Mental health isn’t a straight line. There are ups and downs, substantial curve balls and incredible highs. And sometimes there are dips. Anyone can experience periods where we aren’t quite feeling ourselves. And there could be a number of reasons too. Anxiety can creep up on us when we least expect it. SAD – seasonal affective disorder, can hit hard over the winter months. OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder can have long term impact. And there are many other things in between too. In fact, it is said that mental health will impact 1 in 4 of us at some stage in our lives.
There are many ways that people can help tackle things when they aren’t feeling great. Treating yourself kindly, seeing the doctor, and sometimes talking therapy are all great options. Moving on from that, hobbies are a fantastic way to help you find some peace and calm too.
Gardening and growing plants are one of the ways that many people can switch off and create something beautiful. Here are just a couple of the ways that gardening can improve your mental health, and help you find some zen.
There is something very calming about being surrounded by green grass and flowers. Sadly, mindfulness has been tagged on to almost everything and begins to lose the meaning it once had. However, mindfulness is just a shorter way of saying that you are ‘in the moment’. Being present can be really difficult when your mental health isn’t in a great place. Gardening can take you out of the deep, thoughtful places, and you can just ‘be’ pulling weeds, enjoying the year-round green of your synthetic grass, and water your growing vegetables.
They say that you can’t pour from an empty cup, but no one has ever felt that way about helping plants to grow. Plants and your garden won’t require too much from you. But here is where gardening can give you an added bonus. When you are growing herbs, vegetables or fruit, there will be occasions that you simply have too much. You can choose to freeze them for a later date or hand out the fresh goods to friends and family. Mental health can often turn things quite internal. But the ability to give something that will nourish someone else is a great distraction from any self-destructive thoughts.
It is so easy to begin to feel like we aren’t achieving anything. And sometimes one day is all it takes to feel like nothing is going right. But the feeling of eating a simple meal that you have grown, and harvested from your own garden is lovely. Sure, the carrots might be wonky, and the onions aren’t more significant than a 50 pence piece. But that is part of the joy of it.
Working out is typically one of the ways that we can increase how much serotonin is in our bodies. And, that serotonin is the hormone that helps control our moods. The lower the levels of serotonin in your body means it is more likely that you are going to have higher stress levels and a lower mood. Most anti-depressants work on reabsorbing serotonin into your system. However, they can’t increase production levels. Gardening, while pretty low impact, is still a form of exercise. You might be surprised just how much work will go into creating a veg patch or weeding on a weekly basis.
Gardening is a meaningful activity. One of the common mental illness hallmarks is ‘rumination’. Rumination is a cycle of negative thinking, and it becomes challenging to break that. When you begin to engage in something that is meaningful, that will start to interrupt the cycle of negative thinking. And, over time, that might help break the cycle completely. That is not to say that gardening can cure depression, but it might have a long-term impact. Gardening has an end-product, and that is what makes it different from binge-watching Netflix or scrolling on Facebook for hours.
When we feel like we need to dust off the cobwebs, or are a little groggy, we tend to say that we need some fresh air. Gardening gives you fresh air every single time you head out there. Not only that, but you get a big dose of sunlight, even when it is cloudy outside. We are going against almost everything that keeps us well balanced and thriving with modern living. Much of it consists of traffic jams, commutes, office jobs and high stress. You can help combat that by having a hobby like gardening.
When you first start gardening, there will be so many things that you don’t know about it. How do you keep your plants alive over winter? How much sunlight is too much sunlight? Why is that plant turning orange? There is a lot to learn. And that makes gardening, over time, become a much more immersive hobby. When you start growing herbs and vegetables, you’ll need a different range of know-how. After a year or maybe more, you might decide to take on some more challenging plants or grow some more unusual fruits and veggies from seed.
Setting up a seating area in the garden is something millions of people do. After a bit of hard work, when you decide to take a few moments of calm, you’ll be able to look into the garden and appreciate everything just a little bit more. Not only that but the satisfaction you can get from knowing that everything that is growing beautifully is your doing. If you want to add a bit more to a relaxing space then a hammock could be a really lovely way to relax in the warmer months.
There are always going to things that you can add to a garden, which gives you something to look forward to overtime. You might want to add extra fixtures and fittings like swings, or benches. Perhaps some annuals, or evergreens to give you even more colours.
There is a range of other hobbies that you can do in the garden like bird watching, building bug houses and more too!