This week is National Gardening Week (27 April to 2 May 2021), and so we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Smith, content creator for Sloane and Sons Garden Benches.

How gardening can reduce anxiety

Ryan’s love for both gardening and writing allows him to express his hobby and interest to regular readers of the Sloane and Sons blog, and other gardening enthusiasts.  Here he shares his personal account of how gardening can reduce anxiety:

Thank you Ryan!

How gardening can reduce anxiety

Being in nature, and undertaking an activity that encourages mindfulness, helps reduce feelings of anxiety. Therefore, reducing anxiety symptoms could be as simple as taking up gardening.

How do I know this works?

When life got hard for me, and my stress levels led to burnout, I turned to my small square of garden to shape my personal haven from the world.

Me and anxiety

It started towards the end of my previous job. I was aware that my stress levels were such that my hormone levels were completely out of whack.  I could feel the stress hormone, Cortisol coursing through my body and I was on alert. My body thought I had a bear to fight: the bear being the constant thoughts about the future, and trying to control every minute to make sure I was safe.

My anxiety got to such a level that I would struggle to breathe and sweat copiously. I would be frozen in place, uncertain how to take on the next minute. I was aware of the tension in my muscles and my racing heart. Everything was telling me to escape – but to where?

Life is challenging, and I know I am not the only one to feel a sense of overwhelm.

Each day we face up to our obligations to our family and to the pressures of our work.

We fight to keep our finances on an even keel whilst striving to achieve our hopes and dreams.

In short, life can induce anxiety in all of us to some level and how we choose to cope with this anxiety is the key to living a comfortable and fruitful life.

Me and my garden

There was a moment when I realised that I felt better in my garden, just sitting listening to the birds. I was immediately transported to my senses:  the breeze on my cheek and the feeling of the earth beneath my feet. The small of the roses and the jasmine and gardenia.

It is not surprising it made me feel better. This feeling is literally called being grounded.

When we are lost in our sensory world, we cannot analyse at the same time. Our racing thoughts are tamed for a moment, and we stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to combat cortisol.

When things overwhelmed me the most, I would go for a walk amongst nature. 

If I could not bear to leave the house, I sat on the chair by my lavender bush and paused for a moment.

The positive effects of gardening

When I started gardening, the positive effects multiplied.

You see, getting out and exercising used up that excess energy that was driving me. I was productive, and this felt like an antidote to the stress I was feeling.  Not only was I outside in nature, but I was exercising too – in the world of reducing anxiety, that’s a double win. I got all the benefits of vitamin D from the sunlight and the mood boosting, positive hormonal responses, such as increased serotonin and endorphins, from being active.

Gardening is also a great example of mindfulness. The practise of focusing on a simple task and allowing the thoughts to flow through us, without our focus on them, is healing.  As you dig over some soil or pull the weeds, you can relax into the task and let your thoughts do their thing.

While all this theory is lovely, there really is nothing to match the sense of satisfaction from planting and cultivating something.

When emotions are complex, it is wonderful to be doing something positive and tangible.

I express my creativity in this mixture of flowers and ornaments, seeking the right balance of light and colour and line.

Is it just me?

You might conclude that story with anxiety and gardening is my personal story and there may be little that resonates with how you might feel better.  Yet, there are many studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of gardening, including this one, which looks at the positive effects of gardening for people struggling with anxiety.  Participants in this study, published in the Journal of Health Psychology, self reported their mood and had their cortisol levels measured at the start of the experiment. Following a stressful activity, the participants were asked to undertake some gardening and the study found that the gardening proved influential in the reduction of cortisol.

On a basic level, gardening can just be a way to get through the next minute of the day. I certainly leant on this idea. However, over time, gardening can heal us as well as distract us. We can allow our senses to stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system and increase our neuroendocrine levels, both of which combat cortisol and help us to better manage our stress levels.

In short, gardening can make us feel better.

To find out more about Ryan and/or Sloane and Sons Garden Benches, visit the links below:

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