And the surprising way soil can improve your mental health
It’s time to whip out your gardening gloves because not only are digging and weeding great exercise, a good stint of gardening boosts mental health too.
Last month, we found out that people living in an area rich in vegetation have improved physical and mental health, and 30% of the overall morality benefit from living near vegetation came from lower levels of depression.
So now, we want to delve a little deeper into how gardening is being implemented to improve people’s health.
Professor Tim Lang, Centre for Food Policy at City University London says it’s widely recognized that regular contact with plants, animals, and the natural environment can improve our physical health and mental wellbeing.
“For the large number of people in our society – children and adults – who live with challenging physical or mental health problems, gardening and community food growing can be especially beneficial,” explained Professor Lang.
“Such activities can relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses, prevent the development of some conditions, and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their well-being in the longer term. And even if you are feeling fine, gardening is … well, just a very nice thing to do.”
What is gardening therapy?
Doctors in London have already started to prescribe gardening time, with the help of Lambeth GP Food Co-operative, which aims to harness the physical and mental therapeutic benefits of gardening while growing more local produce.
It was launched in 2013 in South London, but is now present at several doctor’s offices where unused outdoor space is turned into gardens for patients to grow fruit and vegetables.
Ed Rosen, the director, says,”We began this with a specific focus on patients with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and asthma. Our patients tend to be older as they have developed long term health conditions later in life.”
“They also tend to be more socially isolated and lonely than younger people because often their partners have died or their families have moved away. So we wanted to create a health generating activity that people will enjoy.”
Why is gardening therapy good for you?
1. Soil is actually an antidepressant
Soil has been found to have similar effects on the brain as antidepressants to lift mood. A study by the University of Bristol and colleagues at University College London looked at how mice exposed to ‘friendly’ bacteria normally found in soil, altered their behavior in a similar way to that produced by an antidepressant.
Dr Chris Lowry, lead author on the paper, said: “These studies help us understand how the body communicates with the brain and why a healthy immune system is important for maintaining mental health. They also leave us wondering if we shouldn’t all be spending more time playing in the dirt.”