After years of searching for ways to help those suffering with depression it would seem a solution has been right under our noses all along. Hundreds of people with mental and physical health problems are being helped by the national gardening-as-therapy charity, which will exhibit its first garden at the Chelsea Flower Show in May.
Many of the plants for the exhibit have been grown by people with severe depression or Alzheimer’s disease or those recovering from stroke or brain injury.
Nicola Carruthers, the chief executive of Thrive has said there is much evidence which highlights the benefits of gardening, even dating back to as far as ancient Egyptian times when pharaohs used to prescribe walks around the garden for the mentally disturbed. Nicola describes how even the smallest amount of gardening can be of benefit. “But you can have a window box, with one tomato plant, and you will still benefit: that seed needs to be looked after, and by taking responsibility for something you can ultimately take pride in yourself again. We’ve seen people with depression who can’t speak when they come to us, but who have ended up reducing their medication after working in our garden.”
Gardening combines physical aspects such as fresh air and exercise, combined with the phycological effects of caring for and nurturing a plant all result in reducing stress hormones and lowering the blood pressure. In addition to this gardening also boosts endorphins and is more successful at increasing bone density than aerobics or swimming. Other studies have found that an hour of gardening a day significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.