It’s long been known that gardening provides a source of relaxation, comfort and enjoyment, but recently we’ve seen growing evidence that it can also be hugely beneficial to mental health.
Sarah Layton is the founder of Growthfully, a Wallingford-based garden design service that helps clients get the most out of their outside space by combining gardening with wellbeing coaching. She tells Wildflower: “Contact with nature has been proven to lower blood pressure and cortisone levels and slow our heartbeat, and it has many other health benefits, too. The garden offers so many places to stop, get present and come back to ourselves.
“When I have my hands in the soil I forget everything else and experience flow — a glorious coming together of relaxation and stimulation that allows me to be easily creative and productive. Gardening itself is about getting out of your head and engaging with nature and wildlife, noticing the birds and the bees and being present and mindful.
“Gardens offer such a valuable opportunity to enhance our mental and physical health. Having a lovely garden, getting involved in creating it and caring for it has a huge impact on wellbeing. I created Growthfully to help people develop their gardens and inspire them to consider their own wellbeing alongside that — I invite them to grow with their gardens. Things shoot, flower, die down, seed and then shoot again — it’s the cycle of life and this can be very comforting.”
It’s an idea that’s backed up by Jill Hogan, community gardening expert at the Royal Horticultural Society. “Gardening gives the valuable understanding that life goes on and that even if it’s not how you’d planned, you can still make it work,” she says. “Gardening can give people something to look forward to and helps to build resilience. Being in the garden can be a great way to accept a new start in life.”