Spring is upon us and the air is filled with the contented cooing of chiropractors and osteopaths as gardeners reach for their spades.Gardening does not have to be back breaking work though – please see last month’s column about ‘no dig’ gardening. The thing about gardening is though that there is a huge body of research that demonstrates not only improved physical health but also a marked improvement in mental health. During gardening (the slightly more strenuous bits) our body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with the receptors in our brains which reduce the perception of pain and also trigger a positive feeling in the body. 20 to 30 minutes gardening can cause endorphin release however if you haven’t exercised in a while this time will be reduced. Serotonin is one of the neurotransmitters released during gardening and other exercise and is one of the ley neurotransmitters implicated in depression. Dopamine is another neurotransmitter implicated in low mood and is released – among other times – when we exercise and when we finish tasks. Gardening is ideal for this as we can easily break jobs down into smaller tasks. When we concentrate on specific tasks we enter a ‘flow’ state where we achieve a rhythm in what we are doing and feel as if time just vanishes. It’s not just the exercise bit of gardening that helps; the creative elements can bring about a feeling of wellbeing particularly if we adopt a regular routine and allow ourselves to focus. We can also increase our social networks by taking our gardening to new places by volunteering within a community or social group; you can find places to volunteer locally on www.do-it.org. So the theme for this month is get into the garden, break the jobs down into small, achievable tasks and get creative, it’s not all about the exercise.