With many of us resigned to spending much of our leisure time behind our front doors right now, we need to be more creative with how we spend our time. We can only have so many Zoom hangouts and long walks to nowhere before we yearn to do something different.
You might associate gardening with something your grandparents are pro at, but younger people are catching onto the hype. Extensive research has shown gardening can boost both your mental and physical health. The following ways are just a small number of the plethora of benefits gardening has on our mental health and wellbeing.
Allows us control
By being able to decide for ourselves if we want to plant spuds or sunflowers, we can bring a sense of order to our lives when we may not be in control of much else. This responsibility also gives many suffering with mental health issues a sense of worth and purpose.
By concentrating on the various tasks like repotting, chopping, or weeding, it allows us to focus on something productive. This gives us a break from ruminating over our stressors as our focus is redirected and as we concentrate on each individual task, we naturally practice a form of mindfulness.
Sense of Achievement
All of these little tasks involved in gardening that we complete, allow us to see the fruits (or more likely vegetables!) of our labour grow. This is something that we have planted, nourished, and grown ourselves and it is a tangible achievement that can make us feel proud and boost our self-esteem and self-worth.
Endorphin Boosting Exercise
Gardening is a physical activity, but it is not as strenuous as a high intensity workout so it does not put as much stress onto the body. The physical nature of it means we boost our endorphins which greatly improves our mood whilst the effects on our body may boost our self-esteem as we become fitter through shovelling that soil.
Eases Anxiety, Depression and Neuropathic Pain
There is a whole therapy based on gardening, known as horticultural therapy. Highground defines it as ‘The use of plants by a trained professional as a medium through which certain clinically defined goals can be met.’ The combination of cognitive stimulation, planning, social interaction, and use of fine motor skills can allow for improvements in anxiety, depression and neuropathic pain and increase feelings of positivity, in this therapeutic model.
We absorb that all important vitamin D just by being outside, which gives our serotonin – the happy neurotransmitter – and melatonin – the sleep regulatory neurotransmitter – production a boost which contributes to a better mood and deeper sleep. Who doesn’t want a big grin on their face and a more relaxing naptime? Additionally, the gardening itself can reduce your level of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s
Whilst the causal factors for Alzheimer’s and its progression require more research, a long-term study in Australia found daily gardening reduced its incidence by a significant 36%. It followed nearly 3,000 adults for 15 years and looked at a variety of lifestyle factors. As gardening involves critical functions like learning, fine motor skills, problem solving skills, potentially social interaction, planning and sequencing and endurance, this appears to be a winning combination in combatting the neurodegenerative disease.
Connecting with Nature
In our increasingly fast paced, technologically driven world, gardening can bring some peace into our lives and is literally a breath of fresh air. Even if you do not have a garden space in your home, you can bring out some planting pots in your apartment or check out your local area for urban gardens which are increasingly on-trend and can help bring a spot of green to your life.