In today’s busy world, people are turning to their backyards. Even when free time is so limited and technology has taken over the world, gardening has regained traction with families as a way to produce healthy, organic, affordable food. But, that’s not all gardening has to offer. Gardening has long been a relaxing hobby because of the mental health benefits that are associated with spending time in nature, and of course, digging around in the dirt.
Nurturing plants is a great stress reliever. According to a Dutch study, gardening even beats reading as a way to reduce stress. After a trying task, the gardeners reported being in a better mood than the readers, but more importantly, they had lower levels of cortisol, which is literally known as the “stress hormone.” In addition to other health issues, cortisol has been associated with memory and learning problems. By gardening, you can actually support your mental health.
Reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s
Because cortisol is so closely linked to memory and learning, it should come as no surprise that gardening may also reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s. According to a long-term study that tracked elderly participants for over 15 years, gardening can reduce risks of dementia by 36%. This finding is particularly important because the same study assessed a wide variety of factors that may influence dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Gardening was cited as the best way to keep memory loss at bay.
Ease depression and support mental health
According to a study conducted in 2009, gardening is also a great way to boost self-esteem. Because maintaining a garden is associated with so many mental-wellness benefits, it is used as a way to treat people with depression, trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. With the combination of physical activity, natural surroundings, cognitive stimulation, and feelings of achievement, horticultural therapy is sometimes prescribed in lieu of, or in addition to, traditional therapy and medication.
How to get started
Worried that you don’t have enough outdoor space to reap the mental and physical health benefits of gardening? Nothing could be further from the truth! Urban farming has gained popularity even if there’s only a few square feet available. Edible front yard landscapes can be beneficial and beautiful, and container gardening can provide the pleasures of gardening, even in tiny spaces. Growing fruits and vegetables is popular, but any kind of gardening will do. The same benefits can be realized by nurturing a bed of flowers, a grove of fruit trees, or growing decorative shrubs. Don’t have a personal growing space? Check with a nearby nature center, community garden, or even a neighbor.
Gardening is truly a mindful experience that brings us close to nature, and for some, is even a spiritual experience that brings feelings of gratitude and a connection to spirit, which can ease mental tension. Combined with meditative breathing, a good pair of gloves, and an open mind, the art of gardening continues to transform those who participate season-to-season and year-to-year.