If you visit Life at No.27 , the social enterprise highlights that 1 in 4 people in the UK experience mental ill health each year. That’s 25%. What Life at No.27 are trying to champion is how much gardening can improve mental health. Gardening and growing your own produce enables better physical health, provides an opportunity to connect with others, acquire new skills and enjoy the great outdoors.

At Lime House Yoga, we couldn’t agree more. We are blessed with beautiful gardens and plenty of space to grow. But whether you have a walled garden, an allotment or a pot on a balcony, growing your own produce is possible in almost all scenarios. And growing your produce and using gardening as a form of therapy is something many of us have done here at LHY.

Little steps towards gardening also benefit your mental wellbeing. An article titled The Benefits of Gardening for Older Adults shows gardening reduces stress, promotes feelings of accomplishment and competence, increases levels of self-efficacy, self-esteem and psychological wellbeing. That’s quite impressive for a bit of lettuce or a flower!

BMC Public Health published a review which evidenced personal well-being effects of school gardening in children such as increased enjoyment, a sense of achievement, satisfaction and pride from nurturing the plants. It empowers children who do not excel in the traditional academic setting; provided quiet time for reflection and increased confidence and self-esteem. All that from just getting your child’s hands dirty.

Spending time in the garden has been even more significant in the last 18 months, with many using gardening to help them through the lockdowns – 43 percent of people surveyed agreed it had helped them to cope. “This survey shines a welcome spotlight on how gardening has been one of the heroes of the Covid-19 crisis,” said Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, the gardening for health charity.

Here at Lime House we see first-hand, the benefits of gardening on peoples wellbeing. We regularly host volunteers who get their hands dirty in exchange for yoga classes and people tell us it’s the highlight of their week to spend time in nature, listening to the birds and bees and taking time to appreciate the beauty of nature.  For more inspiration read Sam’s Story…

My Journey – Depression to Obsession

I call it a journey however I haven’t really gone anywhere until these last 3 months. 

My depression stems from childhood. The depression then manifested itself into anxiety, fear of people, fear of the outside, a hatred towards myself. It stayed with me into adulthood. I knew it wasn’t right. I knew I was suffering. I knew I needed help. Nothing worked. Not medication, not talking. Nothing. I was in a dark hole, and I gave up. 

Until March of this year when one half of the kindest, most generous couple I have ever met or will ever meet, asked for MY help. That shocked me. What seemed like a simple request has changed my life. Given me life. I was asked to help keep their polytunnel in use. I smile as I write this because I remember thinking how little I knew about plants. But I was willing to learn. Google became my new best friend. My bookshelf found its purpose again. I started small, lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber. My first shoots spurred me on. I got adventurous. I moved things outside into the garden. These plants were growing because of me. I had nurtured them, and they were alive because of me! 

My depression hasn’t gone. I have bad days. But who knew that with a bit of watering and A LOT of weeding, you could grow into the type of person you never knew existed? I spend most of my time in the polytunnel. It’s flourishing and I did that. I’m learning every day and it’s my medication. Finally, after 36 years in this world I got the help I needed and it came from a packet of seeds.

Another of our yoga students says, like yoga, gardening is one of the few things that keeps them present. “Like most people, I’m constantly distracted by everything that ‘needs’ doing. But when anxieties and everyday stresses overwhelm me, I am honestly fixed with 15 minutes of weeding. I just don’t think about anything else. I do stealth weeding in the street! We have a small garden, so haven’t got the luxury of space. I chose three vegetables this year that we eat regularly and planted the seeds. Fewer varieties makes it easier to remember their individual care requirements and I try to nurture them as best I can. Then sometimes, if I’m lucky, I get a few really healthy and tasty plants, rather than just an unimpressive crop of loads of things I haven’t had time, or remembered how, to care for.”

It goes on. Gardening and ‘green therapy’ is now being prescribed by GPs in recognition of the role it plays in mental health recovery. Because gardening itself is by no means for everyone. The national scheme Growing Health found that simply viewing a green space through a window can help people relax and reduce stress levels so whether green-fingered or green-minded, you can reap (sorry!) the benefits.

And if it feels like just another chore to add to an already seemingly endless life-list, perhaps just try growing one thing. What do you like? What does your family eat a lot of? Obviously if it’s avocados you might be waiting a while (like forever) before you bear any fruit! But something simple, easy and low-maintenance, like lettuce, may be a good place to start. It’s happy in small spaces, grows inside or out and provides speedy gratification, with some baby leaves being ready to harvest in 4-5 weeks. 

Even just 5 minutes a day standing in nature, observing the sounds, smells and beauty around you can reduce stress and calm your mind.  And in Cornwall, we are blessed with some of the most beautiful nature and green and blue spaces there are anywhere in the world.

“Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years.” – Unknown