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Garden to beat the blues

Relaxing in the garden
Relaxing in the garden

The emotional benefits of gardening

Happy couple with a wheelbarrow
Happy couple with a wheelbarrow

Studies have suggested that getting out of the house among your flora and fauna might be good for your mental health.

It makes sense: the idea of spending quality time outside in the fresh air being pro ductive, feeling at one with nature, observing the seasons change and watching things grow and develop.

Scientists have found that even the simple act of picking fruit or vegetables, whether it be from garden or in the wild, causes the brain to release dopamine, known as the “pleasure chemical”. Dopamine is also released from seeing, smelling or eating certain foods.

Dr Sheri Jacobson, psychotherapist and clinical director at the Harley Therapy clinic in London said: “Being in the outdoors in more natural surroundings can help lift our mood as it brings a sense of simplicity and tranquility which is therapeutic for many people, and in contrast to many urban workplaces. In fact there is a growing trend for city building design to incorporate roof gardens or internal gardens, with the aim of improving the working environment for its employees.”

Becky Owen, from Scotsdales Garden Centre, said: “We are currently engaging in a corporate sociability campaign on the benefits to ourselves and the world of gardening with which this is heavily linked...I haven’t read anything particularly scholarly on the subject, but there is a plethora of information on the internet of which I have scoured a lot! I find the subject really very interesting.

“Someone once described gardening to me as grounding yourself (pun intended!), which I think is a really great way of thinking about it.

“When you are out in the garden you are physically connecting with the earth and the plants which is very relaxing and seems to help the stresses and strains of life slip away – if even for a short time.

“I like to think of it as a more literal way of being grounded... This helps you live in the here and now, rather than worrying about the past or the future and so helping depression in that way. As much as anything, focusing on the take of gardening, whether it be planting, digging or watering – to name a few – is a distraction which stops you thinking other less welcome negative thoughts.”

Becky, the marketing and development manager at the garden centre, adds: “There is also the obvious aspect of gardening which can help depression, and that is exercise. There is a huge amount of evidence to show the benefits regular exercise can have on the health of both the body and the mind, especially exercise that is out in the fresh air.”

What particular aspects of gardening does Becky herself find most relaxing?

“All aspects of it!” she replies. “From the very beginning stages of planning what you are going to do to the great satisfaction you get when you complete a task and can stand back and see the difference you’ve made. Growing your own is particularly satisfying and this could be as simple as growing some herbs on your windowsill.

She adds: “I love seeing things grow and flourish and find it so satisfying to create something beautiful. Gardening can aid creativity through designing flowerbeds or deciding what best goes together to put in pots or containers.

“A great aspect of gardening is that it can also be very social and working together as a team on a project is great, whether that is just two of you or more. It is even better to have friends or family over to spend time in your garden when you have created something lovely. It is after all just like another room of you home.”

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