Growing a garden, whether you choose to grow flowers and plants or vegetables and fruit, can give you a feeling of accomplishment. But beyond the visual aesthetics of watching your garden grow, there are also many health benefits to gardening.
If you have never gardened before, much less consider yourself as having a green thumb. Have no fear. Gardening does not require you to be an expert to receive its many advantages. At the very least, you can walk away with the following benefits, even if your garden is a work in progress.
Getting a dose of Mother Nature has long been associated with helping cure anxiety, depression, and a bad mood. In a study from 2011, participants who suffered from depression joined a 12-week gardening program. Researchers discovered that depression symptoms had considerably improved.
Further to this, an article in psychologytoday.com states that mental health benefits go beyond decreasing depression. Gardening helps the gardener practice acceptance, as it is Mother Nature who is in control of what happens. Therefore, we must accept what will be, will be.
This also connects to the idea that you don’t have to be perfect to enjoy a garden. So often, we feel the need to have everything perfect, particularly in our jobs. But remember, with Mother Nature in control, perfectionism is a waste of time.
Lastly, gardening offers a connection to the world we live in. We are often more at peace being surrounded by nature and green. And when we are the ones who are working directly with the plants to help them grow, we can’t help but feel connected and improve our mental state and mood.
“Eco-Anxiety” is a term that many have not heard of, but self-describes. Eco-anxiety is the burdening fear and guilt we feel with what is happening to the environment. It relates to many factors, from climate change to how we are impacting our environment.
According to healthline.com and thelancet.com, we feel powerless to do anything about it. This could be because it is so overwhelming for one person to affect. Gardening can help us combat this unhealthy feeling.
For instance, through our gardening efforts, we are cutting back on carbon that is released into the air. Consider one example of pulling vegetables from your backyard versus starting your car and paying for vegetables that come from miles away. Less travel equals less pollution.
To further help quell your eco-anxiety:
Possibly one of the most obvious health benefits of gardening is that it is a great overall exercise. Gardening requires regular maintenance. Tending to a garden includes bending, digging, pulling; it’s an all-body workout.
Want to ensure that you get a good workout when you garden to help prevent aging weight gain? Then be sure to put in the manual labor. When pulling weeds, get down on the ground, falling leaves all over your lawn? Avoid the leaf blower and pull out the rake.
According to pennmedicine.org, gardening is considered exercise, and as such, is a great aid to helping us get a better night’s sleep. Part of the reason is that although exercise overall can aid in sleeping, exercise with a purpose can have a better effect.
Purposeful activities include the following: running, yoga, golf, and gardening. And what better purpose does gardening have than to provide food and a connection with nature? Gardening also allows our bodies to be exposed to daylight, which is needed to help regulate our circadian rhythm. A good night’s sleep requires both exercise and exposure to daylight, gardening checks off both.
A study where gardening activities were presented to senior individuals to determine their level of cognitive function showed promising results. The study took place in South Korea, where 41 seniors were chosen to complete low-to-moderate intensity gardening activities.
The activities included cleaning a plot, digging, fertilizing, raking, planting, and watering. Blood samples were taken, before and after the activities, from the participants to determine any brain nerve growth factors relating to memory.
The results showed that levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) had both notably increased. When these factors are low, the brain shows signs of deterioration. Gardening may have the capability of helping to regenerate damaged nerve cells.
If you are looking for stress relief, then gardening may be just the activity you need. According to one study, gardening promotes stress-relieving effects. In the study, thirty participants performed a stressful mental task and then were assigned either 30 minutes of reading or outdoor gardening.
The researchers measured their salivary cortisol levels and asked each how they felt afterward. Although both had decreased levels of cortisol during the recovery period, those who gardened showed a significantly larger drop.
While gardening may not help with chronic stress, it appears it can help with acute stress. Although more research needs to be conducted, many avid gardeners will tell you that gardening is their stress reliever from their day-to-day challenges.
Whether you choose to garden because you enjoy feeling your hands in the dirt, the beautiful plants you produce or eating food from your backyard, your health is sure to benefit. So, the next time you need some exercise, stress relief, a mental boost, are feeling distressed about the environment, or want a better night’s sleep, give gardening a go. Your well-being will thank you for it.
My Toolbox Genomics empowers individuals in their healthcare journey by creating reports focused on genetic predispositions derived from published research. Test results and suggestions are intended to lead to consultation with one’s healthcare practitioner. MyTBG reports do not diagnose disease or medical conditions. Any lifestyle changes should result from consultation with qualified healthcare practitioners.