Growing your own food can help beat depression. What’s more it can improve your general health, reconnect you with others and save you money as well.
Research commissioned in 2007 by the UK mental health charity Mind (Ecotherapy, the Green agenda for Mental Health) found that 94% of people taking part in green activities had improved mental health and a lifting of their depression. 90% of those questioned said that it was the combination of exercise and nature that had the greatest effect.
This is reflected in the work of another UK charity Thrive. Thrive helps people with disabilities through gardening and the ‘mood-boosting power of gardening’ is one of the cornerstones of their work.
Any gardener will also tell you how low spirits can be lifted by working in the garden and, for several reasons, gardening to grow fruit and vegetables has even more benefits than growing ornamentals. These are some of the most obvious pluses:
- Gardening is great exercise and we all know how exercise can boost your mood by virtue of the release of endorphins in the brain;
- Gardening gets you out of the house, into the fresh air and the natural environment. You can focus on something outside yourself;
- Gardening provides structure. In order to garden successfully you need to do things in a certain order – you need to clear the weeds before you plant your seeds for example. Planning what you are going to do and the order in which you are going to do it – and then carrying out those plans – can given structure to your days and a sense of achievement when you’ve finished. This doesn’t have to be complicated either. You can clear a square foot of soil and sow some radish seeds with little effort and in no time at all;
- Gardening provides a sense of purpose. When you are suffering from depression this can be a problem and this is where fruit and vegetable growing scores highly. There is a tangible and tasty reward at the end of your work;
- Growing fruit and vegetables also provides you with a link to the future and gives you something to look forward to. You clear your ground, sow your seeds, weed and water and, in time, your efforts pay off. You have to wait for your reward but it’s worth it, both for the wonderful fresh food and for the sense of satisfaction and achievement you can gain;
- Growing fruit and vegetables can also help you connect or re-connect with others. You’re bound to have a surplus of some tasty treat at some stage and it’s great to be able to offer to share your bounty with family, neighbors or friends. You can also get them to help you with you gardening along the way;
- Finally, just think of all the money you can save by growing your own. That in itself can provide some respite and relief from financial pressures or free up some cash for a well-deserved break.
None of this is meant to suggest that gardening represents an easy way to beat depression. But research show that gardening can genuinely help and it is highlighted here for that reason.
In fact, gardening can even be seen as a form of Congnitive Behavior Therapy (CBT). In a BBC news story about another UK mental health gardening project, Dr Cosmo Hallstrom explained that if gardening is something you enjoy, then that enjoyment plus the distraction from your own health problems will help you get better.
If you are gardening novice but you think that gardening might be a good way to set you on the path to beat depression, there are plenty of books and online resources that can help.
These are some of the best:
Go from this Grow Food, Beat Depression page to Depression Help (the home page)
Go from this Grow Food, Beat Depression page to the main Exercise and Depression category page