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Gardening for mental health and well-being

by: Mandy Watson 29 Aug 2018

By Mandy Watson

Gardening for mental health and well-being (including plants that help you sleep more easily)

picture plant

It takes an enormous effort of will to break out of the cycle of depression
Giving out oxygen at night – the Easter-flowering cactus

It’s been a blessing recently that people have started to open up and talk about mental illness. There’s no stigma over breaking your leg, so why should there be about depression or stress?I’ve suffered from both of the above and gardening was a life-saver.

If you’re the partner or carer of someone with a mental illness, it can be just as painful and leave you feeling helpless.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to move or do anything with depression, let alone plan an agenda of creating a garden.

First crucial step…

I found it easiest to not think. I’d force myself to take the crucial step of getting the wellies and coat on, and step out of the door.

This was usually incredibly difficult and often didn’t happen at all.

However, on the days I did manage to venture out, I’d deadhead a plant… then pull out a weed… and before I knew it, I’d been outside for hours, exhausted, but a damn sight more at peace.

The physical tiredness led to a good, healing proper night’s sleep without my overactive mind getting the upper hand.

Mental health issues are estimated to affect a quarter of us at one time or another (I suspect this is vastly underreported), but services to help people are not always available.

Studies suggest that 30 minutes of gardening can have a positive effect on mental health and it has been argued that if ‘horticultural therapy’ was prescribed by GPs, substantial savings could be made by the NHS.

Getting a good night’s rest

We've all had times when we just couldn't sleep and it has a dramatic negative impact on life.

Most people suffering from anxiety, stress or depression have poor-quality sleep. Many have trouble nodding off or staying asleep, which only makes their condition worse - it’s a catch 22 situation.

However, one group of plants ‘breathe’ the opposite way to normal, giving out oxygen at night and absorbing carbon dioxide during the day, making them ideal for bedrooms.They increase the oxygen levels in the room while we’re asleep, giving us a more restful, healing night.

Who are these stars? Mainly desert dwellers, who when they photosynthise, keep their stomata (pores in the leaves) closed during the day to prevent water loss, releasing oxygen at night and absorbing the carbon dioxide we breathe out.

Go for trendy succulents, especially Sansevieria (mother-in-law’s tongue), Schlumbergera (Easter/Christmas cacti), bromeliads, jungle orchids, Beaucarnia curvata (ponytail palm), cacti, Aloe vera.

As plants can also remove pollution particles from the air, you really need to invest in your own natural air filters for a better quality of life.

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