How the art of bonsai can help to boost mental wellbeing

Discover how you can boost your mental wellbeing through practicing the art of bonsai

Woman pruning potted bonsai silk floss tree in white pot
(Image credit: Getty Images/Zen Shui/Michele Constantini)

Bonsai is both a hobby and an art form. Beginners can find enjoyment in a single indoor tropical tree, while experts might care for 500 or more in a large collection.

Bonsai is a form of tree cultivation that originated in China and Japan and focuses on growing miniature trees in pots. The process of growing bonsai involves shaping and pruning the tree into a specific form and size, which requires patience and focus.  

Bonsai can boost mental wellbeing by promoting relaxation, and a sense of accomplishment. Caring for bonsai trees encourages mindfulness and patience, which in turn reduces stress. The creative process of shaping and nurturing bonsai trees also enhances mental clarity and personal satisfaction. 

Like any art, enthusiasts can find new challenges in harder to grow species or more elaborate pruning techniques. Discover how the art of bonsai might be able to help you to improve your mental wellbeing with this expert advice. 

Pruning a bonsai tree

(Image credit: Getty Images/Marcus Lund)

How the art of bonsai can help to boost mental wellbeing

Mental wellbeing is a state of being where one feels happy, content, and at peace with oneself and the world around us. It is a state that is essential for a happy and fulfilling life, and for achieving our goals and aspirations. 

However, in today's fast-paced and stressful world, many of us struggle to maintain a healthy mental balance. Fortunately, there are many ways to boost mental wellbeing, and one of the most effective ways is through the art of bonsai.

Bonsai art creates a sense of calm and relaxation

Bonsai tree

(Image credit: Getty Images/Coneyl Jay)

According to Ryan Hetrick, therapist, psychologist & CEO of the Epiphany Wellness, bonsai cultivation forces us to slow down and focus our attention on the task at hand, which can help create a sense of calm and relaxation. 

'Taking the time to care for our bonsai can help us slow down our busy lives and create a peaceful environment around us,' he says. 

Ryan Hetrick
Ryan Hetrick

Epiphany Wellness provides a state-of-the-art outpatient treatment program for those who are struggling. Founded in 2020, Epiphany Wellness has quickly risen to prominence as a beacon of hope for those seeking a path to recovery.

It encourages mindfulness

Bonsai tree pruning

(Image credit: Getty Images/Peter Dazeley)

‘Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment and paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and sensations,’ says Lindsey Hyland, the founder of Urban Organic Yield. ‘Bonsai cultivation requires us to be fully present as we focus on the task of pruning and shaping the tree.’ 

As a result, bonsai cultivation can help encourage mindfulness, which is highly beneficial for our mental wellbeing. When we are mindful, we are better able to manage stress, anxiety, and negative emotions.

Lindsey Hyland
Lindsey Hyland

From outdoor food gardens to container planting, to aquaculture and hydroponics, Lindsey is an expert in a range of topics and is passionate about teaching you the basics in gardening. 

Bonsai art helps us to foster creativity

Red Japanese maple bonsai tree

(Image credit: Getty Images/Steve Greaves)

Bonsai is an art form that allows for creative self-expression. You have the opportunity to shape and style your bonsai tree according to your artistic vision and personal taste. 

Frank Thewes from Path Forward Therapy suggests that this creative process can be 'deeply fulfilling and provide a sense of accomplishment', as you witness the transformation of your bonsai over time. Bonsai cultivation can help boost our creativity and imagination as we experiment with different forms and styles. 

Being creative can help us to express ourselves in new and exciting ways, which is important for our mental wellbeing. 

Frank Thewes
Frank Thewes

Frank Thewes holds a Master’s of Social Work degree from University of Southern California. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Penn State University. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker by the State of New Jersey. Frank has been working directly with clients for about a decade and is licensed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. 

It connects us with nature

Senior man's hands tending to bonsai tree

(Image credit: Getty Images/Eternity in an Instant)

The process of cultivating a bonsai tree can help connect us with nature, even if you live in an urban area. Being in nature has been shown to have numerous mental health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety and boosting our mood. 

By tending to our bonsai trees, we can create a connection with the natural world and benefit from its calming and restorative effects. The ongoing interaction with your bonsai tree can provide a sense of peace and harmony with the natural world.

‘Beyond promoting mindfulness, growing bonsai connects us to the steady march of seasons. No matter our struggles, the equinoxes continue their steady rhythm,’ says Clinical Psychologist Dr Daniel Glazer. ‘There is comfort in syncing our caretaking rituals to winter dormancy and summer’s thirst. When cultivated patiently over the years, bonsai trees mirror personal growth occurring slowly but surely in fits and starts.’

Tiny daily progress accrues into something beautiful if we relax into each phase. Watching a once-sparse bonsai burst with leafy new branches reinforces that natural resilience will sustain us too.

Daniel Glazer
Dr Daniel Glazer

UK Therapy Rooms was set up in 2016 by clinical psychologist, Dr Daniel Glazer, and surgeon Dr Danny Sinitsky. The idea emerged over dinner when they were discussing Daniel's struggles in finding a therapy room. So they decided to create a platform to make the whole process easier. 

Bonsai art fosters a sense of accomplishment

Close up of bonsai tree and pruning scissors

(Image credit: Getty Images/krisanapong detraphiphat)

Cultivating a bonsai tree requires patience and dedication, and the process of growing a miniature tree can be a long and challenging one. However, seeing a bonsai tree grow and thrive can be incredibly rewarding experience and can bring a real a sense of accomplishment. 

It's a low-cost hobby to get started with too, with bonsai tool kits such as this one available on Amazon inexpensively. 


Where is the best place to keep a bonsai tree?

For most cases, a south-facing window is best placed for your bonsai tree, and they need an abundance of light to grow. Light is so important for your bonsai tree than any movement away from a light source will significantly stunt its growth. 

By taking the time to nurture and care for our bonsai trees, we can create a practice that has wide-reaching benefits for our mental wellbeing, so why not give it a try?

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.