How gardening can grow a healthy mind
There are many different ways to support our mental health, so it’s important to explore what works for ourselves. To mark Mind’s Garden at the Chelsea Flower Show, Sarah Manton-Roseblade, GreenCare manager at Suffolk Mind, explains why having green fingers could help grow a healthy mind.
All gardeners will agree there are many benefits to getting your hands dirty in the garden or an allotment. It could be the accomplishment of seeing something flourish because of your hard work. Or it could be as simple as being outside and enjoying the fresh air. Gardening as part of community is a brilliant way to reduce feelings of loneliness too.
Many of us have become somewhat amateur gardeners during the pandemic as we spent more time at home – and subsequently noticed more weeds! It undoubtedly would have made us feel good, like we had achieved something, during difficult lockdowns. So, it’s something we should consider continuing for the physical and mental benefits.
To ensure we remain mentally healthy, we should try to meet our 12 physical and emotional needs. In fact, gardening can be an incredibly useful activity to meet some of them:
- Achievement – gardening is a great way to experience a sense of achievement. Whether it’s our own property or as part of a community allotment, being part of its growth is a brilliant accomplishment.
- Community – gardening doesn’t have to be done by ourselves. There are many gardening groups across the county, including our GreenCare project. They will help you connect with others and help reduce feelings of loneliness.
- Movement – from digging to planting seeds, gardening involves plenty of movement. But the great thing is, it can be done at our own pace. So, we can enjoy the benefits of physical activity in a relaxed way.
- Control – there are some things in life we cannot control, so it’s important to recognise what we can. While some things may not grow as we would hope, we can control what we do and don’t plant.
- Privacy – for those of us living in a busy household or with a full-on job, we may be missing out on valuable alone time. Gardening provides the perfect opportunity for periods of privacy, even if it’s a simple as watering the plants.
- Meaning and purpose – looking after a garden or allotment helps us meet our needs for meaning and purpose. Especially when part of a community allotment, working together to support growth helps meet this need.
Now is a great time to begin gardening, whether you’re new to the hobby or are returning to it. May is the beginning of sunflower season, so you can plant seeds directly in the ground. However, if you don’t have a garden or access to an allotment, you can make use of your windowsills. Things like salad leaves, pea shoots and herbs grow well by the window – and better yet, you can enhance your dinners with them once they’ve grown! So, you can use gardening to support your physical need for food, while enjoying the achievement of growing your own food.
Gardening is great way to improve your wellbeing and we recognise that at Suffolk Mind. Our GreenCare project includes allotments in Haverhill, Bury St Edmunds and Ipswich. They offer people the opportunity to learn about gardening and contribute to a thriving growing space as part of a group.
Our GreenCare service is ideal for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and other common mental health problems. It can also support people in recovery, those who want to build emotional resilience and those who want to prevent the onset of mental ill-health. To find out more, please visit our GreenCare page.
Author: Ellie Winch