If you’re reading this article, you’ve most likely stumbled across it because you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed. The pressures of modern life — our digital lives, the demands of making a living, can all have a negative effect on mental health. But you can find relief in your own yard. There are a number of benefits of gardening when it comes to improving your mental health. In fact, gardening as therapy has picked up a lot of steam, because it’s proven to help:
- Mental illness.
- Cognitive skills.
- Task initiation.
It’s also good for physical rehabilitation and vocational therapy. Here are some of the ways it can help you improve your mood and outlook:
Lowers Stress and Depression
Think of it as horticultural therapy. Researchers found that people with anxiety and depression are more likely to suffer from major medical illnesses. We’re talking about heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and cancer. “Anxiety and depression symptoms predicted greater incidence of nearly all medical illnesses and somatic symptoms. Effects were as strong as or stronger than those of obesity and smoking, and anxiety and depression independently increased risk for most physical health indices assessed,’ according to Andrea N. Niles and Aoife O’Donovan, who co-authored the study. Science has proven gardening reduces stress and depression. Gardeners lowered their levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, more than people who read for half an hour. Less stress means less anxiety and fewer negative thoughts, and that leads to better mental health. Keep in mind; you don’t need a large yard to plant a garden. Your patio or balcony will work just fine.
Raises Self Esteem
The sense of accomplishment you get when growing your own food has positive effects on the psyche. Watching produce and flowers thrive gives you a renewed sense of purpose. Boasting about your progress on social media is just an added perk. Caring for living things gives you a sense of responsibility and makes you feel useful. That’s why so many health professionals recommend gardening for patients suffering from PTSD.
Research shows exercise is as effective as medication in treating depression. Doctors found that spending time outdoors in a green space and fresh air improves both your mental and physical health. Getting out in your backyard is like a mini-vacation. Add the physical exercise that comes with weeding, raking, and digging, and you add endorphins to the mix. The physical activity also increases your cognitive ability. The good news for people who don’t run marathons is gardening counts as exercise. The Centers for Disease Control says 2.5 hours of gardening a week is enough to help ward off depression, as well as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart disease.
Grow Your Own Vitamins
Nutrition also has a big impact on your mood. In other words, what you eat is how you feel. A diet heavy in fried foods and sugar can lead to depression, while a diet centered around fruits and vegetables can boost mental health. Deficiencies in folate, iron, or magnesium can trigger depression in some people. Leafy greens, like spinach and kale, are high in all three and are easy for gardeners to grow in their backyards or in container gardens.
One of the well-known reasons to go outside is to get a dose of Vitamin D from sunlight. Research has also shown that Vitamin D deficiency can lead to depression. Just make sure you don’t overdo it, and wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer!
Mindfulness is another way to relieve stress and depression. It’s the practice of paying attention to the present. Not allowing yourself to be distracted by cell phones or your to-do list. By paying close attention to the weeds you pull, or the roses you prune will relieve stress and anxiety. You’ll also increase your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, reduce chronic pain, and sleep better at night.
The mental health benefits of gardening are multiplied when you invite others to join you. Join a neighborhood gardening group or start your own community gardening project. You’ll end up sharing ideas as well as fruits and vegetables! You’ll be greening up the neighborhood in no time.
If you’re suffering more serious symptoms, you should reach out to your health care professional. If you’re feeling anxious or on edge, gardening will boost your mental health can help you get into a better frame of mind.