Gardening season is here and while many people may be excited by the prospect of planting, sowing seeds, weeding, and mowing their lawns, others view it as a chore that they’d rather do away with. Chore or not, research shows that gardening is quite nourishing to one’s physical and mental well-being.
Some of the key ways that gardening can affect mental state is by improving one’s mood and countering feelings of anxiety and depression. Because gardening requires physical effort and is considered a type of moderate to high intensity exercise, it helps release chemicals known as endorphins that induce positive feelings and lower perception of pain. Similarly, recent research has shown that certain properties in soil may have a positive impact on one’s mood. A 2007 University of Bristol study showed that a type of good bacteria found in the soil called Mycobacterium vaccae stimulates production of serotonin, a mood-boosting neurotransmitter, in mice and likely has similar effects on humans.
Gardening can also offer a useful escape from the hectic pace and stresses of modern day life. In a Psychology Today article, Sarah Rayner talks about how gardening offers an escape from other people and an opportunity to spend time tending to living things that don’t have any emotions attached to them. Because gardening involves a certain amount of focus and knowledge of correct processes, it also helps one to be present in the now and forget the various stresses—work deadlines, financial concerns, family responsibilities—that they are usually plagued with.
While gardening is evidently a healthy activity to add to your weekly regimen, it can be difficult to know where to start if you haven’t ever gardened before. Thrive, a UK-based charity that advocates gardening for people with disabilities, recommends starting with small steps. Start with allocating small periods of time—five minutes to thirty minutes a day or couple times a week—to gardening. Also, think of where you can garden if you don’t have a yard of your own. You may be able to garden at a friend’s house, a community garden, a balcony, or use a window box. Horticultural therapy, which uses plants, gardens, and horticulture to promote well-being, is also gaining popularity at hospitals and is offered in the form of therapeutic programs and workshops that are available for the public to access in communities across Canada.
So, get those mowers and weeders ready and spend some time tending to your garden and your mind this summer.
“Getting dirty may lift your mood”. (2007, April 2). Retrieved from www.bristol.ac.uk.
Rayner, Sarah (2015, May 13). “Petal Power: Why is Gardening So Good For Our Mental Health?” Retrieved from www.psychologytoday.com
“Using gardening to change lives”. (2008). Retrieved from www.carryongardening.org.uk.