Why Gardening is Good for Your Mental Health
Why Gardening is Good for Your Mental Health? Well, spring is in the air. With spring comes fun outdoor activities. You may see your neighbors outside riding bikes or on a leisurely stroll. A particularly enjoyable spring pastime is gardening. The spring months are filled with preparation for a summer harvest. While gardening is an afterthought to today’s generation, gardening is good for your mental health.
What is Gardening?
Gardening is the process of growing and caring for plants. The planting is in a planned, designated space outdoors or in a greenhouse to regulate temperature. Gardening is a form of horticulture, which is defined as cultivating plants to produce food. A variety of plants are grown in a garden. These consist of plants like flowers for decorative purposes, as well as plants intended for consumption like vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Preparing the land, tilling, watering, applying fertilizer, avoiding pests, weeding, pruning are steps in the process gardeners follow to foster plant growth.
Gardening Connects Us With Nature
By gardening, we are interacting with the elements of nature. To successful cultivate plants, whether vegetables or flowers, a gardener must be aware of their surroundings. They plant according to seasons and predict when heat or frost may compromise the growth of the plants. Living in urban areas, we utilize non-renewable resources and pollute the earth with fumes and trash. However, gardening is a way to rely on natural resources to prevent damage to the earth. Knowing we are doing our part to live sustainably, and consuming food grown from hard work, forms a special connection with nature.
Gardening Strengthens Relationships
Gardening does not directly strengthen relationships, but the mental health benefits lead to satisfaction which makes people more content and pleasant in interacting with others. A significant reason gardening is beneficial to relationships is that the activity is quality time spent with loved ones. Many garden with the assistance of friends, family, or a spouse. Rather than watching a movie or staying immersed in technology not speaking, gardening is an opportunity to get to know them more by bonding over the joy of growing new life.
Gardening Reduces Stress
Gardening reduces stress through increasing physical activity. The exercise of digging and lifting triggers the body to release feel-good endorphins that boost mood and relieve pain. One study showed an increase in mood after just 30 minutes of gardening per day. Aside from exercise, the scenery of gardening—surrounded by flowers, hearing the buzzing of bees and chirping of birds—is relaxing.
Gardening Has Physical Health Benefits
The types of food that can be grown in a garden consist of fresh fruits and vegetables such as berries, tomatoes, squash, lettuce, peppers, and beans. Avid gardeners grow a portion of their own food, which is healthier and is higher in nutritional content than pre-packaged food laden with preservatives. With a healthier diet comes a boost in immune system. Since gardening takes place outdoors, gardeners receive vitamin D from the sun. The additional vitamin D strengthens bones and prepares the body to fight illness. Gardeners also have contact with beneficial bacteria in the soil. As reported in a 2015 study published in Immunotargets and Therapy, the bacteria help the body ward off infections.
Gardening: Growing Your Goals
Implementing goal setting and responsibility are two educational components of gardening. Growing plants successfully requires careful planning (i.e., setting a goal). That goal is achieved once the plant has reached full maturity and produces. Especially for children, gardening instills a sense of responsibility. Especially for children, gardening instills a sense of responsibility. The garden must be watered daily, weeded, and the crop harvested at a particular time.
Gardening Refines Cognitive Skills
Cognitive skills are brain-based skills we use to learn, remember, and think. Basic cognitive skills include attention, memory, logic, reasoning, perception, planning, motor movement, and more. Gardening is a learning activity for children and adults. The tasks of carrying garden tools and watering enhance motor skills. Gardening introduces sensory stimulation through touch, smell, sight, and hearing. It even combines literacy skills when learning the names and directions for planting.
Gardening is Healing
Regardless of the malady, gardening is healing to the mind and body. Fresh flowers are delivered to those in the hospital, and they are given as sympathy gifts. Chronic pain patients enrolled in a four-week horticultural therapy program reported an increased coping. Another study of patients with depression had decreased severity of depression and increased attention after engaging in gardening activities. The relaxing scenery in gardens is grounding. It is the perfect environment for mindfulness meditation. Taking deep breaths of fresh, clean air is known to heal.
Gardening and Its Effects on Dementia
Gardening has a particularly therapeutic effect on dementia—a group of conditions that impair brain functions like memory and social skills. Alzheimer’s disease is a common form of dementia. Facilities treating various forms of dementia recommend “dementia gardens.” Dementia patients visit the gardens and partake in gardening activities. As they partake in caring for the garden, they find purpose. The garden environment provides sensory stimulation. Some regain their sense of smell and tactile feeling. If others are assisting them in the garden, they can practice their social skills. Attention span is a cognitive skill impacted by dementia. Gardening allows them to increase their attention span because they focus on completing gardening tasks. For patients with severe memory loss, gardening is calming. Although they may not remember people and important events, their connection with plants remains familiar.
What You Can Do to Begin Your Gardening Journey
Starting your own garden is relatively easy.
- First, locate an available plot of land. If you are pressed for space, plants can be grown in indoor pots.
- Decide which plants you prefer to plant. Vegetables? Flowers? Herbs? This decision is based on available space.
- Plan the layout. Research which plants require the most sunlight and put them in the sunniest area of the garden.
- Invest in gardening tools. A large garden requires more equipment, but with smaller gardens only need the basic small shovel, gardening gloves, a watering can, and fertilizer (if desired).
- Care for the soil. Add potting soil if needed. Water the plants daily. Remove the weeds. Give the plants fertilizer to assist growth. Find natural methods (i.e., neem oil, beer, ladybugs, etc.) to rid of pests.
Stiemsma L, Reynolds L, Turvey S, Finlay B. The hygiene hypothesis: current perspectives and future therapies. Immunotargets Ther. 2015;4:143-157
Cheyanne is currently studying psychology at North Greenville University. As an avid patient advocate living with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, she is interested in the biological processes that connect physical illness and mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys immersing herself in a good book, creating for her Etsy shop, or writing for her own blog.