We’ve believed gardening is good for the soul for years and it’s now official: it’s good for your mental health. A study published in the Journal of Public Health found that 30 minutes a week spent tending an allotment isn’t just good exercise, it actually boosts self-esteem, raises your mood and dissipates tension and depression.
The study, carried out by researchers at the Universities of Essex and Westminster, also found that while 7 in 10 people who did no gardening were obese or overweight, only 47% of gardeners were.
The UK Faculty of Public Health is taking the research seriously enough to call for a wider provision of community allotments to give more people access to this healthy resource.
And apparently, some of this well-being is coming straight from the soil. The dirt in your garden or allotment contains a natural antidepressant. The bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae has effects comparable to drugs like Prozac when naturally inhaled by gardeners working outside. The amazing stuff seems to boost serotonin levels, the chemical in the brain that makes you happy.
So could getting an allotment make you a happier person? Who knows! But it’s a good excuse to get out there and start digging.
- It’s not all glamor! You may eventually get to harvest some beautiful veg and sit and enjoying the sun outside your shed but there’s a lot of hard work involved and much of it can be quite boring. Are you up for heavy digging and endless weeding? It might only be 30 minutes work a week, but it needs to be every week.
- Allotment gardening is a social activity; you’ll be part of an allotment association with rules and regulations and gardening in close proximity to many other people. Keeping things friendly requires cooperation and flexibility.
- Have you got the info? To get a good crop of veg from an allotment needs some gardening know-how, and if you’re more of an amateur it can be useful to have someone to ask for advice or even come along and give you a hand as you get started. If you’re clearing off an inherited neglected patch before you start, help may be particularly necessary.
Image credit: Gerwin Sturm