I’ve recently moved back home to Cornwall, and one of my favourite things about the move is that I now have a great big garden that greats me every day when I wake up. When we moved into this house, some 35 years ago, it was essentially a mono-crop field of dahlias, a beautiful flowering plant. Whilst the flowers were spectacular, the garden lacked the biodiversity and variety that’s essential to create that natural space we all crave so much.
After years of digging, planting, waiting, weeding, pulling out bindweed, and mowing lawns, in summer our garden is a spectacular sight and one of my very favourite places in the world.
As Florence Williams explored in her wonderful book ‘The Nature Fix’, spending time in nature has huge positive benefits for our health and wellbeing. The Finnish found that just 5 hours per month is all that’s required to reap the benefits that nature sows’.
Speeds up the Healing Process
Not only can gardening ease the pain associated with some pretty serious health conditions and aid in restoring motor and cognitive skills after a serious accident, a pioneering study in 1984 by environmental psychologist Roger Ulrich demonstrated that patients with bedside windows looking out on leafy trees healed faster, needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsurgical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
Longer, healthier lives
A study by University College London found that for every minute of time spent working in the garden, or other light activity such as DIY, helped cut the risk of early death. Just 30 minutes a day reduced the risk of early death by 17%.
Protect your heart
Staying active helps to protect against heart disease and strokes and gardening is a great form of low-intensity exercise. Whilst you may not get your sweat on like you do in the gym, you will tend to work for longer and give yourself a full body stretch and workout.
We all experience stress in our modern world. The demands from working busy shifts behind the bar, in the kitchen or on the floor are one of the most stressful working situations you can find yourself in and it can affect your immune system, blood pressure and mental health. Research coming out of The Netherlands has shown that gardening to be one of the most effective stress-busting activities you can do.
Grow your Own
Growing your own fruits and vegetables in your garden means you’re more likely to include them in your diet and increase your likelihood of meeting the recommended fruit and veg intake per day. Not only that, food grown in your own garden is fresher, tastier and less likely to contain noxious chemicals and GMO’s.
I’m really lucky to have apples, figs, blackcurrants and berries, pears, plums, strawberries and a variety of herbs all growing around the garden and I’ve already started harvesting some of them.
Improves your mood
The great Guru Singh says that ‘Mood Follows Action’, and the simple act of getting out into the garden, amongst the plants and trees has a hugely beneficial effect on your mental health. Ask most gardeners why they do it, and they’ll tell you that it’s because it makes them feel good.
There are a number of studies to show that the fractal patterns in nature, combined with volatile compounds released from the soil and elements such as Hinoki Oil (from Japanese Cyprus) have positive impacts on our mental health.
You may not be fortunate to have a garden, particularly if you live in a city, but there’s always an opportunity to grow plants indoors or out.
If you live in a city, indoor gardening actually has a huge role to play in improving your health through cleaning the air, providing an oxygen boost and helping you sleep at night. This TED Talk by Kamal Meattle, a businessman in Delhi, shows how you can grow your own fresh air, reduce illness and boost blood oxygen levels.
You can also grow herbs and microgreens in window boxes, install mushroom boxes and even citrus if you have a warm, bright area in your apartment/house.
So don’t delay, get your hands dirty, your fingers green and improve your mood.