A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care.

Hot off the press!

A new report commissioned by Natural England and produced for them by Mind and The University of Essex seeks to explore efficacy of nature based interventions for mental health.

With the prescription of antidepressants at record levels and a high demand for psychological therapies, health and social care commissioners are interested in examining and commissioning new treatment interventions for mental health. There are now numerous local and national organisations offering a range of nature-based interventions as specifically designed and structured health or social care treatment interventions for vulnerable groups in society, including those with mental illness. Could these nature-based interventions (termed ‘Green Care’ or ‘Ecotherapy’) be part of a new solution for mental healthcare?

One of the highlights in this report for us is confirmation, once again, of the benefits of our approach at Seed of Hope, and the outcomes that our participants experience.

The mental health benefits for social and therapeutic horticulture, environmental conservation interventions and care farming were similar and include:

o Psychological restoration and increased general mental wellbeing

o Reduction in depression, anxiety and stress related symptoms

o Improvement in dementia-related symptoms

o Improved self-esteem, confidence and mood

o Increased attentional capacity and cognition

o Improved happiness, satisfaction and quality of life

o Sense of peace, calm or relaxation

o Feelings of safety and security

o Increased social contact, inclusion and sense of belonging

o Increase in work skills, meaningful activity and personal achievement

Also a great plug for our near neighbours at Magdelan Care Farm. I haven’t particpated in their Calm on the Farm programme but I did do a sausage making course there which I can highly recommend. Beautiful and inspirational surroundings.

Download the full report here-

A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care NECR204_edition_1 2016

Link to Natural England


Allotment gardening is good for you, it’s official.

This story from the BBC is music to our ears.

Some years ago now Kris ran and allotment gardening programme for  Time to Change. The premise being that being outdoors, doing some exercise, being part of a team and eating fresh seasonal produce was all good for mental health. The Nursing Times ran an article about it and many of the allotment groups that were started carry on led by the people who use them.

The BBC news article is here.

Find out more about Time to Change.

GPs to prescribe Horticultural Therapy

Here’s an interesting article from Thrive’s Growth Point magazine. I have been professionally involved with the world of CBT and IAPT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Improving Access to Psychological Therapies), and I know the effectiveness of this approach.

However I wholeheartedly support Dr Bird’s assertion that Social and Horticultural Therapy can operate on an equal par with CBT.

There’s a way to go yet until it’s the “treatment” of choice for GPs, but we look forward to the day.

Some doctors have not yet accepted that something so simple can be more effective than drugs, but we know it works; and I would say the ‘green gym’ is good for everyone, but it is particularly beneficial for people with mental ill health, depression, anxiety and dementia.

When in contact with nature, our brains are triggered into a reduced-stress mode. Far from being trivial to our health, it has a fundamental effect.

Click here for the full article

Heard on the Autistic Gardener

I just caught up with the latest episode of what is turning out to be a smashing series. The icing on the cake for me was the comments from the team at the end.

I’ve gained much more confidence over the couple of weeks.

It’s just nice to feel part of a team.

I know it’s only telly and a bit contrived but even so, it’s good to hear.

Go here to watch it on All 4

New research into the benefits of growing

Researchers in Japan have examined the effects of growing plants on a group of women experiencing PTSD after a recent (2011) earthquake in Japan.

These results demonstrate that the growing of plants
restore people with PTSD reactions to good condition.
Additionally, the growing of plants reduced stress levels
in people with PTSD reactions for an earthquake disaster.
The full report is available here and contains a lot of science, not all of which we can profess to understand. The message above is clear though.

The study used MRI, psychological tests and saliva tests to measure the impact of horticultural therapy.

The MRI images showed that within the eight week programme the brains of those participating in horticultural therapy changed!

Psychological testing showed improvement in PTSD reactions and positive affect.


The saliva tests showed a decrease in Cortisol which equates to reduction in stress.


Neural plasticity may underlie the psychological and physiological effects of growing plants.
In other words-Time to get Growing!!!

Yuka Kotozaki et al.

Positive effect by the growing of plants the victim after the great east japan earthquake

Journal of Recent Scientific Research Vol. 6, Issue, 2, pp. 2850-2858, February, 2015

“Gardening is good for you” – No surprises for us here.

This Recent article from GP online confirms what we know.

Gardening is good for you, especially as part of a team, like the one at SoH.

‘I have at least three patients whose families have come to me and said it’s made an enormous difference to their relative – they’re happier and more confident,’ he told GPOnline.

‘We have a lot of isolated people in our community and this is a really positive way of slowing re-integrating them into society.’


How does it work?

There are a number of things central to SoH, and intrinsic to gardening, that produce the good effects (outcomes)that we expect:

  • Being in nature
  • Being outdoors
  • Physical Exercise
  • Being with others
  • Achieving common goals
  • Eating seasonal produce
  • Growing and nurturing stuff

The good stuff includes:

  • Reduced anxiety
  • Reduced depression
  • Improved feelings of well being
  • Reduced Stress
  • Better Physical Health
  • Improved diet
  • Increase in attention
  • Improved concentration
  • Weight loss
  • Less social isolation

Can you prove it? (the research/evidence base)

The main sources of evidence for our approach are gathered in a literature review of ten papers on the benefits of gardening on mental health, published since 2003. “Gardening as a mental health intervention:a review” Clatworthy J. et al., 2013.

The team review the ten articles and collate the evidence produced, the findings are:

All reported positive effects of gardening as a mental health intervention for service users, including reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. Participants described a range of benefits across emotional, social, vocational, physical and spiritual domains. Overall the research was of a considerably higher quality than that reviewed in 2003, providing more convincing evidence in support of gardening-based interventions.

So they found gardening to be a positive intervention, and this held true across the various projects reviewed. For more research and evidence of the benefits of gardening on mental health please visit our research and evidence page.

“There is something soothing about working in the yard. Planting seeds and seeing them poke green out of the dirt. And it gets you out of the house with out going too far.”
Michael Lee West, Crazy Ladies