Gardening makes you feel better’, according to the Macmillan cancer support charity and this will delight many Occupational Therapists and other allied health professionals who use gardening as an effective treatment to ease anxiety, pain and distress for those living with cancer and undergoing treatment.

Gardening is a great activity that can be undertaken alone or with a buddy and here are so many different areas to learn about and connect with, such that it has something for everyone.

When I started running gardening groups in an acute psychiatric unit, I was initially fascinated by the history of gardens in hospitals and then I moved on to the history of women and gardening, which pushed me into attending a number of courses.

The world of horticulture soon opened up to me and I was able to use my love of art with gardening activities to run group therapy sessions that really seemed to help people feel better.

More recently I have based my workshops and POP BOXes on the research evidence of the New Economics Foundation’s 5 Ways to Wellbeing, a framework useful for bringing some structure to the hugely complimentary subjects of gardening and art.

Living with any serious physical or mental illness is scary and takes some adjusting to. Finding a way to cope will differ from person to person but 5 key principles that can help when using gardening are:

  • Be open to learning about seeds, flowers, wildlife, growing vegetables and botanical art;
  • Be mindful and show compassion for nature;
  • Be open to connecting with others in your area, make new gardening/art friends, attend a course, join a flower society;
  • Become physically fitter and stronger;
  • Be willing to share and give to others all the lovely stuff and works of art you have grown, drawn or painted or volunteer at a hospice garden.

All of these elements interact and are easy to achieve. Click here for some accounts of gardeners living with cancer. This month POP Gardens are going pink in support of Breast Cancer awareness month and supporting a small charity called Future Dreams – please check out their good work here.