This National Gardening Week (26 April – 02 May), the NHS in mid and south Essex is shining a spotlight on the benefits of gardening on your health and wellbeing.
The British garden is a versatile and also very personal thing. From the much-trodden kids’ playground or the expertly manicured green escape to the well-tilled vegetable plot or the wildlife haven. How ever you use your garden, take some time this National Gardening Week to appreciate it and feel the benefits it can have on your own wellbeing.
Gardening is a great choice to get you outside and active. All the digging, planting and harvesting boosts your physical activity; all the while boosting your own mood while being surrounded by nature’s greenery.
There’s plenty of evidence on the benefits of outside green spaces on people’s sense of wellbeing. Being outside can boost people’s mood, help us keep fit and active, and even lower feelings of stress, anxiety and depression. Someone who has experienced this first hand is Dr Tamasi Basu.
Dr Basu is a local GP from Thurrock. Like many of us last year, she struggled with the impact of lockdown on her wellbeing while also dealing with the mounting strain of caring for her patients. In early spring, Dr Basu planted a few vegetable seeds in her garden, and what followed was a new passion that provided some much-needed stress relief.
Dr Basu says: “The start of lockdown was a very busy time for me and I was feeling very stressed by everything. I was worrying about our patients, the disease itself, the risk factors. Like so many people in the medical profession, I felt so helpless because I couldn’t do anything for my patients.
“I hadn’t really gardened before – I always gave the excuse I didn’t have time. But during the lockdown, I felt I needed to relax. Growing vegetables really changed the way I looked at life and the situation around COVID as a whole. It helped me relax after a hard day and has been a real stress buster.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to turn their garden or even just window boxes into their own wellbeing oasis.”
Royal Horticultural Society Wellbeing Fellow Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui says that the more you garden the greater the health benefits: “In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running.
“When gardening, our brains are pleasantly distracted by nature around us. This shifts our focus away from ourselves and our stresses, thereby restoring our minds and reducing negative feelings.”
Gardening – a social prescription for better mental health
The benefits of gardening and being outside in nature are well known and this is starting to be exploited by health and care organisations. In mid and south Essex, people may find themselves ‘prescribed’ some activity that takes advantage of the benefits of nature.
Social prescribing is a way for people to access support for issues that may not be primarily health related but nonetheless are impacting on people’s wellbeing. Specially trained social prescribers (sometimes called link workers) working in GP practices will help people access support in the community that are particular to their own needs.
Rachel Hearn, Executive Director Nursing and Quality for mid and south Essex CCGs said: “To best care for people’s health and wellbeing, we need to look at a person as a whole. Poor health doesn’t develop in isolation and many factors in our lives can cause our health to decline. That is why initiatives like social prescribing are so important. It allows us to link people to support that can help them with whatever they may be facing.”
Lorraine Fugl, Social Prescribing Manager for Thurrock said: “Social prescribing is a great way for people to get the help they need. Our health and wellbeing can be affected by the many different parts of our lives, and while talking therapies and other health services are vital; the programmes, activities and voluntary groups that social prescribers refer people to can really provide that extra bit of support.
“We know how important nature, physical activity and having someone to talk to can be and gardening is one of those special activities that can blend all three together. That’s why our social prescribers often point people to local gardening initiatives near to where they live.”
Social prescribing is available at GP practices across mid and south Essex. To find out more about social prescribing and some of the community support available in your area, contact your GP and ask about social prescribing.