Gardening is a rewarding activity that can be beneficial in a variety of ways. First and foremost, gardening is a source of fresh and healthy produce that can provide a person or person(s) with an ongoing source of nourishment. Additionally, gardening can nourish a healthy mind and soul and support overall health and wellness.
I have been gardening for over 15 years and can verify that from the very beginning, gardening has been an activity that has been an enjoyable and uplifting aspect of my life. It offers attainable short term goals, and the process of seeking those goals can be quite therapeutic. The reward at the end, in the form of sustenance, is always a great prize, but there are numerous other periphery benefits that are also important. Mental and physical health can be nurtured while nurturing the garden. This dynamic is one reason why gardening is such a worthwhile activity and represents the primary reason for this post.
In general, gardening can benefit a person in the following ways:
- Relieves stress
- Decreases muscle tension
- Decreases symptoms associated with anxiety
- Lowers blood pressure
- Burns calories
- Strengthens your immune system
- Increases focus and attention to a task
- Instills feelings of hope
- Opportunity for goal setting and achievement
- Gardening can be environmentally friendly
- Improves a person’s happiness
- Improves cardiovascular health
- Decrease cortisol levels
- Increase patience
- Provides sustenance
- Makes the environment more beautiful
- Improves strength, dexterity and flexibility as well as range of motion
- Presents a chance to unplug and live in the moment
This is not an exhaustive list of the benefits associated with gardening but serves to represent a small snapshot of some benefits linked consistent gardening activity.
As a whole process, gardening can improve quality of life by acting therapeutically to support mental and physical health. During the rest of this post, I will highlight and review some of the ways that gardening can enhance one’s quality of life by contributing to health and wellness.
Gardening can be an activity used for stress relief. Our lives can become so encumbered with stress-inducing issues that can overwhelm us mentally and emotionally. Even the minutia of life can, at times, be stress inducing. Gardening can be used as a way to clear the mind of these potentially stress inducing thoughts. When I tend to an indoor or outdoor garden, I begin to focus more on the moment I’m in and less on the unknowns of the future or the unchangeable events from the past. Gardening can free one’s mind of worries by focusing the mind on an enjoyable task that, after gaining experience, can be done effortlessly with little mental energy. In doing so, one can be relieved of stressful thoughts while also replenishing our mental reservoirs that help us all deal with other aspects of life.
According to the Journal of Health Psychology, gardening can promote neuroendocrine and affective restoration from stress. The findings in the study revealed experimental evidence that gardening can promote relief from acute stress by decreasing cortisol levels in the body. Cortisol has been referred to as the stress hormone and scientists have linked high levels of cortisol in one’s body to chronic stress and risk factors associated with depression. Active gardening can decrease cortisol levels in the body and make ultimately make a person more resilient.
Additionally, according to the Mental Health Review Journal, numerous studies have been published since 2003 showing that there are positive effects of gardening as a mental health intervention.
The Mental Health Journal relayed that gardening can be beneficial by decreasing symptoms related to depression and anxiety. The studies in the journal not only show that gardening can relief stress and anxiety, but also increase attentional capacity. These factors can help to decrease stress and improve mood.
Active gardening can lead to consistent patterns of behavior, and these consistent patterns of behavior can lead to gardening that can be done almost effortlessly. Effortless pattern-like behavior can help to free one’s mind. The aspect of enjoyable effortless attention relieves the mind of stress and in doing so, can relieve the mind of the potentially harmful symptoms associated with mental illness.
Research studies have shown that active gardening can be an effective way to treat individuals with various forms of mental illness. Gardening helps to relief stress and thus creates an environment that supports health and wellness while reducing the chance that the environment might act as a catalyst that triggers disorder. Those that garden report feeling more productive and useful and thus feel more life enjoyment.
Physical and Mental Wellness:
It is not necessarily a secret that physical activity can improve physical health and thus improve quality of life, but it is okay to be reminded of this every once in a while. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week and tending to an indoor or outdoor garden can be a part of this activity. It is for me. It gets me up and gets me moving and helps add zest to my life, literally. Research has shown that physical activity can relieve tension, anxiety, depression and anger. My day job often leaves my shoulders and neck feeling tight and I can find myself with a dull nagging headache by late afternoon. Physical activity in the garden is often the best activity which helps me to de-escalate from the day and almost certainly relieves me of all three of the before-mentioned ailments. Additionally, being more active in work like gardening can lower your blood pressure and boost levels of good cholesterol. It is a win-win situation for sure.
An article recently appeared in USA Today and relayed that activity such as gardening can make one happier and healthier. According to the USA Today post, gardening can help to reduce anxiety, extinguish feelings associated with depression, decrease risk factors for heart disease, and even support post surgery recovery. In the article, a horticultural therapist reports that horticultural activity stimulates thought and encourages an awareness of the environment and that patients that take part in the activity report renewed desire and improved self-worth.
On a more personal note, my wife is an occupational therapist and she engages patients in indoor and outdoor gardening activity at the facility she works to support rehabilitative services. She reports that the gardening activity not only improves patients’ mood, but it also serves to benefit their range of motion, mobility and overall rehabilitative progress. Gardening is a mild form of aerobic activity that can help to better one’s cardiovascular health, as well as improve one’s range of motion, flexibility, hand-eye coordination, strength, and dexterity. It is functional too. This is important because gardening can give a person a functional reason to engage in the activity that will have a meaningful outcome. Gardening is a motivator as well as a healer.
Increasing one’s physical activity can have a long list of positive consequences for the mind and body. Gardening is a creative way of getting more active and ultimately getting more physically and mentally fit.
Gardening and Hope:
I remark on this aspect of gardening last because I believe it is of primary importance for many. Hope and gardening may go hand-in-hand.
Hope is an inspirational feeling and without hope, a person may be less likely to find the resource to live a healthy life. According to the Nursing Times, gardening can be utilized as a therapeutic intervention for mental health. The Nursing Times shares that hope is associated with a sense of well-being and leads to purposeful and meaningful living. Gardening can connect us all with hope.
Actions associated with gardening inspire hope since in the simple act of planting a seed, one is ingrained with a feeling of hope and of positive things to come. This sense of hope can begin to push a person in a positive life direction with the end-journey being a place of improved mental and physical health. In this way, gardening can be therapeutic by providing individuals with an avenue to experience hope. The first step of planting a seed can open the door for hope to grow, and that small first step may be all that is needed in order to find wellness. Just a little hope can be all that one needs to initiate a journey that began with gardening, but ends in improved mental and physical health.
I can personally attest to the findings listed in the Nursing Times. I wake every morning and hope to see that my time and nurturing has helped to support positive grow outcomes in my indoor and outdoor garden. What I find often encourages my sense of accomplishment and this sense of accomplishment is fulfilling. In the end, I am left with feelings that align with a more fulfilled life, and personal wellness that has been nurtured by the garden. You can start to nurture the garden, but in the end, the garden will help to nurture you.