Can Gardening Help Anxiety?

This week in the UK is National Growing for Wellbeing Week. It was set up by social enterprise, Life at No. 27, and takes place from 1st to 7th June. This week is a celebration of the wellbeing benefits we can all feel from growing our own produce.

Statistics suggest that 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience mental ill-health each year, and I am sure the statistics are even higher this year.

I was recently asked if gardening can help anxiety and it is scientifically proven that gardening makes us feel better. It can distract us from our anxious thoughts, and anyone anywhere can enjoy its healing powers.
Gardening not only improves our mental health, but it can also give us a sense of pride and achievement. It enables us to learn new skills, enjoy the benefits of being in nature, and we get to watch life grow. The whole family can get involved too, whatever age.
There is something very calming about getting our hands dirty, and feeling the soil fall through our fingers. Growing our own plants and flowers is hugely rewarding and can give us a sense of purpose when we feel lost. Some GPs have even started writing prescriptions for patients who are now gardening to help anxiety. They recognise the benefits can be as varied as reduced stress, , increased fitness and improved vitamin D levels. Furthermore, if done in a group, gardening can even combat loneliness and bring communities together.
Now, just for full transparency, I am no natural green-fingered genius. However, my daughter and I are the proud parents of 5 tomato plants, 5 strawberry plants, 2 sunflowers, 3 cucumber plants, 5 radishes (?!), too many baby lettuces to count, 8 sweetcorn plants, 3 bunches of carrots…. and more potatoes than we will ever be able to consume!
We have potential with the very start of broccoli, but its beginning to look like the cauliflower and courgette may not be attending the party anytime soon …… sadly, the peas declined to join in the fun a long time back.
Something else is also thriving in one of our pots. It doesn't look anything like the picture on the seed packet we thought we planted, but just in case, we are lovingly keeping that alive too.
While I appreciate there is not an awful lot going on outside right now, the highlight of our morning routine is to water the plants together and analyse their growth. We tend to plant a little more each weekend, so while everyone else was buying toilet roll in the lead up to lockdown, we were buying "how to grow your own" books, compost, pots and seeds. It's been fun, and while we have only tasted three strawberries so far, we are looking forward to growing more. I hope this is a lockdown habit we will continue for years to come.
I am off to plant some new seeds now. Perhaps we will invite the peas to come and join in the fun again …..