For Mental Health Awareness Week we’re taking a look at how gardening is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. Studies have found that the mental health benefits of gardening are extensive. Not only can regular gardening reduce mental health problems like depression and anxiety, but it can also reduce stress and combat high blood pressure, as well as improving overall physical fitness. Tending to an allotment or volunteering in a garden generates conversation, it also reduces isolation and creates a deep sense of satisfaction and purpose. This is why we’ve joined forces with My Little Allotment to share our stories of how gardening has benefited our mental health…
GARDENER, DODDINGTON HALL
“When I was first diagnosed with depression my husband and I had recently moved to Lincoln from a village and we were finding it hard to adjust, we missed the open fields and abundance of wildlife.
My mother-in-law encouraged me one day to get out into the garden and together we started to make some flower beds, I was then gifted lots of plants from family and I started to create a little garden.
I grew up gardening with my father and I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Being in the fresh air, surrounded by wildlife, working hard in my garden helped me to focus on other things and stopped me over thinking and worrying about my insecurities.
I found my anxiety levels would lower during the summer but increase during the winter months, so I started to sow seeds in January when my depression was at its worst. I found that caring for something and watching it grow gave me something to look forward to, it gave me hope.
Since becoming a full time Gardener, I have noticed that my anxiety is a lot lower and I haven’t had to battle bouts of depression. I am a much more confident person and achieving things I never thought would be possible.”
MY LITTLE ALLOTMENT
“Two years ago after having a traumatic pregnancy and birth I suffered from a breakdown in my mental health. It started with panic attacks, severe anxiety, depressive mood, night terrors, vivid flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, sweating, disturbed sleep and the list just went on. After seeing my doctor, and going for CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) I was told that I was suffering with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It was a complete shock, I had no idea what PTSD was and it took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I was suffering with mental health problems. I decided that along with professional help I wanted to see what I could do to make myself better and this is where My Little Allotment was born. After reading about the benefits gardening could have on mental health I decided an allotment would be a great choice for me. The first day stepping on to my allotment really did change things for the better and I’ve never looked back. Spending time down there, being close to nature, focussing on the task on the plot, getting exercise, eating health foods, breathing in fresh air and finding something that I truly love has completely changed my life. I don’t know where I would be today without my beautiful plot of land and I really do believe that the allotment/gardening will be my forever therapy.”
HEAD GARDENER, DODDINGTON HALL
“My experience is different to both Zoe and Kirsty, thankfully I have never suffered with a mental illness myself but that hasn’t stopped mental illness affecting my life. Most of my family are either suffering with or have suffered from a mental illness of one form or an other.
Someone once asked me, “what is it like for your family members to have a mental illness?”. And my reply was “I have no idea”. I know the signs of when my family members are having a bad time, I know the actions as well, but I never know how it makes them feel inside.
I learnt gardening mostly from my mum. She often told me that gardening and getting an allotment helped her with depression and when she had the allotment you could see the anxiety and stress ease whilst she was there.
I find that gardening helps me process any stress. My youngest son, who is coming up to two years old now was born with spina bifida, our antenatal appointments were every 4 weeks at Queens Medical Centre and when he was born there were a lot of hospital appointments, they have eased off slightly but there are still plenty to go to. Throughout all the hospital appointments, I have been fortunate to work in the gardens at Doddington Hall and gardening has definitely helped me through stressful times. Being able to make a beautiful garden both at work and at home that brings enjoyment and is beneficial to wildlife is very therapeutic. I find it peaceful being able to work in the gardens and connect with nature, having a robin next to me catching the worms as I dig them out or listening to the buzzards above my head. My colleagues and garden volunteers are a very supportive team, we all share a passion for gardening and the potting shed has an amazing atmosphere where nobody judges you.”
Mental health problems can affect anyone, any day of the year, but this is a great time to show your support for better mental health and think about your own wellbeing too. Find out more.