Can a gardening group help with mental health recovery?

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RESEARCH shows that contact with nature can provide multiple health and wellbeing benefits, including reduced stress and anxiety, increased mood, self-esteem, and resilience.

Being in and around nature can be great for wellbeing, which is why SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) is “delighted” to be re-opening its horticultural services, which use gardening as a therapeutic means of mental health recovery.

The services aim to help people with shared experiences come together to improve their mental health in a calm and safe environment

Gardening - Health news Scotland
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash. People can improve their mental health through a focus on being outdoors and learning to nurture flowers, fruit and vegetables.

The charity is re-opening its horticultural services to service users following the impact of the pandemic and is planning ways to enable greater access to the public.

Dave Ross, Senior Horticulture Practitioner, Evergreen said:

“When people come to our services they’re out in a garden, they’re out in an open space, you can see plants growing and that gives people hope.

“That’s the thing about gardening and horticulture: you’ve got to be optimistic, you sow seeds hoping they’ll grow and that can’t be underestimated.

“You notice more when you spend time outside too; whether that be birds, the weather, the plants or flowers.

“It broadens people’s horizons, and that can be a huge step for someone who have maybe gone through their life with their head down.”

Seedlings - Health News Scotland
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash. “You’ve got to be optimistic, you sow seeds hoping they’ll grow and that can’t be underestimated.”

Allan who uses the Evergreen service said: “I first started coming to Evergreen at the end of 2018, as I fell into a really bad area for my life back then and I began to become anxious and frightened to go out, so I sat in most of the time.

“Eventually I got referred to Evergreen and I came down and I liked it here, I liked what they were for.

“Since then I’ve come forward leaps and bounds. I’ve been meeting people and making new friends. My confidence is far greater, I’m going out, I’m able to use public transport now and I’ve even joined some other groups.”

Health News Scotland
Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash. Gardening can improve many aspects of mental health and being in a social group can help people become more sociable.

Alex Cumming, Assistant Director of Delivery and Development, SAMH said: “Over lockdown, most of us have, unfortunately, had to spend more time indoors; so as restrictions ease, we’re really pleased to be able to help people to reconnect with nature and boost their wellbeing in doing so.

“We all know that being outdoors and in nature provides multiple benefits, but the pandemic has really renewed our appreciation of this.

“Through gardening, individuals we work with can have free-flowing conversations while learning new skills, working the land, and improving their mental health and wellbeing in doing so.

“Over the summer months, we’re looking at how we can bring more people together to make use of our therapeutic horticulture services, as well as looking at how these services can benefit their local communities, for example by providing ‘plot to plate’ organic and healthy food for all.”

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, which runs from 10-16 May, SAMH will be sharing tips on how to improve your wellbeing by connecting with nature.