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Today’s Children and Young people are facing unprecedented pressure both on and offline, as record numbers of young people are reported to suffer from Mental Health problems.

The Big Yellow Bus Garden project attempts to redress this growing issue at our three acre site in * Re-locating to a new, permanent site - watch this space! , where children and young people come to engage with the land in a peaceful, relaxing environment, enjoying the beneficial properties that nature has to offer.

So why is gardening so good for our mental health?

1. Looking after plants gives us a sense of responsibility.

Having to care for plants is a good way to learn to look after and respect other living things and when we are small it helps develop an appreciation of the magic of nature.

2. Gardening allows us all to be nurturers.

It doesn’t matter if we are seven or seventy, male, female or transgender, gardening underlines that we are all nurturers. Horticulture is a great equaliser: plants don’t give a fig who is tending them and for those with mental health problems to be able to contribute to such a trans formative activity can help boost self-esteem.

3. Gardening keeps us connected to other living things.

Gardening can act as a gentle reminder to us that we are not the centre of the universe. Self-absorption can contribute to depression, and focusing on the great outdoors can encourage us to be less insular.

4. Gardening helps us relax and let go.

For many the peacefulness associated with gardening comes not from its social aspect however, but the opposite. It enables us to escape from other people. ‘Flowers are restful to look at. . Tending to plants allows us to tap into the carefree part of ourselves.

Moreover, the rhythmic nature of many tasks associated with horticulture – weeding, trimming, sowing, sweeping – allows thoughts to ebb and flow along with our movements.

5. Working in nature releases happy hormones.

To say that gardening encourages us to exercise and spend time outdoors might seem a statement of the obvious, but it’s worth reminding ourselves that what’s good for the body is also good for the mind. When we exercise levels of serotonin and dopamine (hormones that make us feel good) rise and the level of cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), is lowered. It’s true that a session in the garden can be tiring, but it can also get rid of excess energy so you sleep better and ultimately feel renewed inside.

6. Being amongst plants and flowers reminds us to live in the present moment. 

When we let go of ruminating on the past or worrying about the future and instead focus on the here and now, anxiety lessens’. So one of the best ways to calm the anxious mind and lift mood is to become more ‘present’. Just a short time experiencing the fullness of nature like this can be very restorative.

7. Gardening reminds us of the cycle of life, and thus come to terms with that most universal of anxieties: death.

Rituals can help us work through difficult emotions, including grief, and gardening is a form of ritual involving both the giving of life and acknowledgement of its end; it's symbolic of regeneration.

8. Some aspects of gardening allow us to vent anger and aggression...

Clearly then, horticulture is not all sweetness and light: nature has its dark side too. In a similar vein, some of the therapeutic power of gardening is that it allows us to unleash our anger and aggression as well as providing an opportunity to nurture.

9. ...whilst others allow us to feel in control.

In a similar vein, anxious people often feel overwhelmed, and gardening can be a good way of gaining a sense of control. Moreover, whereas trying to control other people is invariably a fruitless exercise, you’re more likely to succeed in controlling your beds and borders, which can make gardening a particularly satisfying experience.

10. Last but not least, gardening is easy.

When it comes to growing things, for all its power of healing, the world of plants can feel intimidating to an outsider. If you’re new to gardening you may well be anxious you won’t have ‘green fingers’ and here, as with all new ventures: starting small is key.

Paul Williams,  eq  director, pointing the way forward for our Garden Project.

Paul Williams, eq director, pointing the way forward for our Garden Project.

We are now a fully paid up member of the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening.

We are now a fully paid up member of the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening.

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*Currently re-locating to a new location - watch this space!