Community Gardening | a growing sense of community
Community gardening in particular in a local park or a shared public space can be particularly useful for wellbeing. It can provide opportunities for meeting with other people and reducing social isolation. Creating and caring for a community garden can foster an increased sense of self-ownership and stewardship and help to develop an improved sense of community identity and spirit.
A shared garden can bring together people from all walks of life, from different generations, with differing interests and abilities. By being willing to work together, share experiences and exchange knowledge and skills, it’s something that can develop into a focal point for the whole community to enjoy, with the garden itself coming together to symbolise community – that ‘common unity’.
Personal Growth | grow your own wellbeing
Over recent years the health benefits of gardening have become increasingly recognised. It’s not only the physical benefits of a hard day’s graft in the garden and being out in the fresh air, but it’s the psychological and emotional wellbeing benefits too that are now being widely linked to tending a garden.
In 2007 mental wellbeing charity ‘Mind’ published extensive research data through case studies that ‘ecotherapy’ (green exercise including gardening) is an extremely simple and low cost way of improving wellbeing, and that gardening can be one of the easiest and most widely accessible ways of all to achieve these health benefits. A brand new report (May 2016), by David Buck of ‘The King’s Fund’, titled ‘Gardens and Health (Implications for policy and practice)’, provides further evidence. It indicates the important health benefits that gardening gives across the whole age spectrum from children, to adults and particularly into older age – and makes important new recommendations for policy makers at both a strategic and local level.
Gardens can also provide a means to producing our own food, whether that be just growing a few pots of herbs, or a more sizeable vegetable patch or even an allotment garden and these can be a great tonic and at the same time encourage healthy eating behaviours and an improved diet too.
Creating a healthy and thriving garden environment somehow seems to mirror a relationship in creating healthy and thriving people – the two seem to go hand in hand. The benefits don’t stop there, healthier gardens can support improved environments for healthier wildlife too.
Gardening for health, also known as Social Therapeutic Horticulture (STH), is becoming more and more established right across the UK, with specific garden projects dedicated to improving wellbeing. Cognitive benefits of enhanced mood and improved levels of concentration result. Added to this are the social benefits of group work, co-operating and working with others, with a shared endeavour – achieving a sense of purpose in working towards one common goal.
Gardening also focuses on developing skills and aspirations. It supports learning and distracts away from symptoms and deficiencies, focusing on abilities and what can be achieved, so helping people to build or re-build their self-esteem. The garden can also often provide useful metaphors synonymous with health improvement. Words and themes like nurturing, growing, thriving and flourishing encourage more positive thinking and somehow seem to promote a sense of healing.
One key factor associated with any health recovery is a sense of ‘hope’ – a feeling or anticipation of a continued good, improving or even better future state – a sense that all will be well. There seems to be an undeniable and ‘deep rooted’ (yes, another metaphor) relationship between gardening and hope. Just by planting a seed in the soil, then watering that seedling demands a sense of hope. A sense of anticipation that something will, with the required nurture, time and care, indeed go on to grow, flourish and bloom. This can be synonymous with the start of a journey of personal growth recovery.