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Gardening twice a week helps relieve stress, new study shows

Gardening twice a week helps relieve stress, new study shows
(Image credit: Getty Images)

While gardening has always been known as a calming and reflective activity, new research shows that it can be excellent for your physical and mental wellbeing too. Any green fingered individuals will be happy with the news that gardening just two to three times a week leads to better wellbeing and lower stress levels. So whether it’s firing up your gas lawn mower, or planting fragrant herbs and flowers, you’re nurturing your mind and your garden.

The research, funded by the Royal Horticultural Society, reveals that those who undertake gardening frequently (two to three times per week) seemed less stressed, felt better within themselves and were more physically active than those who didn’t. Clearly, escaping into nature can do wonders by distracting our brains and allowing ourselves to slow down. It's a similar effect to using a meditation app, helping you to slow down, breathe and reconnect with yourself and nature.

“This is the first time the ‘dose response’ to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits”, said lead author of the study, Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui. “In fact gardening, every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running.”

  • Those who gardened two to three times a week had a 4.1% higher wellbeing score
  • They had 2.4% lower stress levels compared to people who don’t garden
  • People with existing health issues acknowledged the value of gardening
  • The main motivation behind gardening was pleasure, not health
  • Yet, an increased frequency of gardening tallied with health benefits

Gardening twice a week helps relieve stress, new study shows: An image showing a plant pot and gardening gloves

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How does gardening reduce stress? 

The exact ways in which gardening helps to reduce stress begins with the openness and calm that nature itself fundamentally brings. This study found that satisfaction and engagement improved as the amount of green space increased within gardens. That is to say, the more green participants were surrounded by, the better they felt.Dr Lauriane Chalmin-Pui said: “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.”

Beyond simply feeling better outdoors, the study also found that the reason gardening was so good for the body was because it felt good to do it. “Gardening is like effortless exercise because it doesn’t feel as strenuous as going to the gym, for example, but we can expend similar amounts of energy.”

Good feelings always tend to arise when we’ve achieved something we’re proud of, and the same most definitely applies to gardening. Creating an outdoor space to be proud of not only yields material results for you, but fosters a sense of pride in the little corner of loveliness you’ve created in your own backyard.

What are the best gardening jobs for relieving stress?

If you've been incentivized by these findings and want to spruce up your own garden (and sense of wellness) as a result, there’s no better time to start than now, as summer gently edges its way towards us.

Getting out in the sunshine means that lawn care season is definitely underway, so why not treat yourself to one of the best electric lawn mowers and kickstart your gardening journey? Battery-powered options are available and go that little bit further to look after the planet while you’re at it. 

Gardening twice a week helps relieve stress, new study shows: An image of a garden gate overlooking a golden beach

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once you have your green lawn perfected, you can keep on top of any pesky weeds and unwanted shrubs with the use of the best weed eaters too. These handy tools can help you transform your garden in no time and there’s still a chance to kick back and savor your hard work with a refreshing beverage at the end of the day.  

You could also get involved with planting your own fruit or vegetables, and enjoy the satisfaction of self-reliance when they come into season. If not produce, then perhaps beginning a project involving wall plants or a gorgeous arbor arch to create an enchanted looking backyard scene.

  • Begin with plotting your outdoor space 
  • Mow the lawn 
  • Pull up weeds 
  • Plant a vegetable patch 
  • Repot your favorite plants 
  • Plant wall plants 
  • Work with fragrant herbs and flowers for a natural wellbeing boost

Classic signs of stress, and when to seek help 

Stress can be a short-term response to a temporary situation, or it can creep up on you over time, to the point where you don’t realize the extent to which you are stressed out… Until you reach breaking point. Burnout is also closely associated with chronic stress, and can happen if you are under constant pressure in a work or personal situation.

According to renowned mental health charity MIND, these are some of the classic signs of stress to watch out for: 

  • You regularly feel irritable, aggressive, impatient or wound up
  • You feel over-burdened
  • You are dealing with feelings of anxiety, nervousness or fear
  • Your thoughts are racing and you can’t switch off
  • You are unable to enjoy yourself and your regular hobbies
  • You feel like you have lost your sense of humor
  • Most days, you have a sense of dread

A man in an orange jumper holds his hands to his face because he feels stressed and overwhelmed

(Image credit: Getty)

Some of this may come out in your behavior too. For example, you might find it difficult to make or stick with decisions, or you constantly worry about specific things in your life - or you just worry in general. You may also find yourself unable to concentrate, and feel as though you just don’t want to be around others. 

If this rings true with you, speak to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as you can to see what help is available to you. If a work or personal situation is the cause of your stress, look at what can be done to address it. Speaking to a trusted confidant or your doctor is a good place to start. 

Other ways to relieve stress in your daily life 

In addition to gardening, there are plenty of things you can do, day to day, to help reduce any stress you are experiencing. Sleep is the first port of call, so ensure you are focused on maintaining a regular bedtime and wake-up schedule. Try to limit your use of tech an hour before bed, as well as your consumption of caffeine or alcohol, as each of those things can disturb your sleep. 

If your bed isn’t up to scratch, be honest about whether it’s due for an upgrade. Nearly all of the best mattress online companies offer trial periods, so you can test out one to ensure it’s right for your health and sleep style before you commit. 

Other ways to relieve stress in your day to day life include:

  • Taking a daily walk, even if it’s just for ten minutes, and ideally around midday when the sun is at its highest to soak up Vitamin D
  • Prioritizing your sleep - maintain a regular schedule
  • Eating as healthily as you can, and limiting caffeine and alcohol
  • Establish a proper wind-down routine, such as an evening bath with soothing essential oils
  • Switch to herbal teas, such as chamomile, to help you feel calm
  • Remember to take time out to breathe and be mindful. Proper, deep breaths from your belly will help you slow down and feel more at ease