Mental Health Awareness Week - Let Nature Nurture You
May 09, 2021

The pandemic and lockdown life has definitely given everyone a new-found appreciation of green spaces. Whether you’ve grabbed the chance to revamp your garden, channelled your energy into growing and gardening at home, invested in an allotment, or just took the time to enjoy being in your outdoor space; it’s no coincidence that these were activities you were drawn to. It’s also no surprise that this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (May 10th-16th) will focus on nature as its theme.

Experts have long extolled the health benefits of gardening and connecting with nature. So, the nation instinctively turned to the outdoors for a wellbeing boost to combat the pressure of dealing with the restrictions and new adjustments of everyday life caused by COVID-19.

As the virtues of gardening rise up the medical agenda, numerous studies have confirmed the link between horticulture and wellbeing. According to these reports, the mental health benefits of gardening are found to be broad and diverse, with one report pointing out that studies have shown “significant reductions in depression and anxiety, and improved social functioning”. Gardening has also been shown to reduce stress, increase the ability to concentrate and engage, improve mood, and even alleviate the symptoms of dementia.

An increasing number of organisations now use gardening as therapy and as part of rehabilitation programmes for people with debilitating illnesses or traumas, such as strokes, with reported improvements in motor, speech, and cognitive skills. 

As the saying goes, “gardening adds years to your life and life to your years” - making it a positive thing to have in your life.

Show you care

The benefits associated with gardening and, growing in particular, is about caring for and nurturing something. Studies found that gardening achievements provide a huge sense of satisfaction and empowerment, which help improve self-esteem and confidence. 

Grow-your-own has also seen a huge resurgence, which, obviously, has implications for healthier eating habits. You don’t have to be Alan Titchmarsh to reap the benefits of growing successfully at home. There are plenty of easy projects that will bring great rewards – either visually or with something tasty to eat at the end.

Keeping active

Gardening is a great way to keep fit. Did you know that pushing a lawnmower is considered moderate aerobic exercise, or that digging is classified as a strength-building activity? In fact, work in the garden can help you burn between 250 and 500 calories an hour - I know you never would have guessed this right?

Welcome the wildlife

A lot of people admitted to taking a greater interest in the wildlife in their garden over this past year. Many confessed that watching and caring for the birds and any other four or six-legged visitors helped keep them sane during lockdown, providing them with some form of meaningful connection and interaction. 

According to The Wildlife Trusts, evidence shows that a thriving, wildlife-rich environment can benefit both physical and mental health, which is even more of a reason to turn your outdoor space into a haven for all creatures great and small.

Capture the moment 

There is something very calming and healing about nature photography. Studies looking at photography and wellbeing, have found the hobby to be beneficial for all types of mental health. 

There’s something to be said for slowing down and being patient to get the perfect shot in this fast-moving world, looking at things from different angles, and literally stopping to smell the flowers. Whether you take photos and videos of plants in your garden or when out for a walk, it can be very therapeutic and provide a great artistic outlet. You could also take progress photos of what you are growing to really revel in the journey, and even use time-lapse for that wow factor!