Did you know that March 20th is United Nations International Day of Happiness, a day to celebrate and recognise that happiness is a basic human right? How appropriate that it falls just before the Spring Equinox when Spring is definitely springing, buds are budding, shoots are shooting, there are a few flowers to cut from the patch and, if you’re anything like me you’re overrun with packets of seedy potential.
Gardeners know a thing or two about happiness. There have been numerous studies in recent years indicating that gardeners are more optimistic, healthier and less prone to signs of depression than those who don’t get their hands dirty. Even putting your hands in the soil increases levels of seratonin (the happiness chemical). Gardeners are natural optimists, believing that, however bad the season, next year will be better and all that fresh air and physical exercise can’t be bad either.
For children the effects of gardening are even more marked. Research suggests that, not only does gardening make children happier but it can boost their development, enabling them to become more resilient, confident and healthier. Researchers at the National Foundation for Educational Research found that teachers who used gardening as part of learning said it helped improve children’s readiness to learn.They also said it encouraged pupils to become more active in solving problems, as well as boosting literacy and numeracy skills. The research points to the way dealing with difficult weather conditions and plant disease teaches young gardeners to think on their feet and solve problems and that exposing young children to insects helps them overcome their fears, whilst waiting for crops to grow teaches patience.
That’s amazing – but the greatest of all things gardening can teach children is happiness, whether on this special day or everyday.And for our schools, not only are they gaining from the process of gardening but the end result – buckets of beautiful flowers brings happiness to others too.