Is your mood spiralling downwards? These horticultural pick-me-ups could help
By Hannah Stephenson
While uncertainty over the future has left many of us dazed, confused and in the doldrums, gardening veterans as well as beginners may take some comfort from activities that are easy to do, clear the mind and can give you something to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead…
Meditate with plants
According to statistics from Bupa Global, more than 26% of UK adults meditate, as it’s a natural way to help reduce stress and release tension. Plants can make a great difference in this process as well, claims bulb and plant supplier J Parker’s.
There are particular plants that aid wellbeing, including the rose which, if you inhale its scent while you meditate, can help trigger feelings of compassion, understanding and love, J Parker’s reports.
Shannen Godwin from J Parker’s says: “Gardening teaches us another way of meditating mindfully, as we can feel grounded and fully present when planting a seed with intention, observing how it takes on a life of its own.”
Move your body
If you’re fed up with TV workouts and all-too-familiar walks, make yourself a list of gardening to-dos that require the equivalent in physical exertion.
It might be cleaning the greenhouse, sweeping the patio and tidying away pots, half an hour of weeding mixed with another task such as raking and bagging leaves, digging, strimming or hoeing.
Research suggests raking the lawn for half an hour burns around 120 calories, while someone weighing around 9st can use up 150 calories in 30 minutes of digging or 165 calories in non-motorised mowing, according to studies by Harvard Medical School.
These tasks will not only get you out into the fresh air, but will help tone muscles and make you feel you’ve done something useful as you see your garden transformed into a much tidier space.
If you want to have something to look forward to, plan ahead, whether it’s designing a new border in a sketch pad (from the comfort of your own home), planning what veg you’re going to grow in your allotment – bearing in mind the elements of crop rotation – choosing a colour scheme for an existing border, or even earmarking plants for a balcony garden.
Boost home working with a nature break
Environmental psychology, notably Attention Restoration Theory, offers insights into the benefits of plants for human wellbeing, according to Damien Newman from gardening-for-health charity Thrive. “Scenes of plants and nature are restorative and help us overcome mental fatigue, enabling us to resume tasks that require directed attention,” he says.
“A key part of Attention Restoration Theory is the idea of being away, where a setting provides a psychological change of scene and having plants in our work environment offers that. Looking at plants also provides an element of fascination that requires little mental effort, where the mind wanders and opens to reflection.”
Looking after plants can connect us to an inner desire to nurture and care, adds Newman. “Nurturing plants is purposeful and gives us a sense of control. As well as connecting with natural cycles that are bigger than ourselves, it’s an investment in the future that gives us hope.”
Add houseplants to your working space
Having plants on your desk can combat stress too, Thrive reports.
A Japanese study found that three-minute breaks to look at a small plant when fatigued helped reduce stress among office workers. Each plant used in the study, ranging from cacti to succulents, was chosen and cared for by the worker. The study concluded that if employers encouraged staff to have such nature breaks, the mental wellbeing of their workforce would improve.
When it comes to getting a peaceful night’s sleep and releasing your body from tension, lavender might be the answer. If you’re stressed or having trouble sleeping, the healing effects of lavender can be significant, says J Parker’s. This beautifully scented plant can be grown both outdoors and indoors as long as it receives adequate light and plenty of fresh air.