Lifestyle

The power of gardening for wellbeing

During lockdown, one of the things that became apparent was how important a green space or garden is for one’s continued wellbeing. 

The current Covid-19 pandemic changed many things for all people over the world.  During lockdown, one of the things that became apparent was how important a green space or garden is for one’s continued wellbeing.  While many will argue that this is absolute nonsense, there is now proof that being in a green space or park does wonders to lower one’s stress levels.  Even just viewing green gardens may help as gardens are special, peaceful spaces with restorative qualities.  Also ‘green exercise’ such as cycling, walking or running in a park can boost the mood.

Scientifically, gardening also comes with several health benefits that improve anxiety and depression.  Simply sitting in a garden is relaxing and proves beneficial to mental health.  According to research, gardening just 2 – 3 times a week can maximise the benefits of wellbeing and actively lower stress levels.  In fact, gardening apparently has the same positive impact on one’s wellbeing than a session of vigorous exercise.  Going to the gym therefore is not the only solution, a workout while gardening sounds like a plan!

For some people gardening is a passion, for others it is simply an outlet.  From a mental health perspective though, you cannot overdose on gardening, so you better start getting your daily dose of “Vitamin G”.  If there ever was a time where we needed to look after our mental health and wellbeing, now is it!  Gardens and gardening prove to be good for mental restoration and to promote a calm mind, and we should be using it everywhere.  

There are actual Horticultural Therapists that design gardening programmes for individuals to improve their health and wellbeing.  These programmes can reduce depression, anxiety, and stress, it can assist with concentration, and all this while using gardening and gardens as the tools.

In many countries the inclusion of green spaces in Urban Design is compulsory, also using green spaces or rooftop gardens for office buildings, encouraging employees to actively partake in gardening in their breaks.  A garden at your workplace might already be reducing your stress, and if you don’t have a garden or green space available in your workplace, you should ask why not! 

A few things you might not have known about gardening:

  • It improves mood and reduces negative thoughts
  • It boosts self-esteem when you can successfully grow a plant
  • It improves attention span as you focus for longer on a single activity that is right in front of you
  • It provides exercise while weeding, digging, or raking and exercise reduces anxiety and depression
  • Working with soil provides a feeling of grounding and has antidepressant properties
  • Researchers found that bacteria found in soil helped activate brain cells that could produce serotonin
  • It has been used as therapy and has enhanced the psychosocial wellbeing of many
  • It lowers cortisol which is the stress hormone
  • It provides satisfaction and overall quality of life

One can also use gardening in another way, by literally sowing seeds, but then figuratively to do the same in your head for yourself.  Positive talk has also been proven to be very powerful!  The idea is to start simple by planting easy plants like succulents, don’t start with something that is wildly difficult to keep alive, you will just set yourself up for possible failure.  Use the space that you have available, not everyone has a garden, but even the smallest of patio’s can be changed into a green haven of pot plants and hanging air plants.  Having plants indoors is also a great idea, especially with the ‘Spekboom’ that has so many positive attributes and that literally cleans the air for you while providing more oxygen.

The best is to just get started!  Big, small, inside, outside, it doesn’t really matter, just start somewhere.  Gardens are not only for us to seek solace in, but it is also a great space to spend time with loved ones with a braai, a picnic or just playing games.

Nature offers us so much and just being in the presence of greater biodiversity makes us feel relaxed, revived and naturally happy!  Natural sounds like birds, running water or the sound of the wind through the trees make us feel relaxed and grounded.  Try to include some flowers in your garden to also support the pollinators and maybe a birdbath to watch the birds splashing around. Nature already has all the answers, we just need to embrace it.

Medwell SA offers a variety of services, to see more visit www.medwell.co.za   

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