Thursday, 9 July 2015

Monty Don, depression and photo calls ...

A couple of weeks ago, Monty Don commented on TV's Gardener's World that gardening helped him combat his well-publicised battle with depression. Studies agree with this - and that gardening is a great stress-buster for everyone, whether you suffer from depression or not. While doing a bit of additional research for my current series of dog friendly gardening articles for Your Dog magazine I found this little snippet::

"A recent study in the Netherlands suggests that gardening can fight stress even better than other relaxing leisure activities. After completing a stressful task, two groups of people were instructed to either read indoors or to garden for 30 minutes. Afterward, the group that gardened reported being in a better mood than the reading group, and they also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

In a study conducted in Norway, people who had been diagnosed with depression, persistent low mood, or bipolar disorder spent six hours a week growing flowers and vegetables. After three months, half of the participants had experienced a measurable improvement in their depression symptoms. What's more, their mood continued to be better three months after the gardening program ended."

Such ideas are fairly well documented, so it probably isn't news to many of you. But in the programme, Monty went on to say that he preferred not to wear gardening gloves as he always felt better not just for gardening, but for actually getting his fingers into the soil itself. So it was lovely to then read on that the researchers conducting the study went further, suggesting that
while the novelty of gardening may have been enough to jolt some of the participants out of their doldrums, there might be a more radical explanation for how gardening might ease depression: 

"Christopher Lowry, Ph.D., an assistant professor of integrative physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder, has been injecting mice with Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, and has found that they increase the release and metabolism of serotonin in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood—much like serotonin-boosting antidepressant drugs do."
The Head Gardeners posing with Monty Don
(Well, we did invite him for a photo call.
Not our fault if he didn't turn up!)

If that isn't enough to get you out gardening like mad (and could it be that dogs who like to dig in fact know something that we don't?) there is also research supporting the theory that the
physical activity associated with gardening can help lower the risk of developing dementia.
Two separate studies which followed people in their 60s and 70s for up to 16 years found that those who gardened regularly had a 36% and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account. 

So we know that dogs are good for you, and that gardening is good for you - so what could be better than putting the two together? 

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