Gardening: can it really help with depression?

With most of us dealing with a lot of pressure in our daily lives, it is no surprise that nearly a fifth of adults in the UK experience depression or anxiety. That is according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which states that more women report that they suffer from the conditions than men. With overthinking and major life events, such as family bereavement, leading to depression; anyone can be at risk of the illness. However, certain genetic variations may make some more prone to the condition than others.

If diagnosed with depression, you are usually prescribed anti-depressants because they act as a ‘mood enhancer’. However, they don’t work for everyone. But, can gardening help us battle depression? Many believe so, with reports suggesting 87% of people who garden for more than six hours per week feel happier. But why and how is this the case?

Keep pre-occupied

If suffering from depression, gardening is a great habit to start. Tasks such as digging, mowing and planting can keep you occupied for hours on end and always thinking, while being outdoors can increase serotonin in the brain. On top of this, the relaxing ambience provided by being outside can leave you feeling rejuvenated.

Furthermore, Dr Sheri Jacobson has confirmed the health benefits of gardening. She is quoted in 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.”

Family traditions

Gardening as a family can be a great way in which to socialise within your comfort zone. Most kids love the garden — and spending time with you — so you could plant colourful plants, such as crocus bulbs and create fun tasks to improve your garden. This will certainly help build your spirits. Furthermore, friendly bacteria that is found in soil can also work in a similar way to anti-depressants by boosting the immune system, according to scientists.

Try growing your own vegetables

A great way to reconnect with our planet is by growing your own fruit and vegetables. Tending to your crops can also provide enough light exercise — at your own pace — to boost your endorphin levels.

Feeling out of control is one of the main causes of depression, therefore 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, can help lift your morale. So, what better way to boost yourself than growing it yourself?

Furthermore, by growing your own fruit and vegetables you release the ‘pleasure chemical’ dopamine into 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!

Growing scented flowers

Some Japanese scientist claim that if you inhale scents such as lavender, this can alter gene activity and reduce any stress or depression you may be feeling. Aromatherapy, for example, is used as a form of alternative medicine and relies on scents such as this.

Let’s start with Jasmine for example — its fragrance is supposed to help you sleep — and rosemary, which is said to improve air quality, memory function and banish anxiety.

For the sake of your own health, it is clearly worth trying to get into this hobby. Remember though, you are not alone in your struggle, so be sure to talk to professionals and those closest to you if you are depressed. There are many people out there to discuss your feelings with.

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