More pupils than ever before (and their teachers) are suffering from unprecedented levels of ‘exam stress’ according to experts. The constant process of revision and assessment is one with which many students fail to cope. Students in the UK are among the most tested children in the world….. ever. My own children complete assessment work across a range of subject areas on a weekly basis. They feel the pressure to perform but have a healthy attitude to how much emotional energy they need to put into assessment work and have developed a range of stress busting techniques to keep things in perspective – mostly sport related in their case.
As millions of teenagers embark on their GCSEs, AS and A-levels and primary schools complete their Standard Assessment Tests, many head teachers are turning to a range of stress busting strategies to support their students. Mindfulness, yoga, counselling, sport and massage are not uncommon in schools up and down the country. And now gardening is being added into the mix.
For schools which have a little bit of land and a school garden it’s an inexpensive and effective way to support stressed out students and teachers. Half an hour spent outside pottering in the garden, weeding, tending plants, caring for wildlife and getting your hands dirty has proven benefits for all sorts of health conditions from depression to dementia. Gardening is a stress buster. As a matter of fact, gardening may be an even more effective stress buster than other leisure activities. A study in the Netherlands involving two groups of students investigated whether reading indoors or gardening for thirty minutes after completing a stressful task had a greater effect. The gardening group reported being in a better mood than the group that read, irrespective of whether they ‘liked’ gardening or not. They also exhibited lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. So here, in a nutshell are the ten ways a flower patch can be a stress buster.
Plant a flower patch and you’ll feel better.
It’s official. Behavioural research shows that flowers are a natural moderator of moods. They have an “immediate impact on happiness, a long term positive effect on mood, and make for more intimate connections between individuals.” Being surrounded by flowers improves one’s health. What are you waiting for? Join us in our campaign to turn school grounds into a patchwork of bee friendly, fabulously fragrant and colourful flower patches and provide your children with ways to relax, away from the pressures of modern school life.
Plant a flower patch and make friends with nature
Slow down and reconnect with the natural world in a fragrant flower patch buzzing with bees. Spending time in nature can help relax your body, restore your attention and revive your mood.
Plant a flower patch and cultivate mindfulness
With one undemanding, repetitive task to complete like planting out seedlings, weeding or cutting flowers you’ll become fully absorbed in the experience of being in your flower patch. You’re practicing mindfulness —a proven way of reducing stress. A garden offers a feast for the senses: colourful and fragrant blooms, birds chirping nearby, bees buzzing and soil to sink your hands into. Soak it all up and let the stress float away.
Plant a flower patch and cultivate your creativity
We all need to express ourselves creatively, and gardening is one way to do that. Let’s face it exams offer little in the way of a creative outlet. Research shows that engaging in a creative pastime can be an effective stress control strategy. Experiment with colour and scent. Plant up a wild patch. And with a flower patch you have two bites at the cherry by growing creatively and arranging your flowers once they’re cut.
Plant a flower patch and share something with your community.
Many people like peace and quiet while gardening; others appreciate company. Working on a flower patch offers both but never underestimate an opportunity for social connectedness. Research shows that people who spend time around plants tend to have better relationships with others and are much more likely to try and help others. In short, being around plants can help to improve relationships between people and increase their concern and empathy toward others. It’s not difficult to see how a school flower patch can help your students support each other through stressful times.
Plant a flower patch and welcome in the wildlife.
A flower patch provides a home and food for birds, butterflies, bees, frogs, worms and any number of other wildlife. Their presence adds another dimension to enrich your stress-free experience.
Plant a flower patch and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
Gardening gives you a sense of accomplishment. Seeing the fruits (or, in our case flowers) of your labours is one of the most satisfying feelings imaginable. Knowing that you have created a thing of beauty which makes people happy is a good way to escape the stress of exam cramming and proof of time well spent.
Plant a flower patch and give meaning to your life.
Being in the garden connects you to the land and gives students the opportunity to focus on the simple things in life, the changing of the seasons, the turning of the year and to experience feelings of abundance and gratitude away from the treadmill of revision and exams.
Plant a flower patch and enter the ‘zone’
Here’s the science bit in a nutshell. Weeding , digging, raking – any number of repetitive flower patch tasks produce a similar effect in gardeners to those experienced by joggers or those who practise meditation. It can activate the parasympathetic nervous system—the body system that counteracts the physiological changes brought on by stress. One good reason to sow those flower seeds.
Plant a flower patch and find out that dirt is good for you.
Children who are exposed to dirt in their early years develop healthier, stronger immune systems when compared to children whose parents keep them squeaky clean. They are less likely to suffer from asthma, eczema and allergies later in life. What’s more Mycobacterium vaccae, a harmless bacteria commonly found in soil has been found to increase the release of serotonin in the parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood. It’s a natural anti-depressant great for anybody sinking underneath a pile of revision.
Plant a flower patch and strengthen your immune system.
Being outside on a sunny day means you’ll soak up plenty of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb Calcium. Calcium helps keep bones strong and your immune system healthy. Simple. Stress can lead to headaches, colds and general lack of energy. Getting out into your flower patch helps to counteract these negatives.
So there you have it. Use your school flower patch to cultivate some calm over the next few weeks. And if you don’t have one yet, get in touch with us and make starting one a project away from the stress of exams for your students or your own children.