Over 7 million have taken up gardening since the pandemic: new research shows spending more time in nature has boosted nation’s wellbeing
New research released today by Mind shows the nation’s mental health has benefitted from spending more time in nature since the pandemic. The data coincides with the mental health charity’s garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, which has been designed by eight-time RHS Chelsea gold medal winner, Andy Sturgeon.
A survey of 1,000 people in the UK, conducted by Censuswide, found that since the pandemic:
- over 7 million say their mental health has benefitted from taking up gardening for the first time;
- over 3 million say their mental health has benefitted from moving out of an urban area to get access to outdoor space or a garden and;
- over 7 million say their mental health has benefitted from connecting with people outdoors, for example by speaking to their neighbours over the fence.
Overall, nearly two thirds of UK adults (63%) say spending time gardening or in nature helps their mental health, with respondents saying it makes them feel less stressed and that they benefit from taking in the sights, colours and smells of the outdoors. But it’s not just those with gardens who reap the rewards, 43% said looking after houseplants or growing food or plants in window boxes also boosted wellbeing.
This comes on the first day of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, where Mind will host a charity garden for the first time. The Mind Garden is designed by Andy Sturgeon, funded by Project Giving Back and built by Crocus. As the statistics highlight, spending time outdoors and connecting with others can boost mental wellbeing, themes which Andy drew upon for his design. The Mind Garden creates a sanctuary for conversation - a circular seating area is set within curved lime rendered walls - it’s a place to sit side-by-side and share experiences and advice, surrounded by meadow-like spaces and calming birch trees. A gravel path arcs down to a lower level, bringing people together before the garden opens out before them. In this way, the design reflects how it can feel to open up to others about mental health.
Once the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is over, the Mind Garden will live on, enabling more people to access ecotherapy - a formal type of therapeutic treatment which involves doing outdoor activities in nature. In addition to financial support from Project Giving Back for its relocation, Dunelm, the UK’s leading homewares retailer, has supported the transportation of the entire garden to a new home at Mind in Furness in Cumbria where it will transform an area of scrubland.
Dunelm have also supported the delivery of plants from the Mind Garden to 15 other local Minds across the country which deliver ecotherapy services, meaning even more people will benefit from the garden’s legacy.
Faris Khalifa, 33 from Liverpool has experienced depression, anxiety and PTSD. He said: “Gardening helped my mental health unexpectedly. I was going through a bad time and didn’t care for my mini bonsai tree. All the leaves fell out and it appeared to be dead. I was really upset and guilty. I still had some hope for it so I gave it some water. Three days later, a new bright green leaf appeared and I was overjoyed. Now the plant is back to life. The simple process of caring for a living thing makes you feel responsible for its wellbeing. So even if I’m having a terrible week, I get myself out of bed and water those plants. Before I know it I see the life in them and how the sun dances between their leaves and I feel glad I’m alive.”
“I also spend a lot of time in my Grandma’s garden where she shows me her plants while we talk, this was especially helpful during lockdown. As someone who’s lost a lot over the years, there aren’t many places on this earth where I feel as much love, as much acceptance and as much hope as I do in my grandma’s garden. For that I will be forever thankful.”
Andy Sturgeon, designer of the Mind Garden, said “I wanted to design a garden for Mind because I’ve always been aware of the benefits of gardens for my mental health, and for other people. I’ve known that for my entire career but it’s only in the last few years that people have begun to talk about it. The Mind Garden includes a series of curved walls and I had the idea that they could come together, like a conversation. It’s a very tactile space. Gardens make people happy, they make people relax, and you can see people behave differently when they are in that environment. In the Mind Garden, I want people to feel embraced. I want people to feel protected when they are in it.”
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said “We’ve known for some time that physical outdoor activity can help our wellbeing. But this significant new research provides evidence that gardening in particular plays a key role in bringing together a host of things that are good for our mental health. Taking in the sights and colours of the outdoors, nurturing and growing plants and finding space to connect with others can make a world of difference to how we feel. After a challenging couple of years, when many of us have experienced mental health problems for the first time, it’s really encouraging see the nation has drawn on the great outdoors for support. We’re incredibly grateful to Project Giving Back and to Andy Sturgeon for giving Mind the chance to create a garden at the iconic RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2022, and to Dunelm for supporting the Mind Garden’s legacy.”
Nick Wilkinson, CEO of Dunelm, said “We’re delighted that Dunelm have been able to support the transportation of the Mind Garden from its original Chelsea home to a new community in Barrow in Furness to provide a dedicated space to help local people escape the pressures of everyday life and focus on their mental wellbeing.”
During the week at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, Mind have a host of activities planned to help engage audiences with the topic of mental health. An afterhours reception On Tuesday 24th May supported by the renowned sculptor, Frances Segelman who is also known as Lady Petchey, will bring together over 120 Mind supporters to celebrate the Mind Garden after the show closes to the public.
A breakfast club, sponsored by Seasalt Cornwall, on the morning of Tuesday 24th May will pre-launch a new initiative called With Women in Mind. The initiative will support Mind’s emerging programme for young women who have experienced trauma, which has been identified as a key priority for the charity given that childhood trauma doubles a young person’s risk of experiencing mental health problems and young women are more likely to experience trauma than their peers. The project, to be launched next year, will be co-designed with young women, learning from expert partners and building on what works, such as research highlighting the benefits of ecotherapy and being outdoors.
More information about the garden design and a planting list can be found here: www.andysturgeon.com/chelsea-flower-show-2022/
To find out more about the Mind Garden, including tips on how to connect through nature, visit www.mind.org.uk/chelseaflowershow
 The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 1,000 respondents aged 16+ in UK between 27.04.22 - 29.04.22. The survey was conducted from a nationally representative sample of UK adults. Quotas were applied to nationally representative proportions for age, gender and region. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. Data has been extrapolated based on nationally representative statistics and the UK population.
 Top three responses when asked how gardening and spending time in nature benefitted mental health were: 1. Feeling calmer or less stressed (63%) 2. Taking in the colours, sounds, sights smells etc. (43%) 3. Exercising outside (40%)
 Torjesen, I. (2019) Childhood trauma doubles risk of mental health conditions.
 Olff, M. (2019) Sex and gender differences in post-traumatic stress disorder: an update.
 Währborg et al., (2014). Nature-assisted rehabilitation for reactions to severe stress and/or depression in a rehabilitation garden: Long-Term follow-up including comparisons with a matched population-based reference cohort. Journal of rehabilitation medicine: official journal of the UEMS European Board of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine.Ecotherapy Local Minds