Posts tagged 'wellbeing'
It’s the month when resolutions are made and so very many people think about dieting to lose the extra pounds gained over the festive season. A recent survey showed that about 6 in 10 people were planning to shed weight or concentrate on improving their fitness for their New Year promise. The good news for gardeners is that gardening substitutes for diets. Yes REALLY! Getting out there and involving yourself in digging, bending, walking, lifting, planting, weeding, pushing and kneeling makes gardening a moderate to strenuous kind of exercise. Estimates vary according to how much you do of which kind of gardening activity, but gardening for more than 30 minutes can help to lose between 150 and 300 calories. Gardeners will be exercising all the major muscle groups as they undertake different gardening jobs, so toning happens as well of course! Clyde Williams of Loughborough University believes that an hour of heavy work in the gym would use about 700 calories, something that can be achieved by three hours gardening varying tasks. You might even consider a gardening weight loss and exercise routine (Wiki has an example and even Bunny Guinness devised one too ). So, all in all, there IS a reason for getting out into the cold January garden and doing a little bit of this and that for the gardener’s sake as well as the garden.
We have written a number of blogs about how great gardening is for improving gardener’s general levels of health and fitness. Our health and wellbeing though, is not just a physical thing. There are many aspects of our health which relate to less tangible sides of our person. We are body, mind and spirit and none of these areas functions entirely alone; each can affect the other. In the kind of autumn we are experiencing this year, when the conditions have been just right to produce some simply amazing autumn colour, it’s easy to make a connection between garden beauty and that uplifting feeling we get appreciating the sight. Colour therapists would have us believe that each colour, being a specific light wavelength, has a specific energy that can affect the body’s inner vibrations in particular ways. There is certainly some evidence that colour can affect our mood. US scientist Robert Gerard conducted a study that demonstrated how the colour red might stimulate anxiety, and colour psychology is used by business to market products and attract customers. The deep purples and indigos are said to be related to the immune system, the reds our skeletal and muscular system, yellow the digestion and, green the blood and circulation. Whatever the benefits of particular colours might be, there can be no mistake that the autumn show is a great attraction (look at the numbers of visitors to arboretums and woodlands such as Westonbirt and Batsford), and autumn colour in the garden and beyond is good for the spirit.
It’s January 1st and with pen poised over a sheet of paper, we’re planning how we’re going to make the very best of 2017. Some of us are focused on losing weight, getting fit and becoming more active. Some are thinking about enriching our social lives, helping others, giving back to the community. Other people are bent on starting a study course, setting up a business, or facing some sort of individual challenge.
The beginning of the year is also the time when Governments send out warnings and launch campaigns to encourage people to change their behaviour for their own good. This year, Public Health England, a Government agency, has issued press releases alerting people to the impending “Middle Age Health Crisis”. It seems that eight in every 10 people aged 40 to 60 in England are overweight, drink too much or get too little exercise.
In 2016, the previously taboo subject of mental health was catapulted into the limelight with the BBC running a season of programmes called In the Mind, exploring a very wide range of mental health issues. In the same year, The Mental Health Foundation took as its theme, the role of relationships in maintaining a healthy and fulfilling life.
In these blogs, we have returned time and again to the role that gardening can play in our own wellbeing. It’s no secret that gardening is as good as, or even better, than going to the gym. Gardening helps you to lose weight and stay physically active. But research has also shown that time spent in the natural environment fosters creativity, improves mood and self-esteem. GPs are even beginning to prescribe gardening instead of medication for those suffering from depression.
Gardening with others, such as in community gardens, gives you all of the physical and mental health benefits of your own garden, as well as opportunities to make friends and get involved. Police departments and social services agencies all recognize the role of community gardening in forging local bonds, integrating diverse groups, and reducing crime.
Gardening is an escape, a feast for all of the senses and an opportunity to experience and facilitate growth. The Genus team is out there, even in the middle of winter, thermals under our gardening trousers, cosy in our gilets and busy tidying the beds.
So let’s all go for it. Let’s do even more gardening in 2017.
This weekend saw us pass the spring Equinox, one of two days in the year when the day and night are equally long. Day length is now on it’s way to stretching longer than 12 hours. That can only mean one thing, and yup, that’s the start of the new gardening calendar. The coming Easter weekend will be one of the busiest for gardeners and garden centres, as tools and gardening clothes are dusted off and the new season's planting gets underway. We all know that gardening brings so many wellbeing benefits, but there is one question we wondered about whilst getting into the gardening mood in the Genus garden this week, and that’s how do gardeners with mobility and other challenges ensure that the act of gardening provides them with the same degree of positive mental and physical impacts? One of the Genus gardeners has a hip injury and soon discovered that lifting, digging, bending and stretching were all far more demanding than they imagined.
There are plenty of organisations able to demonstrate that with a little thought gardening with disabilities is not only possible, it continues to be a great way to maintain a healthy lifestyle and individual happiness through times of physical adversity. The RHS provide some tips on how to modify gardens to help make gardening easier, and they signpost other organisations that can help. For example, Thrive views horticulture as therapy and believes in the benefits that gardening can bring to gardeners of all types. Thrive has a guide that details how disabled or less mobile people can carry on gardening providing detailed advice on how to approach all the usual gardening tasks. For those gardeners with arthritis and painful joints Arthritis Research has produced a booklet covering how to garden with arthritis. Care2 outlines 8 garden design steps to build an “enabling garden” including making more space, raising beds, installing kneelers and seating, finding the right tools, and thinking about watering solutions such as irrigation systems and extended hosepipes. Gardening for Disabled Trust make sure that gardeners are able to make the adjustments and continue to garden.
All these organisations recognise that finding a way to continue gardening will bring gardeners the physical and mental wellbeing benefits that there is now so much evidence for.
We are drawing close to the end of the gardening year. The Genus garden is being tidied up and put to bed for the winter. The long days pottering and working outside are replaced with a bit more time indoors thinking about the garden rather than actually doing the gardening. What does this absence from the digging, weeding and watering mean for gardeners? Well, we have written a number of blogs now about the wellbeing benefits that gardening bestows on gardeners. The physical act of gardening contributes to keeping fit, and gardening takes people into an outdoor realm with colours, sights and smells that alter mood and improve mental wellbeing too. A whole series of studies have now been undertaken documenting this wide range of benefits to gardeners, as well as researching the reasons how and why these changes take place. For example a recent poll by a gardening company showed that 88% of respondents felt that the most important way gardening improved their health was improving their mental wellbeing. A comprehensive review of evidence by Garden Organic shows that gardening can help people with serious illnesses such as dementia and cancer to cope better, and gardening can lessen the symptoms of asthma and depression. There is just so much evidence now about what gardeners get out of gardening, that there are many new gardens opening up in spaces we could never have imagined hosting such a thing. Gardening at the office is a new trend. Something that has been happening in the States for a while, a number of employers are opening up workplace gardens to bring the benefits of gardens and gardening to their employees. Wolff Olins a design company in London has an employee vegetable garden on the roof, The Guardian newspaper built an office garden in a skip, and The Office Group in London who rent out office space also have an arrangement with a charity working with young people to build and help maintain office gardens in some of their properties. Garden wellbeing really can be found everywhere.
Genus founder Sue began gardening in miniature in her London flat using planters and window boxes as a route to releasing her gardening passion. There’s lots that can be done container gardening in a small space. Window boxes are one great way to green the grey in urban and village areas, bringing colour, homes for wildlife and a sense of wellbeing right into a place. The planting design should aim for something central and taller, with shorter plants to the side, with curtains of trailing plants all along. The planting scheme can change through the year ringing the passing seasons. We have just been preparing spring window boxes planting them up with favourite flowering bulbs, snowdrops and miniature daffodils and trailing ivy. Up and running already are the late autumn boxes which have cyclamen, Senecio and winter pansies. The art of container gardening and window box planting is said by some to have begun with the Romans, but there has been something of a resurgence in gardeners' interest for hanging baskets and window boxes more recently with the current trend for upcycling seeing all kinds of containers appearing ..... even old gardening clothes!
It’s the end of June and we are getting excited about Hampton Court Flower Show which starts next week. One of the specialties of the show is the grand display of roses as well as the Rose of the Year award. Roses are at their very best at this time of year, and, we challenge any gardener not to fall in love with their variety, beauty and scent. Gardeners have cherished roses for hundreds of years. As early as 500 BC, Confucius wrote about roses in the Imperial gardens, and there were over 200 volumes of books about roses in the emperor’s library. During the Han dynasty the popularity of rose gardening began to threaten the take over of agricultural land to the point where an imperial order demanded they be ploughed back into the soil.
This long history of rose growing has seen a steady revival in recent years since expert gardeners such as David Austin began to introduce roses, blending the characteristics of old fashioned roses with modern demands for repeat flowering and a wide range of colours. Its not just garden beauty that roses bring us. They can also contribute to our wellbeing in other ways.
Many uses were recorded in Persia over 2000 years ago, and in 75 AD Pliny the Elder listed 32 diseases the roses could be used to cure. Rose oil can nourish mature skin and help with wrinkles, and manage hormones, grief and emotional distress or depression. Rose petals are known to be antiseptic, and Chinese tea made of dried rose buds can help with flatulence, and stomach pains and cramps. Rose hips have astringent properties and have been used to treat colds, flu and gastric problems because of their vitamin content. How gratifying to know that flowers have such health giving powers. Roll on the festival of the rose!
What’s the attraction? These days, it’s certainly not the economics of home egg production. By the time the coop and food is bought, and the fences put up, costs per egg are bound to be more than in the shops. No, it’s the fun of having the chickens there. Something else to provide enjoyment and make a gardener feel good. The eggs are much nicer too. There is no evidence of any nutritional difference between garden chicken eggs and commercial ones, but they just seem to taste better and the yolks look yellower too.
The other feel-good factor is being able to contribute to chicken welfare by taking on an ex-battery hen and giving it a new lease of life, or alternatively, contributing to the continuation of traditional and rare breeds. The Burford browns and Cotswold legbars we have here tell an interesting story. They are both modern traditional breeds! The Burford browns were developed locally during the 1990’s, the exact heritage is a secret, but with the bloodlines inherited from his grandmother the farmer developed hens that are prolific layers of dark brown eggs. These have gone on to provide supermarkets with alternatives to more commercial eggs. Cotswold legbars lay eggs in pastel shades, they were first recorded as a hybrid breed in the 1920s, and, revived during the 1980s, they led the way bringing traditional coloured eggs back to the market.
As well as contributing to gardeners wellbeing, there’s no doubt that the chickens have a part to play in the garden, eating kitchen scraps or garden waste and producing great manure for accelerating compost well suited to vegetable growing.
A book by author Barney Bardsley tells her story, a year gardening to overcome the stress and grief of dealing with a husband dying of cancer and the loss of her Mum. Inspired by her mother’s gardening, Barney experienced a sense of freedom and soothing as she worked to turn a neglected allotment into her special place. The mix of fresh air, wildlife, exercise and observing nature’s cycles of growth and decay all provided solace.
Stan Hissey too talks about the discovery of gardening as a route through his depression that came on after suffering a stroke. Stan uses gardening as horticultural therapy to address his mental wellbeing in a way the NHS weren’t able to, “I feel fulfilled again” he said. He was helped to discover gardening for health through the national charity Thrive that aims to transform the lives of people through horticulture.
Gardeners World magazine undertook a survey of gardeners in the UK and discovered that 80% of gardeners felt satisfied with their lives compared to just 67% of non-gardeners in the general population.
What more evidence do we need that becoming a gardener is good for you?