Picture a gardener, and you’ll likely imagine a cheery soul, whistling while they work and greeting passersby with a smile and a doff of their slightly muddy cap.
Obviously, all gardeners don't fit into this slightly silly stereotype, but there is truth in their upbeat reputation.
According to forest bathing coach Jen Grange, contact with bacteria found in soil (micobacterium vaccae, if you're interested) creates a reaction in the body that produces serotonin (the happy hormone).
Bacteria in soil can boost our mood
Thanks to this mood-boosting mud, it's no surprise that 59% of Brits believe gardening is an effective way to improve their mental health, according to stats from outdoor apparel brand Columbia.
One person who’s felt the positive impact of whiling away the hours conversing with the flowers is garden designer Katherine Holland, 35, who, following the loss of her mum, left her job working in the city in financial risk management in favour of a more horticultural lifestyle.
As someone who experiences seasonal affective disorder and depression, gardening was a safe haven for her mental health, and something Kath delighted in as a child before it fell by the wayside in adulthood.
Katherine enjoyed gardening from a young age
"Both of my parents were keen gardeners and from an early age, I was encouraged to take part," Kath shares of her first foray into flowers. "I was given my own small patch of earth that I could grow what I wanted in. I used to get so excited visiting garden centres and seeing what seeds I could buy and then grow."
Gardening took a backseat as Kath focused on her career, but her passion was reignited when she moved into a house with a small garden.
READ: I swapped my anxiety-inducing life to grow flowers: here’s what I learnt
"Though the space was overgrown and full of weeds, I rediscovered my love," she shares. "To begin with I didn’t notice the positive impact it was having on me, I was purely focused on sorting it out. However, I noticed that during the winter months I felt more positive.
"I've suffered from seasonal affective disorder and depression since my teens, and gardening without fail has helped boost my mood on low days.
Katherine tending to her plants
"Sometimes it is a real struggle to motivate myself to get outside, especially when it's grey and cold. However, getting outside, even if it's just for an hour, does improve my mood."
"After my Mum died I lost the desire to be out gardening — it was a shared passion and past-time and I couldn't bring myself to do it, it felt pointless. Slowly the wish to garden did creep back in, though, and I found myself enjoying moments. Now I find it therapeutic being outside and gardening, it's a strong connection I have to my Mum, as she taught me a lot about gardening, and it is a way of cherishing that relationship."
"I find that gardening absorbs me — I get so into what I’m doing that I switch off from everything else. I think it is quite a grounding activity. You have to work with nature/your soil type and you have to accept that there will be failures along with successes.
Katherine designed this garden for the Hampton Court Garden Festival
"I love planting bulbs in the autumn — it is such a positive forward-looking activity — preparing for brighter warmer days. I really look forward to seeing their tips poking through the soil in spring.
"I’ve found it has disciplined me in other aspects of my life," she continues. "I went to a talk given by [Gardeners' World star] Monty Don in 2016 and he spoke about accepting the seasons as they come. You can't fight the seasons and nature — you need to go with the flow. This is something I try to remind myself in day-to-day life — going with the flow."
Check out Katherine's garden design work.
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