Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

Science Shows Gardening Can Cure Depression
by Rhea Jacobbs
August 8, 2013

If you’re visiting this site, the chances are you’re already a keen gardener and are well aware of the difference gardening can make to the positivity of your overall mood. However, there’s now scientific proof behind what many gardeners have always known; gardening makes you happy.

According to research undertaken by several universities in the UK, where gardening is the second most popular hobby, spending time in green places is good for our personal health. So, what are the stats? A poll in the UK for Gardener’s World magazine involving 1500 participants found that 80% of gardeners feel satisfied with their lives in comparison to 67% of non-gardeners. There is speculation surrounding why this might be, but the most obvious reason is the optimistic attitude that gardening requires us to have. Even if the weather is awful and we have an unsuccessful year, there’s always next year when we’ll get a second chance to succeed.

In the UK, doctors are able to prescribe gym referrals for those suffering with mental health problems and there’s now speculation that they should be able to do the same for gardening following the outcome of this research. For seasoned gardeners, this might seem all too obvious as we’ve known for a long time (along with charities like Thrive) that gardening is great for lifting your spirits, but suggesting it might actually have a medical application is a new concept. It’s obvious that gardening can’t single headedly cure depression, but combined with other treatments and therapies it could make a huge difference to many sufferers’ lives.

So, how exactly does gardening lift our mood?

The effect of gardening on our mood is thought to be a combination of several factors. As previously mentioned, it’s a hobby that encourages optimism, as there’s always the option to try again if you don’t succeed and develop new techniques for second time success.

Serotonin from the sun is also thought to have a positive effect on our mood, making gardening in sunny weather even more effective at lifting our spirits. For those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, a deficiency in serotonin production can affect the transmission of messages between nerve cells, meaning sufferers experience low moods, so gardening could be a really effective therapy for them.

The element of nurture that’s required when tending to a garden is thought to give us gardeners a sense of purposefulness similar to what we experience by owning a pet (which has also been linked to combating depression).

If you’re still not quite convinced that gardening can actually cure mental health conditions, then check out this story documenting how Stan Hissey from England who beat his depression following a stroke by taking up gardening as a hobby.

How can existing gardeners benefit?

Those who are already gardeners can still benefit from the findings of this research simply by gardening more! Sprucing up your garden will encourage you to spend more time outside, so paint that shed and invest in some new fencing from Buy Fencing Direct whilst catching some rays and increasing your serotonin levels! Getting involved with the work of gardening therapy charities is also a great way to utilise your horticultural skills and you could really make a difference to other people’s lives by playing a part in their treatment.

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