Looking for new friends? Dust off your gardening gloves and locate your knee pads.
A recent study from the University of Essex indicates that having a green thumb may be one key to thwarting loneliness — and finding a connection with your community.
Throughout the pandemic, people experienced a range of feelings, many of them negative. Stress, grief, boredom and isolation flourished.
But for a group of volunteers at a community garden in the United Kingdom, other feelings also emerged: They found solace in sowing seeds, fulfillment in growing vegetables and flowers, and a renewed sense of purpose as they tended to the greenery.
In fact, participants in the three-year study self-reported that their life satisfaction and mental well-being increased by 9%.
Now, researchers believe time spent with nature, and its cultivation, can form the basis for nature-based therapeutic interventions that prove indispensable during times of crisis, like COVID-19.
The study is part of a growing body of research that’s finding health benefits from being outdoors.
The researchers said the participants’ enhanced mental health and well-being may have stemmed from the human connections the community garden helped forge. And the outdoor physical activity was also a benefit.
Future investment in similar endeavors could even help reduce demand on the health system and social care, while growing communities in a way that encourages mental well-being.
Now, we’re not saying a cabbage patch is the only key to happiness — but the next time you see your neighbor weeding their garden or planting some tomatoes, think about grabbing a shovel and lending a hand.