Gardens giving men the tools to grow their mental and physical strength.

Thrive – a national charity that promotes gardening for health and wellbeing, and runs Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) programmes ‘for hundreds of people’ at its three gardens in Birmingham, London and near Reading, says it latest campaign, ‘Plants not pressure’ advocates gardens and green space as ‘a place for men to grow their mental and physical strength’.

The campaign supports Men's Health Week 2024, taking place from 10-16 June (#menshealthweek #plantsNOTpressure). Thrive says studies show gardening and time in nature can have a significant role in keeping us emotionally, psychologically, and physically healthy, and is encouraging men to get involved by spreading the word about green benefits, and to get outside to experience the positive effects. Resources on how gardens and gardening support men’s health and wellbeing, plus activities and tips, are available in Thrive’s online guide.

This spring, Thrive created a ‘Gardening and Men’ survey to further understand men’s relationship with gardens. Of the 117 male respondents who participated from Thrive’s Gardening Club newsletter, 91% said gardening helps boost their mood, and

87% said it helps improve their physical fitness.

Supporting ‘Plants not pressure’, Ambassador of Thrive, Mark Lane, a garden designer, author, and TV gardening presenter said: “Studies show gardening-based interventions for people experiencing mental health problems can reduce the symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety, increase self-esteem, and result in better mood. It’s been well documented that gardening can improve alertness and social skills, and reduce reliance on medications and self-harming behaviour.”

Horticulturist, garden writer, and broadcaster, Monty Don OBE VMH, told Thrive: “I garden because I love the process and the result. It’s an endless source of fascination and pleasure. But I also garden because it returns me to myself. It sets the world and I straight when things have gone awry. Being outside, being aware of weather and season, nurturing living plants, and investing in a growing future, is a powerful source of hope – and with hope, anything is possible.”

The mental and physical benefits of gardens and Green Care interventions are highlighted in the 2021 Mental Health Foundation report, Nature. How connecting with nature benefits our mental health. Gardening was included in the ‘Be active’ advice in The Five Ways to Wellbeing evidence-based public mental health message developed by the New Economics Foundation, and the NHS now prescribes Social and Therapeutic Horticulture (STH) to improve health.

Gardening Club member and Horticulture student, Leo – who channelled his creativity into a grounding gardening career, said: “Gardening full time helps to keep you fit and strong, but the physical benefits also come as a by-product of reduced tension, breathing fresh air, movement, and contact with nature’s microbes. Being in touch with nature helps put a lot of things in life into perspective. I find it very grounding and calming working in the garden in the fast-paced world we live in. For me, horticulture is best with a mixture of socialising and space.”

Top tips from Get Gardening members to get men outside in green space are:

1 Make the time for it even if you’re busy.

2 Choose activities you want to do.

3 Keep things simple and don’t put pressure on yourself.

4 Pause to enjoy and appreciate your efforts.

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