Therapy via Gardening

Written on 27 Feb 2012

Ask any gardener why they enjoy gardening and time again they will say that it makes them feel good. The health benefits of being outdoors, breathing in fresh air and doing physical work can make a real contribution to emotional well-being.

Many of us garden just for the sheer joy of it. But did you know that all over the country the healing aspects of gardening are being used as therapy? It’s a simple, cost-effective means of improving well-being.

Gardening can help people through a specific period of difficulty in their lives by making a connection with nature and improving their self-esteem and confidence. If you’re feeling anxious or depressed it may be difficult to find the motivation to start so maybe gardening with someone else would work better for you. Try and set small goals to start with. For example try starting in just one small corner of the garden rather than tackling the whole lot.

If you don’t have a garden of your own houseplants are an easy way to begin. For example a chilli plant will do well on a sunny windowsill and although you won’t get the exercise you would working outside in the garden, you will get the pleasure of seeing something that you’ve planted grow.

Enthusiastic gardeners agree that there are two key benefits. The first involves cognitive benefits of enhanced mood and improved concentration and the second is the focus on skills and aspirations.

In this sense the growth of a seedling can be used as a metaphor for a person’s own development. The very action of planting a seed in the soil requires hope and by encouraging and maybe introducing a sense of hope, a personal journey may begin.

Groups recovering from major illness or injury, those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental health problems, older people, offenders and those who misuse drugs or alcohol, can all benefit from the therapeutic aspects of gardening presented through specific therapy-related programmes.

Being outdoors creates feelings of appreciation, tranquility, spirituality and peace. So it would seem, that just being in a garden setting is in itself restorative. Active gardening only heightens those feelings.

These are quotes from people who now regularly take part in gardening activities:
...working in my garden gave me a sense of calm that I hadn’t felt before. It helped me to open up and talk about my feelings, difficulties, and hopes of getting better
....the vicious circle of anxiety and negative thoughts disappears when I’ve been in the garden.

So go on, try gardening for both your physical and mental health.

If you've been affected by the topic that I've covered in this blog post, and would like to discuss your feelings, you can leave a public comment below. Alternatively, if you'd like to communicate with me on a one-to-one basis about any issues you'd like to discuss further, you can either email me or call me on 07946 517967.


Denise's picture
Denise 03 Jun 2012

Having read this blog post a number of weeks ago, I decided to commandeer (and without speaking to my husband, I hasten to add) a part of my flower beds for the purpose of planting some new seeds. Just like you mention, it was a very therapeutic and fulfilling experience. I'd certainly recommend it to anyone - even if you can only spare a flowerpot :)

alison 05 Jun 2012

Thanks for writing in, Denise. I was actually out gardening the weekend before I wrote this, which prompted to write this piece. I'm pleased you enjoyed the experience so much :)

Helena's picture
Helena 03 Oct 2012

I thought I'd give gardening therapy a go after being diagnosed with a mild form of depression by my doctor - who indicated it can help with mental health problems like mine. Having only a small garden, I invested in some small plants and over time I noticed the positive effects this type of therapy offered. Give it a go!