Some of us might include getting more exercise and losing a bit of weight on our lists, especially if the excesses of the festive season have taken their toll. Whether that applies to you or not, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that my advice is to get out into your garden. The benefits of gardening for both physical and mental health are well documented now, so time spent outdoors could really get your new year off to a flying start.
Those of us who love our gardens already know how good it can make us feel, but I think it’s well worth issuing a timely reminder. Obviously, in January, the hours we can spend outdoors depend very much on the weather, so try to make the most of any opportunity that arises. On cold, bright winter days, the garden is the perfect place to enjoy a winter workout.
Routine activities such as digging, raking, cleaning paths and patios, scrubbing down greenhouses and planting all provide physical exercise which can help with mobility, strength, flexibility and general fitness. According to the British Heart Foundation, any activity which warms you up and increases your heart rate counts towards the moderate intensity activity you need to achieve a healthy lifestyle.
A traditional January job such as pruning apple and pear trees not only requires stretching and bending but also helps to keep your mind active, as you consider the shape you’re trying to create and maintain. Walking back and forth to pick up tools, carrying prunings to the compost bin and topping up bird feeders, will all contribute to your workout.
Aside from the physical exercise, our gardens are great places to relax and it’s now a widely held belief that just being in the garden can have a positive impact on our mental wellbeing. If you’re suffering from the January blues or have things on your mind, you might find that time in your garden will lift your spirits.
Research undertaken by health charity, The Kings Fund, concluded that there are many mental health benefits to gardening, with studies showing that, done regularly, it helps to reduce depression, stress and anxiety. Just being in the garden can be relaxing and therapeutic, surrounded by its textures, sounds and sights, like the bright stems of Cornus and gorgeous flowers of Helleborus, both looking fabulous now.
However large or small your outdoor space, it can be a personal sanctuary, a place to cultivate and grow, or just a space to sit and enjoy the plants and wildlife. Gardening is a creative and productive pastime which teaches us new skills and rewards our efforts time after time. Above all, it keeps our minds and bodies active and that has to be a good thing. Happy new year!