of lockdown here.