Gardening to reduce stress

We had an inkling that another lockdown may be on the cards at some point, but when it was announced 2 weeks ago it really did feel like the rug had been pulled out beneath us. The season was going really well and we felt like we were starting to make some head way and on the front foot heading into Spring. The first 2-3 days were difficult to even go into the garden centre and having to put away a delivery of beautiful flowering Hellebores felt like such a waste, not knowing if anyone would get to even see them looking at their best. After wallowing away binge watching Downton Abbey (again) I decided I wasn’t going to feel any better unless I got outside and did something productive. And I’m glad to say it worked. A project that’s been on my list for a while is the gardens along the roadside. We want to create more privacy and reduce the traffic noise so I got to work prepping and planting and after a couple of days of hard graft I felt a great sense of accomplishment and in a much better headspace to then take on homebased learning with the kids and getting organised so we could open for Level 3.

Why Gardening helps with Mental Health

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body in times of stress. It’s responsible for all the symptoms that we associate with the condition, such sweaty palms, elevated heart rate, irritability and muddy thinking. If you can think of an unpleasant physical sensation, you can blame it on cortisol, and as a result we could all do without keeping it at bay.

If left unchecked, cortisol can cause all kinds of physical issues such as weight gain and heart conditions, but it has just as big an impact on our mental faculties. Not only are we left feeling unable to think straight when we are stressed, but cortisol is also intrinsically linked to depression.

When we spent time outside in our gardens, we regulate our emotions are more efficiently that we would if cooped up indoors. Part of that is down to the Vitamin D that we have previously described, partly down to the fact that we are engaging in mindfulness and thus not allowing our minds to wander to unwelcome thoughts, and partly because we are engaging in a physical workout – whether we’re conscious of this or not.

Mindfulness is an increasingly popular way of combatting the stress and anxiety that is such a part of the modern world. While it is still largely considered a spiritual exercise, banish any thoughts of orange robes and chanting form your mind – mindfulness is actually a science, designed to prevent our busy brains from overwhelming us and blocking us from enjoying the little moments of calm that we all deserve. Can you think of a better space than a garden for such an activity?

The idea behind mindfulness is simplicity itself – simply be. Picture the scene; you’re in your garden, the sun is shining gently upon your face, there’s a gentle breeze blowing around you, you close your eyes and open them to be greeted by the beautiful sights of what you have created… sounds pretty appealing, right? It’s a moment to simply exist, and concentrate on your breathing. Feel that tension in your shoulders slip away as though it was never there in the first place. Stop to smell the flowers, to coin a phrase.

Naturally, sitting still and doing nothing is not for everybody – and you can still embrace mindfulness by being physically active in the garden. As we have mentioned, it’s all about living for the moment, and you can do just that while planting, weeding, mowing the lawn. You’ll probably never struggle to find something to do in the garden, and while you’re concentrating on the task at hand all unwelcome, stressful thoughts will be banished from your mind.

While you’re pulling at that weed – giving your body a workout in the process – you won’t be thinking about the fact that you still haven’t posted your sister’s birthday card, the fact that rent is due in a week and you missed a week’s work, or that your car makes a strange rattling noise every time you start the engine. That is the very core of mindfulness, and another example of just why a well-tended and beloved garden can hugely benefit your mental health.

Vitamin D Exposure

Spending time outdoors provides great chances to enjoy the rays of the sun (just don’t forget to apply lotion in the heat of the summer), and that comes with a whole range of health benefits. This is due to the sun filling our bodies with Vitamin D, which does us the world of the good. Next time you take a look at your pet and find them basking in the sun, take a leaf out of their book – cats and dogs fully understand how great they feel when they allow their bodies to flood with Vitamin D!

Despite the name, Vitamin D is actually a hormone that’s found within the body rather than an external vitamin that must be consumed through supplements. Our bodies generate Vitamin D as a chemical reaction as soon as sun bounces off our skin, and the benefits provided by this interaction are legion.

The most important service that Vitamin D provides is the growth of calcium within the body, which is obviously essential to people of all ages to keep bones and teeth strong and healthy. The benefits do not end here, however, as Vitamin D also further bolsters the immune system, regulates the flow of insulin throughout the body and thus drastically reduces the risk of developing a condition such as diabetes, keeps the heart and lungs healthy, and even reduces the risk of cancer. Perhaps most importantly for the purposes of this guide, however, Vitamin D is also a great way to enhance your internal feel-good factor; it’s a known relief for stress, anxiety and depression.

Scientists have described Vitamin D deficiency as a global epidemic, which is unfortunate as it’s so easily resolved – sunshine is free, after all. Get out into the garden and tend to your flowerbeds, or take a seat in a comfortable bench and let the sun’s rays beat down upon you. Either way, just enjoy some time in nature and you’ll be boosted in body and mind in no time at all.