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Why gardening is so good for us?

As you may be aware, green spaces are often a big part of our retreats and we try to go outside as much as possible. Our connection with nature is deeply therapeutic, and we always aim to incorporate nature in creative ways, from crafts to meditations beneath beautiful trees, but did you know that gardening is equally good for you?

When Sarah is not running retreats you can often find her in the garden growing her own fruit and vegetables, or working in the garden at a local charity running Nature for Wellbeing groups and this blog is all about the benefits of gardening for everyone.

How can gardening have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing?

Gardening, and our connection with nature more widely, can have a huge positive impact on our health and wellbeing as human beings. It can connect us deeply to the seasons and to our environment and most importantly reminds us that we too are a part of the natural world. The best thing is that you don’t need a big garden, or anything expensive to feel the benefits of gardening, they are free and accessible to all of us.

Gardening supports us is many ways, and these are just a few:

The soil contains antidepressants:

Healthy soil contains natural antidepressants. It’s hard to believe that making mud pies as a kid was good for you, I know, but researchers at Bristol university discovered that friendly bacteria in the soil activated the brain cells that produce serotonin, this helps to regulate mood and is a key factor in good mental health.

Green is therapeutic:

The colour green is deeply therapeutic and healing for us humans. Research shows that looking out of windows at green spaces, having live plants in hospitals or even looking at images of the natural world, improve and speed up the healing process in hospital patients.

Indeed, we all felt the importance and value of green spaces when our access to these was limited during lockdowns, that one hour of outdoor time was precious.

Let it grow:

Planting a seed and watching it grow brings us a sense of joy and satisfaction like nothing else. To watch a butterfly feeding on a flower that you grew, or to eat a strawberry from a plant that you have nurtured is a deeply rewarding experience.

Hugging trees is good for you!

As an eco-therapist, my friends often describe me as a “professional tree hugger,” but I know that there is much research that backs up my unusual behaviour! Spending time amongst trees can lower blood pressure and reduce stress which in turn boosts your immune system.

Not only that, but hugging trees releases oxytocin (the love hormone), in our brain and it also makes you laugh, which is equally beneficial to us!

If you have a big enough space, I highly recommend planting a tree. They provide brilliant habitats for your wild neighbours too.

It makes you go outside:

Being outside in the elements, especially the daylight is brilliant for our wellbeing. The light that enters our eyes helps to regulate our circadian rhythm giving us better sleep patterns, which has a huge knock-on effect on the rest of our mental and physical health. Sunlight on the skin also helps our bodies to produce vitamin D, which boosts the immune system and keeps our bones healthy.

Tips for getting started:

If you have caught the gardening bug and want to start growing your own plants, no matter how big or small the space, I would recommend thinking about these things:

Where is the sunshine? A question I often ask myself; think about where the sun is throughout the day and which plants do well in the conditions you have. Lots of them will love plenty of time in the sunshine, but others will be tolerant to shade. You can also test the PH of your soil with a simple testing kit.

What to grow? Consider what you really want to grow before you head to the garden centre. It’s so easy to buy everything that looks interesting, and believe me, I have done that in the past, but think about the essentials first. You need to consider the space you have as well as how much time you are able to put in – the more you grow, the more time it takes.

Fight the need to weed! People often like their gardens to be pristine and although some weeding is necessary, leave some wild spaces to encourage biodiversity. Sit back and have a cup of tea instead of weeding too much.

Water wisely: The best times to water the garden are either very early in the morning, or in the evening when the sun is going down. This enables the water to soak into the soil more easily without evaporating, and it’s also a lovely way to start or end your day. Use watering can where possible, and if you can use rainwater from water butts, even better. Water as close to the roots as possible. Mulch your plants and stand pots and containers in trays and dishes to stop them drying out over the long hot summer days.

What if you don’t have a garden?

There are lots of ways that you can enjoy gardening, even if you don’t have a garden. From growing herbs on a sunny windowsill, and houseplants in your bathroom to getting creative with pots and containers on a high-rise balcony, there are lots of different ways you can grow plants at home.

If you are looking to make friends and meet new people, why not apply for an allotment, or find a local community garden where you can volunteer your time to help the garden grow. Many charities often have gardens and green spaces available for participants and volunteers too.

However you engage with gardening, I can promise you that you will feel many benefits as soon as your hands touch the soil.


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