Gardening makes you happy

Posted: Thursday 18 July 2013
by Kate Bradbury

It’s official: we gardeners are a happy bunch. A new survey reveals that 80 per cent of gardeners are satisfied with their lives...

It’s official: we gardeners are a happy bunch. A new survey published by Gardeners’ World Magazine reveals that 80 per cent of gardeners are satisfied with their lives, compared to 67 per cent of those with indoor-based hobbies, or no hobbies at all.

The results come as no surprise to me. Four years ago, when buying my first home, the only feature I wouldn’t compromise on was outdoor space. This small and shady patch of land enables me to tend plants, sit outside and engage with nature. It keeps me fit, too, even if my main activity at the moment is lugging watering cans to and from the bath. Without my garden I would feel hemmed in and claustrophobic. Without gardening, I'd be miserable.

The survey indicates that gardeners are more positive, too. Indeed, the keener a gardener you are, the more positive your outlook is likely to be. Those who garden for more than six hours a week rate their wellbeing at 87 per cent - seven per cent higher than those who garden less often.

So what is it about gardening that makes us so happy? Is it the fact that we’re outside more often, and are more active than non-gardeners? Or that we appreciate the simple pleasures of watching birds feed their young, or frogs sitting in the pond? Perhaps it’s because we nurture plants from seed, we care for and revive them when they’re sick. Maybe we're used to disappointment and have realistic goals, and don’t mind waiting to see the fruits of our labour.

I think it’s a combination of all of these factors. Humans have evolved with the land, and spent thousands of years growing our own food. We belong outside. Modern lifestyles force many of us into offices and apartment blocks. For some people, their only time outside during the week is the journey to and from the car. But we gardeners have a reason to be outside, and to be part of nature. It makes us happy because it’s part of who we are.

But is 80 per cent satisfaction enough? I won’t stop until I reach 100 per cent. Of course, I’ll need a bigger garden, with plenty of sunshine, room for a veggie patch, three ponds, a mini-meadow and a couple of gnarled old apple trees covered in lichen and a sprig or two of mistletoe. That really would make me happy.

What is it about gardening that makes you happy?

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Talkback: Gardening makes you happy
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Art Works 18/07/2013 at 19:02

I agree after a few hours in the garden your mind is content, lungs full of fresh air and you acquire that happy satisfied feeling that something has been nutured for the good and betterment of all.

MotherB 18/07/2013 at 19:07

It's easy to say gardening makes you happy when the sun is shining and plants and crops are giving their all, and there's time to sit and admire your handiwork. But it's the 'getting there' that really makes you glow, in more ways than one! All the hard graft through cold, wet, dreary days clearing and sowing, scraping and painting, digging and hoeing. In your mind's eye you imagine how it will all look when it's finished. Planning, scheming and dreaming. And when it all comes together with an exuberant fanfare of colour and scent you can pat yourself on your back and say, 'I did that.' No wonder gardeners are such happy bunnies!

Roy Hill 18/07/2013 at 23:44

I wouldn't call me "happy". Happier because of the garden, certainly.

Gnarled apple trees? How about trading for sorry state specimen brought back to health by vigorous pruning? The obvious fungus has gone. The pruning saw had a good clean-up after the event. The water shoots have been thinned and now summer pruned. It may be a bit before the tree fruits again. The anticipation and optimism may get get me. Next year it will be the largest of the three because all the fruit is out of reach. Someone didn't prune and also bought it grafted onto a rather more vigourous root stock. The tree may yet be turned around, despite the deep fissures in the bark. The delights of an 'inherited' garden. The brambles look like they're going to give a bumper crop. Wait 'n' see.

kaycurtis 19/07/2013 at 02:33

Well, I wouldn't say I get lungs of fresh air, I live above the M25 and sandwiched between 2 Railway tracks. I wouldn't be without my garden though it is my space to walk into when I want to.
My patch to grow from seed and cuttings and to share what I grow with friends and neighbours. I purchased my first gardening book when I was living in a flat in London. My children were 14 and 16 years old before I achieved the goal for a garden but I did it.
I still have that first book 50 years later and still gardening.

Linda Nicholls 19/07/2013 at 11:49

I agree that gardening can make one happy and I get a huge thrill from raising new plants from cuttings etc. However as an increasingly arthritic 66 year old with a largish garden I also find it increasingly depressing as I cannot cope with the work and tend to walk around despairingly looking at all the things that need doing but I can't manage. Despite what one might think it is quite difficult to get anyone to weed etc for a reasonable price. Most "professional gardeners" just want to cut lawns once a week and keep hedges in check. When I did get someone in he pulled up one or two plants and broke a window while strimming! Yes I love my garden and getting a new plant I haven't got but it is a burden too.

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