Gardens Ecotherapy: why plants are the latest treatment for depression and anxiety

This article was taken from:

By Emine Saner at Guardian News

The combination of physical activity, social contact and being surrounded by nature is thought to make gardening beneficial for our mental health

Many gardeners already know the uplifting feeling you get from being muddied of hand, nurturing plants from seed to bloom and watching the seasons change. It is something the NHS is increasingly taking notice of, too, as a way to improve and manage mental health, along with other conditions.

A GP surgery – Cornbrook medical practice in Hulme, Manchester – has started prescribing gardening to people with anxiety and depression. Patients are given plants to care for, which are later planted in the surgery’s communal garden – a place where they can join in an activity with others and strengthen social connections.

There are other similar schemes, such as Sydenham Garden in south London, which takes GP referrals for its therapeutic sessions. “Research shows that outdoor exercise or ‘ecotherapy’, such as gardening or walking, has huge benefits for wellbeing and can even be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety,” says Aimee Gee from the mental health charity Mind. “This is thought to be due to a combination of doing more physical activity, which is known to have many physical and mental health benefits; getting more regular social contact with people, which can reduce loneliness and boost self-esteem; and being surrounded by nature, which can boost your overall mood and sense of wellbeing.”

The colours, sounds and smells of a garden, she says, “boost our wellbeing, while nurturing a garden or allotment provides the satisfaction of completing tasks and a stronger connection with the natural environment, both of which are associated with improved self-esteem and decreased levels of anger”.

Monty Don, the gardener and TV presenter, has credited gardening with helping with the depression he has experienced. In a column for Gardeners’ World earlier this year, he summed up the optimism gardening instils: “When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amid a stressful, chaotic and, at times, downright appalling world.”

Even if that doesn’t convince you of the magic of gardening, there is a strong possibility that other forms of non-clinical “social prescribing” might be on their way to your surgery soon; other alternative treatments include arts and crafts, walking and singing lessons.