A long time ago, people believed that technological advancements, connectivity, and innovations in human life would make it better. While that is true to some extent, humanity still suffers from lifestyle diseases such are depression, anxiety, obesity, heart conditions, and cancer. Subsequently, urban living is what causes the rise of these conditions since the presence of pollutants, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of nature all contribute to that.
Although parks in the cities are highly beneficial, people still need to form a more personal connection with nature to feel noticeable benefits. And this is where gardening comes in as a highly recommended activity by experts to improve your life. A meta-analysis conducted by Masashi Soga, Kevin J. Gaston, and Yuichi Yamaura included 22 case studies from the USA, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
The results of this comprehensive meta-analysis showed that gardening has significant positive effects on health if done regularly. Namely, people felt more satisfied with their lives, their cognitive functions and mood improved, the fatigue and anxiety were reduced, as well as stress and depression. The so-called horticultural therapy is an accepted way to deal with psychological issues, as well as to mend the overall well-being of a person.
Even though not everyone can have a piece of land for gardening, there are other ways to cultivate plants to some extent. Gardening in containers on balconies, porches or decks, and joining community gardens are some of the viable ways to start with this beneficial activity. And you can even turn it into a project with neighbors of your building and turn the roof into a lavish garden.
And to give you a nudge in the right direction, here are all the benefits of gardening which will improve your life and rejuvenate your spirit.
1. Sunshine is good for the mood
Serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes the mood and contributes to the feeling of happiness which in turn helps us be productive and engaging. Spending time in the sun will boost the production of this feel-good chemical even when we wear the SPF 50 cream. Sunshine is one of the most efficient ways to naturally fight depression and anxiety, as well as to feel more enthusiastic and active. Additionally, if you live in areas with expressed seasons, you may be suffering from seasonal affective disorder which has depressive symptoms, especially during winter.
Since during gardening, you will be spending a lot of time outside during daylight, you will quickly notice the benefits of sunlight. It will also stimulate the production of melatonin which is a sleep hormone responsible for the regulation of our biological clocks. Therefore, you will have better sleep at night and feel more rested in the morning and the next day.
2. It will get you to move
You may not perceive gardening as physical activity, but it will actually make you move your body pretty significantly. During the physical activity, our brain produces endorphin which makes us feel relaxed and happy. In turn, our confidence is better and stress levels go down which empowers us to lead quality and responsible lifestyles.
Gardening is a low impact activity but for many, it doesn’t feel burdening or like an obligation and so it usually goes unnoticed for hours. Basically, this means that you can spend hours tending to your plants without even being aware of how much time has passed. Gardening can also help the elderly do more exercise since it’s healthy for them to move around a bit.
3. Good brain exercise to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s
Just like your body, your mind will also get exercise from gardening. When gardening, the human brain is still performing some important functions like problem-solving, learning and sensory identification. A study conducted by a group of authors on the benefits of horticultural therapy in elderly patients showed positive results. It reduced pain, decreased stress, improved their attention and even lowered the frequency of falls.
Older research included 3,000 elderly patients over the span of 16 years assessing their lifestyle and onset of early signs of dementia. The results showed that gardening reduces the incidence of dementia by 36% which is among the biggest risk reductions. Since gardening includes cognitive functions it serves as a sort of exercise for the brain thus slowing down the progression of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
4. Soil is both an antidepressant
Scientists have been talking about the benefits of soil microbes against stress for a while now. A bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae present in the soil is responsible for people feeling more vital and happier. Based on the study published in Neuroscience, this bacteria triggered neurons which are responsible for the production of serotonin. Since while gardening, you come in contact with Mycobacterium vaccae, you will start feeling in a better mood and experience fewer symptoms of depression.
5. Gardening rests the mind
Creating a bond with nature is a wonderful way to rest the mind. In the garden, people create a safe space where they spend quiet time tending to plants and being alone with themselves. It doesn’t matter how big is this space, or whether it’s a balcony or your backyard, the only thing that matters is that you feel comfortable and relaxed.
If you work from home, this is an excellent way to take a break especially if you are facing some challenging tasks. It will help you to clear your head and come up with new ideas and solutions, as well as keep your stress levels in control.
6. You will learn to take control over your life
Every part of your garden needs to be well thought through and organized so all your plants would thrive. Also, you will need to design the look of your garden to create order and make gardening more comfortable and easier. All these things require planning and execution which are important parts of being in control and making decisions.
And once you learn how to do it in your garden, you will be able to do the same in your life which will help you go through rough and challenging times. So, take a good look at your future garden and first start with decluttering and removing unwanted things from this space. This will give you a clean slate to build your garden and start learning how to be in control.
7. It gives you a sense of achievement
Gardening is a process and as such it will take you through various stages until you see the final results. Namely, you will start with seeding, nurturing and then enjoying the fruits of your dedication and work. And this is where you will find your sense of achievement when you start harvesting what you grew and turning it into food or purely feasting your eyes on greenery and flowers around you.
For people with low confidence, this is an ideal way to boost their self-esteem and find meaning in everyday lives. It can serve as an inspiration and encouragement to start making changes in your life and give you the strength to overcome difficult times.
8. You will discover your purpose
Having goals is what gives our lives purpose, but people suffering from depression and anxiety have a hard time to anchor themselves. Gardening offers an activity which has the beginning and the end with a clear goal to grow your plants to bloom and ripe stage. This will be one of the things you will look forward to and feel very excited to do in the day.
So, whenever you feel irritated, sad or fatigued, go to your garden and spend time nurturing your plants. It will bring a sense of responsibility into your life, as well as stability which will keep you grounded and more in touch with yourself.
9. Gardening makes you feel connected
Gardening is an ideal activity to do something by yourself, but it will also make you feel connected to the world around you. You are caring for living things, after all, and nurturing them is making the world a better and greener place. Climate change is a very serious issue on the global level and you can help remedy that by growing plants that will attract natural pollinators like bees and using organic practices. Being a part of something this big will bring a feeling of belonging into your life and be more in touch with the world around you.
10. You will eat healthily
Growing your own food has become very popular these days and people do it in all kinds of ways no matter the size of their garden. This way you will eat the food without chemicals and give your body the vitamins and minerals needed to deal with everyday challenges. Also, it will inspire you to eat more fruits and vegetables, as well as try varieties you usually don’t buy.
If you are a novice gardener, start with simple plants that will be less likely to fail so you won’t get discouraged easily. Lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, and tomatoes are some of the easy plants to grow although they will also need your regular dedication and care. Just follow organic principles for gardening and you will bring healthy food to the table and into your body.
11. Keeps your hands agile
There is a lot of work for idle hands in the garden. From weeding and raking to realizing garden-edging ideas, you will spend a lot of time getting your hands dirty and active. Keeping your hands busy will help them stay strong and vigorous, which is why gardening is often prescribed to stroke patients to regain movement.
However, wear gloves to prevent injuries and don’t over-stress your hands since that can lead to tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome. If your hand gets too tired with one task, switch to something else like paving the pathways or trimming the hedge to relax them.
12. Gardening is good for your immune system
The very notion that gardening reduces stress means that it will have positive effects on your immune system. Being exposed to the sun will boost the production of Vitamin D in your body which is responsible for a successful fight against flu and colds. But also, the same bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae that reduces the risks of dementia will boost your immune system, as well. Therefore, it’s actually healthy for you to get dirt beneath your nails and all over your face when gardening in your backyard.
Gardening is a process of healing and improving yourself in a way that is personal and unique to each person. Thanks to numerous studies, we know that this is an ideal activity for people who suffer from depression and anxiety, but also for those with cardiovascular problems and dementia. If you want to feel more connected to the world and contribute to making it a better place, the organic garden will both help the environment and your health. Just take it one step at a time and give your garden time to grow just as you take time to heal.