People with depression and anxiety may be given “nature prescriptions”, with doctors recommending walks and activities that allow people to connect with the outdoors.
Spending time in outdoors, taking time out of the everyday to surround yourself with greenery and living things can be one of life’s great joys – and recent research also suggest it’s good for your body and your brain.
Scientists have found that spending 2 hours per week in nature is linked to better health and well-being. It’s maybe not entirely surprising then that some patients are increasingly being prescribed time in nature and community gardening projects as part of “green prescriptions” . In Shetland for example, islanders with depression and anxiety may be given “nature prescriptions”, with doctors there recommending walks and activities that allow people to connect with the outdoors.
Social prescriptions – non-medical treatments which have health benefits – are already used to tackle anxiety, loneliness and depression. They often involve the referral of patients to a community or voluntary organisation, where they can carry out activities which help to meet their social and emotional needs, and increasingly doctors are opting for community gardening – as this also has the added benefit of involving time spent in nature – even in highly built up areas.
And the evidence base for such treatments is growing – with research indicating that social prescribing can help to reduce anxiety levels and general health.
The benefits of gardening for depression
Research shows that gardening can directly improve people’s well-being. And that taking part in community gardening can also encourage people to adopt healthier behaviours. It may be, for example, that neighbourhood projects can be reached on foot or by bicycle – prompting people to take up more active transport options in their daily lives. Eating the produce from a community garden may also help people to form the habit of eating fresh, locally grown food.