Can gardening help beat depression?

If you’re feeling depressed and under pressure you’re certainly not alone. Nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience depression or anxiety, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which says more women report they suffer from the condition than men.

Anyone can be at risk, but certain genetic variations may make some people more prone to the condition than others.

Anti-depressants are often prescribed, but they don’t work for everyone. Therefore, it’s important to look to other therapies and activities to help battle depression.

Take gardening, for example. Reports suggest 87% of people who garden for more than six hours per week feel happier. But how can this be the case?

Gardening with your family

Suffering from depression can drain you of all your confidence, so gardening as a family can be a great way to socialise within your comfort zone. Most kids love the garden — and spending time with you. By creating fun tasks to improve your garden, they will instinctively have fun which, in turn, will help to lift your spirits.

Certain friendly bacteria found in soil can also work in a similar way to anti-depressants by boosting the immune system, according to scientists.  

Growing your own produce

Why not grow your own vegetables? It’s believed that producing your own food can help you reconnect with the planet and its seasons and rhythms. Not only this, but tending to your crops will provide enough light exercise — at your own pace — to boost your endorphin levels.

One of the primary causes of depression is a sense of feeling out of control, but growing your own fruit and veg can help give back some of that power. It’s also thought that folate-rich foods, such as kale and spinach (which you cangrow yourself), can help boost your morale.

Harvesting your own crops can also help to release dopamine (the ‘pleasure chemical’) in the brain – triggering a state of bliss. This release can be caused by sight, smell and actually plucking fruit, so be sure to plant as many different edible options as possible and get that dopamine flowing!

Keeping busy

Gardening is a great way to keep your mind and body busy without undertaking anything too strenuous. Tasks such as digging, mowing and planting can keep you occupied for hours. Meanwhile, the relaxing ambience of the great outdoors can leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Dr Sheri Jacobson, a psychotherapist and clinical director from Harley Therapy, agrees with the benefits being outside can bring.

She’s quoted in the Huffington Post, saying: “While I haven’t come across anyone claiming that gardening has single-handedly overcome their depression, as part of a wide set of tools, gardening can be beneficial in the battle against depression.

“Being in the outdoors in more natural surroundings can help lift our mood as it brings a sense of simplicity and tranquillity which is therapeutic for many people.”

Planting scented flowers

Scientists in Japan claim that inhaling scents released by plants such as lavender can alter gene activity and can reduce stress or depression. Aromatherapy, for example, is used as a form of alternative medicine and relies on scents such as this. 

Other plants recommended for your garden include jasmine — its fragrance is supposed to help you sleep — and rosemary, which is said to improve air quality, memory function and banish anxiety.

For some, the thought of gardening may still be a struggle but, with so many potential benefits, it’s certainly worth giving a go (if you can).

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