Ecotherapy: Why Gardening May Be The Latest Treatment For Anxiety And Depression

Time and time again research has revealed that gardening and spending time within nature has a positive effect on our mental health and overall wellbeing. The magic combination of fresh air, getting moving and being surrounded by a natural environment is thought to make gardening one of the most effective, achievable and free activities to stimulate the mind and the oh-so-important ‘happy hormones’.

You may be familiar with the uplifting feeling induced by getting outdoors, getting tactile with soil, planting seeds to bloom, or watching the seasons change before your eyes – but now the NHS is taking note also. Recognising that Ecotherapy can be utilised to improve and manage mental health conditions. So what exactly makes horticulture so healing?

Gardening connects us to living things
Tending to a garden, or even house plants, can act as a gentle reminder that we as individuals are not the centre of the universe but part of a greater picture. Self-absorption can contribute to anxiety and depression, therefore directing our focus to other living entities – no matter how small – can promote a less insular frame of mind.

Creates a sense of responsibility and ownership
Being ‘in charge of’ or responsible for plants or a garden boosts a sense of control and ownership. In a world where respect can be lacking in other areas, learning to care for a living thing boosts an appreciation of the vulnerability of nature.

Gardening creates nurturers out of us all
No matter who you are or whether you own a plant, a patio or an acre – gardening is a great equaliser. Nature has no judgement, it simply requires nurture. An extremely rewarding activity and pastime, taking care of plants can work wonders in boosting self-esteem and self-worth.

In an interview with The Guardian, Aimee Gee from the mental health charity Mind explains: “Research shows that outdoor exercise or ‘Ecotherapy’, such as gardening, has huge benefits for wellbeing and can even be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety. This is thought to be due to a combination of doing more physical activity, which is known to have many physical and mental health benefits and being surrounded by nature, which can boost your overall mood and sense of wellbeing.” The colours, sounds and smells of a garden, she says, “boost our wellbeing, while nurturing a garden or allotment provides the satisfaction of completing tasks and a stronger connection with the natural environment, both of which are associated with improved self-esteem and decreased levels of anger”.



Eve Brannon

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