What are the physical and mental benefits of gardening, and why is it important now more than ever?
In light of the current pandemic and with more people spending frequent time indoors, here’s a P.S.A. to help you with 9 golden ways gardening can improve both your mental and physical health.
Research by psychologists has shown that spending time outside is good for mind, body and soul.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the benefits associated – often after feeling anxious, stressed or bored indoors, just take a step outside and your spirits can lift up. Some vital rays of sunshine and breaths of fresh air can do wonders.
So, how does gardening help your mental and physical health?
Well, if you’re a gardener at heart, officially you will be spending time outdoors! Being outside, coupled with the physical exertion of digging, pushing a lawn mower around, chopping branches etc – and the sounds and feelings of being out in nature, will give you both a natural lift in mood, and a natural workout.
So, let’s examine the top benefits gardening can have to your mental state.
Gardening Benefits for The Mental Health
Here are the top 4 mental health benefits and how specifically gardening can help to boost your happiness.
Develop your nurturing side
When you are planting seeds, watering lawns,weeding, pruning and trimming, you are nurturing a living organism. Plants are alive, and take work, care and attention to allow them to thrive. Whether you like it or not, looking after another living thing rewards your mental health. We see the same thing when people have something or someone other than themself to care for – a dog, a cat, children, younger siblings etc. There is something about giving yourself for something else, and seeing your efforts come to fruition that gives you a boost.
Not surprisingly, one of the great gardening mental benefits is the release of stress and the fact it can mitigate signs of depression. There’s something about feeling the colour all around you, the warmth of the sun, the soil in your hands. Sometimes it’s not even about gardening, but just sitting in one. Even if you only have a small balcony with some pot plants or hanging flowers – standing outside in the fresh air surrounded by your green and colourful flowers.
One of the top gardening health benefits is the possibility to home grow your fruit and vegetables. What’s better for your health than eating home grown lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers? For those who struggle to get in their 5 a day, growing herbs and veggies in your own backyard is a great way to sneak in some extra greens to your dinner.
Meditation/ Relaxation Space
Being able to create your own private relaxation space is one of the greatest mental health benefits of gardening. The ability to sit amongst your own plants, hear the breeze rustling the top layer of branches and leaves, the trickling of your water feature as you gather your thoughts, and control your breathing.
So, your mental health is covered, but how does gardening help your physical health?
Physical Benefits of Gardening
Now let’s take a look at the top 5 physical health benefits of gardening, and specifically, what it can do for you.
There’s no getting around it, as mentioned earlier, digging up the ground, cutting down branches, wheelbarrowing around soil, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves, these are all physical exertions. Doing just a couple of hours of gardening will give your whole body a good workout. No need for gym memberships!
Breathing in Fresh Air
There’s nothing better than having fresh, clean air to breathe on a regular basis. I’m convinced that one of the factors behind the declining health of society at large is a lack of good, breathable air. A growing trend has been to pave over our front or back gardens, either for an off-street parking space or a low maintenance outdoor entertaining area. The only issue is that it’s removing the green from our living spaces.
The physical benefits of plants and gardening means that having your small patches of greenery in and around your home has never been more important than in the year 2021, especially if you live in a city, and especially in light of the recent pandemic. This doesn’t have to just involve our external spaces – our internal spaces can also provide more oxygen! If you have space, I encourage you to have as many indoor plants as possible.
Outdoor gardening helps your body fight disease
2 reasons. Firstly, being out in nature helps your body build up immunities. Did you ever play in the garden as a kid growing up? I did. Getting soil under your fingernails, putting the odd beetle in your mouth as a toddler is what you’re supposed to do. If you stay inside too much, your body becomes weaker. And secondly, our bodies are very much like plants – photosynthesis. Our body takes the energy from the sun, in the form of Vitamin D, and converts it to the nutrients our bodies need. OK, it’s not exactly a food source, but it does release endorphins.
Promotes Healthy Sleep
Working in a garden uses every major muscle group in the body. This fact won’t surprise anyone who’s woken up sore after a day of yard work. Studies have shown that people who garden are more likely to get a solid 7 hours of sleep at night. This helps in weight loss, and life expectancy.
Promotes memory in older people
Doctors have also known for some time that exercise improves cognitive functioning in the brain. There’s also a debate about whether gardening on its own is enough to affect cognitive skills like memory. There is some evidence showing that gardening activities may spur growth in your brain’s memory-related nerves.
Researchers in Korea gave 20-minute gardening activities to people being treated for dementia in an inpatient facility. After the residents had raked and planted in vegetable gardens, researchers discovered increased amounts of some brain nerve growth factors associated with memory in both males and females.
This is associated with the Montessori school of learning. In a 2014 research review, analysts found that horticultural therapy — using gardening to improve mental health — may be an effective treatment for people with dementia.
So, how does gardening benefit you both mentally and physically?
An easier question to ask would be: “how doesn’t it benefit you?” Ultimately, expert lead research proves that your mental health will improve, your stress will lower, your sleep will improve, your memory, your breathing, possible weight loss and sense of purpose. Now the question is, why haven’t you started gardening yet?