A recent survey, carried out by West Sussex County Council, discovered that gardening has been the most popular activity for people aged 45+ since the beginning of the pandemic. But spending time nurturing plants has the potential to benefit everyone’s mental health.
The surge in popularity of houseplants and window box planting through lockdown and beyond has shown that any window-ledge or table-top can provide a space to grow something. It might be a pot of supermarket parsley to liven up your dinner, or a hanging basket of cheery petunias. Any plant in any situation can help you observe the five ways to wellbeing.
There’s no doubt that gardening is an activity, no matter the size of your garden. Bending down to do some weeding, lifting watering cans and containers and the sheer effort of digging can all be done vigorously enough to raise your heartbeat. And for people with limited mobility, raised beds can prove very useful.
All five senses come into their own in a garden: the scent of flowers, the buzzing of bees, the taste of edible leaves, herbs fruit and vegetables, the feeling of leaves and compost between your fingers can all be enjoyed, along with the sheer beauty of all kinds of flowers and plants.
You can also notice your garden changing with the seasons. Right now leaves are yellowing in the dry heat, fruit is ripening and flowers need deadheading.
Gardeners are often generous with their produce, offering friends and family fruit and vegetables as they come into season. Many allotment societies also encourage plot-holders to donate excess crops to local foodbanks.
But there are other was to give, perhaps offering to help a neighbour with watering, taking cuttings of plants to give to others, passing on gardening magazines or spending time talking to less experienced gardeners about the best way to do things.
With new plant varieties and gardening techniques being discovered and talked about all the time, gardening is one activity where you never stop learning. Libraries are full of gardening books, and there are many magazines and websites dedicated to the art of gardening for people at any level of experience. Plus popular gardening programmes such as BBC Gardeners' World and Love Your Garden on tv or Gardeners' Question Time on the radio are always full of helpful hints and tips.
Share photos of your garden on social media, invite a friend or neighbour to sit in your garden for a cup of tea (where local guidelines allow). Local gardening groups and charities may not all be up and running yet, but offer a great opportunity to meet like-minded people – or for volunteering.
Mind in Brighton and Hove have previously shared their wellbeing tips on the subject of ecotherapy which you can read again here: https://www.pathfinderwestsussex.org.uk/sites/default/files/downloads/Ecotherapy.pdf
www.thrive.org.uk (gardening for health charity)