How to reduce stress by gardening

Gardening is a productive hobby to have and can lead to your outdoor areas looking spectacular, plus it can also be very good for your health. It has been found to act almost like a type of therapy and it can be very useful in reducing stress. This is a relatively well-known phenomenon, but the extent to which it can improve people’s lives is generally underestimated.

The paper ‘Health, well-being and social inclusion: therapeutic horticulture in the UK’, by Joe Sempik et al., sets out the results of a study into the effect of gardening as a form of health and social care. The study found that a lot of the people participating in the social gardening projects appreciated having a routine and a structure to their day and they also enjoyed being able to spend time outside, taking part in a physical activity. Part of this was attributed to the fact that people view an outdoor environment as healthy and people generally enjoy feeling ‘in touch with nature’, so this makes the gardening projects seem more worthwhile.

For a lot of vulnerable individuals, a therapeutic horticulture project could be the first step towards helping them gain meaningful employment, as it helps them to gain skills, get used to a daily routine and to interact with others on a regular basis. The clients used as the sample for the study were individuals with a range of social, mental and physical problems and it was commonly found that these therapeutic horticulture schemes were a useful form of healthcare. Although this is a specific study for a specific group of people, these results can be generalised to show that gardening is in fact good for anybody’s well-being.

Reducing your own stress

Gardening is a very accessible task and this may contribute to it being helpful for so many different groups of people. You do not need to have a whole host of skills or equipment in order to get started; all you need is an outdoor space you can work in. You can also decide yourself how difficult or challenging a task you want to undertake and you can set achievable goals that can be visibly measured over time. This makes it a good hobby to have in order to reduce stress as it is not an overly demanding past time and it is totally up to you how much time you commit and how technical you want to get with your work. It is also gratifying work as skills and techniques can be acquired and progression can be seen over time.

Be sure to keep your garden free of any stress triggers so it is a completely peaceful environment. For many people, that is going to mean leaving their phone indoors and resisting the urge to check in every 10 minutes to see if they have any notifications. This kind of behaviour will have you on high alert and make it impossible for you to relax and fully involve yourself in the simple task of gardening. There may be other distractions you’ll need to leave behind for however long you’re going to be outside, so evaluate what makes you anxious and make the call about what you will have to do without for the duration of your gardening session.

A great way to ensure you get the most out of gardening is to find others to do it with. This will make it a social activity too and will give you a chance to have some interaction whilst completing a methodical task. Being able to spend time in other peoples’ company will ensure you stay mentally healthy, especially if you are often busy with work or other commitments and don’t get much time to spend with your loved ones. Sharing this activity will make it as effective at de-stressing you as possible.

Be sure to take pleasure in the rewards of your labour and appreciate the little successes. The last thing you want is for your gardening experience to become stressful too, so set yourself goals and aims for your garden but don’t beat yourself up about it if something goes wrong. You want to keep the atmosphere as relaxed as possible so don’t force yourself to get outside if you really don’t feel like it. Doing this will take the enjoyment out of your endeavours and it’ll become a chore and stop being fun, but do try to keep up with sessions in relatively regular intervals.

Find out more about gardening and your health