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Why garden?

Exploring new research into the wellbeing benefits of gardening.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” – May Sarton 

We gardeners know how amazing gardening is for us and how good it makes us feel. Our body gets a workout, our heart pumps a little faster and our head clears. We breathe fresh air into our lungs, feel the sun on our backs and we engage with the little world we are creating. We allow ourselves to focus and be in the moment – all our worries are put on hold. Gardening links us to the earth, stirring a feeling within that connects us to something so much bigger than ourselves. 

Studies have given plenty of attention to the physical, social and emotional benefits of parks, street trees and community gardens, and it is well known that greening our cities is essential to the wellbeing of current and future generations. 

The use of our domestic gardens (our own gardens) for therapeutic value has been somewhat overlooked until now. New research is showing domestic gardens provide many opportunities for psychological and physical health rewards.

Gardening for the generations

The benefits of gardening carry over to all age groups, from young children, where it has been shown to reduce social, emotional and behavioural difficulties, to older people, where it helps mentally and physically, decreasing feelings of depression and has the capacity to support stress regulation. In all ages, getting out into the garden produces positive effects, helps create healthy habits, and is especially beneficial to people with existing health issues. 

Gardening was shown to provide positive emotions, encourage relaxation, calm, gratitude and joy, and provide an opportunity for self-reflection. 

The motivation for most people to get out gardening is for pleasure rather than for the health and wellbeing improvements. People are drawn into their garden for the joy and sensory pleasure it brings – health rewards come as an unexpected bonus.

Time in the garden

The studies show that the frequency of time spent gardening has a direct correlation to the health benefits gained. Improvements to health increased with the amount of time gardening, with two to three days a week optimal in providing the greatest results to health and wellbeing.

Types of gardens

According to the study, the style of the garden plays a role in perceived health benefits. 

More informal and naturalistic gardens provided stronger restorative potential than more formal gardens. It was suggested that gardening in formal settings and trying to reach unachievable perfection could actually be detrimental to stress levels. 

As the amount of green space increased in the garden, so did the amount of fulfilment and contentment. Growing vegetables and other edibles resulted in higher wellbeing scores than ornamentals.

Slower pace

There is a gentleness to gardening and it helps to slow us down and bring us back to the moment. When gardening, we are creating something alluring and a place of repose for ourselves and others, which brings about feelings of accomplishment, pride and appreciation. The plants communicate with us in a language of the senses – sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. We tend them and they reward us with beauty, produce and life. The garden becomes our companion.

Looking ahead

Perhaps we can start to investigate the effect that domestic gardening has on communities. Gardening can bring people together; allowing us to share knowledge, ideas and produce, and inspiring us to play a role in beautifying our surroundings. 

Having demonstrated that domestic gardens have a beneficial effect on physical, emotional and mental health in individuals, we could broaden our investigations to examine the effects gardening has on families and the wider community. It is also a topic for the urban planning debate, where gardens seem to be getting smaller. Obviously, the need is for more space, not less, so that we can all enjoy the gains that gardening brings. 

Now we know that gardening can aid physical, mental and emotional healing in a myriad of ways, we have even more reason to get out into our gardens. We can garden guilt free as we create our own little wilderness and know that we are getting stronger and healthier mentally, physically and emotionally.

Garden sign image by Mike Erskine on UnSplash. 

 

Source: Why garden? – Attitudes and the perceived health benefits of home gardening. 
www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0264275121000160

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