Study suggests gardening helps promote mental health, positive body image
04/13/2020 // Zoey Sky // Views

News reports nowadays are often bleak due to the coronavirus pandemic. These days, it's normal to constantly feel scared and worried.

But according to a study in the journal Ecopsychology, you can find comfort in an unlikely hobby: gardening.

Gardening supports mental health

Researchers from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in the U.K. found that spending time in your garden helps "boost self-esteem" and promote a positive body image, two benefits that help people who feel stressed and anxious during the coronavirus lockdown.

The ARU scientists surveyed participants with and without gardens and found that those who tended a garden had "a generally better state of mind." This implies that gardening can improve your mood by helping you feel confident about your body and improving your self-esteem.

This is good news, especially for people who live in cities that are in lockdown. Even if you're practicing social distancing at home, gardening gives you a chance to spend time outdoors and exercise as you tend to your plants.

Body image and psychological health

Professor Viren Swami, the study's lead author and a psychologist at ARU, explained that positive body image is beneficial for an individual's "psychological and physical resilience." Swami added that your state of mind also allows you to be at peace with your "bodily imperfections."

To date, there are around 300,000 plot holders throughout the U.K. There's also a waiting list of over 100,000 people around the country.

For the study, 84 participants from 12 urban allotment sites in north London took part in a survey. The results revealed that the 84 gardeners had better psychological and physical health compared to the 81 non-gardeners in the area.


Volunteers from the first group had higher levels of "body appreciation, pride and functionality."

The more time volunteers spent in their gardens, the larger the improvement when they left their allotment.

Swami's earlier research has provided proof of the general benefits of spending time in nature. He added that because of increasing urbanization, most of the population now have "less access to nature."

Swami emphasized that the study findings are important since they specifically show the noteworthy benefits of spending time on allotments, which are usually the only source of greenery in the majority of urban environments.

What are allotments?

In the U.K., allotments refer to small plots of land rented to individuals often used to grow food crops. While there is no set standard size for allotments, the most common plot is 10 rods, an ancient measurement equivalent to 302 square yards or 253 square meters.

The land itself is often owned by local government, like a parish or town councils, or self-managed and owned by the allotment holders via an association.

Home gardening tips while on lockdown

If you're living in an apartment with limited space, but want to try gardening to relieve your stress, you can do so with container gardening.

Container gardens let you bring nature right into your home even if you don't have a spacious yard.

Drop by the local garden center or shop online; it is considered an "essential" business that can remain open during government-ordered shutdowns.

Try these tips for indoor gardening:

Use a seed starter kit

Tender plants like basil, pepper or tomatoes, can be started indoors. As spring rolls around, you can plant your crops outdoors in pots or window boxes.

Use a seed starting mix, plant the seeds in trays or small pots, then place them in a sunny area. Water your plants regularly. As a bonus, you're also growing herbs and vegetables for your daily consumption.

Start with easy-to-grow plants

Some indoor plants are low maintenance. Studies suggest that a snake plant or the "mother-in-law's tongue" can help clean the air in your apartment. Snake plants also need very little sunlight.

If you have a sunny balcony or patio, set up a self-watering tomato trellis.

Grow vegetable scraps

Leafy vegetables like bok choy and romaine lettuce will regrow from the parts you don't eat.

First, cut off one to two inches at the base, then put it aside with the cut side up in a bowl or shallow saucer filled with water half-an-inch high.

Lastly, put the bowl in a sunny spot. Soon, the roots will start to grow and you can transplant it into a pot.

Grow vegetables in your container

Put some gravel, marbles, or rocks at the bottom of the container for drainage. Next, put a saucer or dish under the container so it won't leak all over your floor when you water it. Fill the rest of the pot with organic soil.

Try growing these vegetables in your container garden:

  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Salad greens like arugula, loose-leaf lettuce and spinach
  • Scallions
  • Sweet potatoes

Make the most of your home garden by growing herbs and vegetables to ensure that you have access to fresh and nutritious produce even during a lockdown.

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