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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McCrackin

Planting seeds of recovery: how gardening helps with depression

Depression and anxiety are common troubles for adults in the US, with nearly a fifth of adults suffering from them. According to the Office for National Statistics, it is more common for women to report that they suffer from either anxiety or depression, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more susceptible to it: it could be that men are simply less likely to report their own complications with a depressive episode.

From work life to overthinking, to family crises and bereavement, there are many things that can trigger depression. And while nothing can replace the benefits of seeking a GP’s advice, there are things a person can do to try and fight back against the problem at hand. One such thing is to maintain a routine or hobby that keeps the hands and mind suitably busy. Garden is a popular choice for this, with one report showing 87% of people who garden for more than six hours a week feel much happier for it.

Valuable family time

For many people, going out with people can be next to impossible when depressed. Suffering from depression can drain you of all your confidence, so 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 by creating fun tasks to improve your garden, they will instinctively have fun which will help lift your spirits.

Grow your own veg

Growing your own produce from vegetable seeds can be very rewarding. It is believed that producing your own food can help you reconnect with our planet, 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. With one of the primary causes of depression being a sense of feeling out of control, 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?

There’s also the sense of achievement the process brings. Harvesting our own crops can also 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!

Keeping occupied

It’s important to stay active in order to help deal with depression. Gardening is a great way to keep your mind and body busy while not partaking in anything too strenuous. 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.

There’s a certain amount of scientific backing for this too. Dr Sheri Jacobson, a psychotherapist and clinical director from Harley Therapy, agreed with the benefits that being outside hold in combating depression. 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.”

Stop and smell the flowers

Did you know scent can affect your mood? Scientists in Japan claim that inhaling scents released by plants such as lavender 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. Other plants that are 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.

Half the battle is, of course, finding the willpower and energy to get up and out into the garden when you’re depressed. However, with so many potential benefits, it’s 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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