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Gardening improves the mind

LIFESTYLE

It's long been known that gardening is good for our physical health: you’re using your muscles, stretching your limbs, burning calories, and lowering blood pressure. Well, gardening is now being promoted by GPs in the UK to improve and manage patients’ mental health. At a GP surgery in Manchester, patients are given pot plants as alternatives to antidepressants. The patients are then asked to care for the plant, which is later planted in the surgery’s communal garden. “Having something to care for brings so many benefits to people,” Augusta Ward, a medical secretary at the surgery, told The Metro. “The plant is then a reason to come back to the surgery and get involved in all the other activities in our garden and make new friends.”

Similar schemes exist elsewhere in the UK such as Sydenham Garden in south London, which takes GP referrals for ecotherapy sessions. “Research shows that gardening has huge benefits for wellbeing and can even be as effective as antidepressants in treating mild to moderate depression and anxiety,” Aimee Gee, from the mental health charity Mind, told The Guardian. “Nurturing a garden or allotment provides the satisfaction of completing tasks and creates a stronger connection with the natural environment, both of which are associated with improved self-esteem and decreased levels of anger.” 


In 2015, a Dutch study was conducted with two groups of participants. One group had to perform gardening tasks for half an hour prior to completing a stressful task, while the other group remained stuck indoors. The findings suggested that, while completing the demanding task, the gardening group recorded better moods than the group kept inside. Dr Philippa James, one of the Manchester surgery’s GPs, has witnessed similar results: “I’ve seen how our patients relax in the garden. There’s a lot of evidence now about how two hours a week in a green space can lift mood — and then that too has physical, mental and emotional benefits. That’s something we need to harness.”

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