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How can gardening support people living with mental health issues?

person plating in a garden

As the weather improves across the UK, we thought we’d share the benefits that gardening can bring to those who might be experiencing mental health issues.

Gardening is one of the most common ways people can interact with nature and is a popular pastime for many individuals of all ages. Since the start of the pandemic, there has been an increase in the desire to spend time outdoors to escape mundane routines brought on by remaining indoors.

picture of flower box and gardening tools

Research has shown that several hours spent gardening is equivalent to spending an hour at the gym and most importantly, gardening also supports the release of endorphins, hormones related to the feeling of being relaxed and satisfied. Spending time in nature has added benefits to people’s general wellbeing as it can reduce stress or anxiety, improve mood and leave people with a sense of achievement which in turn boots confidence and self-esteem.

Some of the plants that were donated by Harvest @ Home
Some of the plants that were generously donated by Harvest @ Home

One of our housing projects in Didcot recently teamed up with Harvest @ Home, a community action group that aims to support local communities to start growing their own produce at home. Last week, we held a gardening event for residents at our housing project to get involved with planting seeds and flowers around the buildings to brighten up the area.

“By having the support of Harvest @ home and the wonderful donations they provide, it will give the tenants something to focus on, new skills to learn and network with other local gardeners. When the tenants move on it will hopefully encourage them to start to the take time and grow plants in their own garden one day or seek a local allotment near them and grow their own veg with the skills they have learnt from this experience.”

“I feel that gardening is extremely beneficial in aiding mental health recovery, in the past I have encouraged tenants to grow sunflowers and we took joy in watching them grow and made it into a race who’s would grow the tallest! One of the tenants was then inspired to paint with acrylics the sunflowers she saw in the garden, we then had the picture on display in the living room at the project and then this encouraged other tenants to start to paint.”

“I feel that gardening can lift the spirits by being outside, listening to bird song, getting out in the sun and boosting the vitamin D levels, and sharing gardening ideas with others. Gardening can also provide a sense of personal achievement, a reason to get out of bed in the morning to water the plants and flowers, taking pride that in the fact you have nurtured a plant to grow fruit is a lovely uplifting feeling.”

Maria Isaia, Housing Worker at Oxfordshire Mind

The garden before the garden event
The garden before the garden event
One of the housing tenants helping in the garden
One of the housing tenants helping in the garden

Oxfordshire Mind staff and housing tenants are looking forward to a brighter and more colourful garden once their seeds and plants fully grow. We will be sharing updates and photographs across Twitter, and Facebook over the upcoming weeks.

If you or anyone else you know are experiencing issues with your mental health, the Oxfordshire Information line is here to support you. You can contact a member of the team for advice, signposting and support.

The Information Service is open on Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 4pm and can be reached on 01865 247788 or by text on 07451 277973 and by email at info@oxfordshiremind.org.uk.