World Mental Health Day is on 10 October, with Mental Health Week also occurring in Victoria for the duration of this week.
Any gardener will attribute that their mental health is boosted considerably after a good session in the garden. Even just a walk around can do wonders; remember it doesn’t always have to be about working, just immersing and absorbing nature’s glory can boost your mental, spiritual and physical health.
But let’s take a good look at why this is happening.
There’s the Captain Obvious facts such as fresh air, adrenaline pumping through your body, being in the great outdoors, and so on.
But physically, it leads to better lung capacity, more defined muscles, improved hand strength, stretching of the back, lengthening of the limbs, lowering blood pressure, pumping more oxygen into the lungs and blood, strengthening bones and joints, weight loss from all that activity, better blood circulation, and countless other physically constructive attributes.
Emotionally gardens create a space to escape from people, gadgets, screens etc. and permit us to be wholly ensconced with the natural world. It allows us to let go – leaving behind any worries, deadlines and stress. To be present in the now. Conversely some people, especially those socially isolated, benefit very much by spending time gardening at community gardens and other green spaces for the social contact. Oftentimes, I find that gardening is actually a great place to work through my worries – a relaxed state and regular breathing improves our wellbeing enabling a calmer environment for your brain to logically work through issues without interruptions.
Scientists have proven it definitely reduces anxiety, depression and other debilitating mental health issues, and tests conducted in hospitals have deduced that patients heal quicker with plants near them. They have also determined that the microbes in soil make us happier, due to an increase in our endorphins upon touching it.
Tending to plants equally provides a creative outlet. When I walk into a garden, being an Earth sign, I instantly feel grounded. There is also that amazing feeling of being responsible for a plant’s health which removes any self-centred thoughts. Gardening brings a wonderfully positive reaction knowing that gardening gives one a sense of purpose and worth. The other amazing thing about gardens is that plants don’t judge, so anyone with anxiety and paranoia can be assured that when in a green oasis they can let go of any fear.
It is a sensory picnic in the garden where taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight all work overtime taking in all that wonder.
Often you will enter into a meditative state without even being conscious of it. Especially when doing repetitive gardening tasks such as seed planting, pruning, digging and weeding.
And I haven’t even started with the end product – the food generated from the patch, and how much healthy produce from our gardens dramatically improves your wellbeing. But that’s for another day.