While most people enjoy gardening for the beauty it brings to their yard, and the produce it puts on their kitchen table the benefits actually run much deeper. Regardless of the extent to which someone chooses to garden, it offers many mental and physical health benefits. Enough that many physicians and physical therapist recommend it to their patients whether young or old.
In the early 1980s, the term biophilia was coined -- the biophilia hypothesis states humans possess an innate tendency to seek connections with nature and other forms of life. Since then, research studies conducted all over the world demonstrate how positively gardening can impact one’s mental and physical health. “Horticultural therapy” continues to gain popularity with gardens popping up in places such as prisons, nursing homes, hospitals, and community centers directed towards homeless or at-risk youth.
Mental Benefits of Gardening
1. Relieves stress: While the mechanism isn't fully understood, 30-minutes of gardening can significantly reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone) in the body.
2. Boosts self-esteem: Seeing the results of your labor is an easy way to build up your self-esteem. No matter your age, people see awe and enjoyment in watching a seed turn into a mature plant with little more than their tangible efforts.
3. Reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s: The repetitive actions of gardening that strengthen your hands also help to calm your mind. This action, when coupled with learning how to tend to plants, problem-solving, and sensory awareness are thought to be key factors in keeping your brain sharp as you age.
4. Helps lift depression and boost the mental outlook: There’s a natural tendency for people who garden, to want to talk about it with other gardening friends. This opens up communication with friends and neighbors and increases social interaction. In turn, depression systems and your mental outlook improve.
Physical Benefits of Gardening
1. Reduces stroke and heart attack risk: Gardening keeps you physically active while providing a much easier motivation than traditional exercise might. It encourages people to stay active when they may not normally.
2. Maintains hand strength and dexterity: Planting, weeding, and dead-heading garden plants keep your hand muscles agile and adept. As we age, we lose dexterity and grip strength; gardening is a great way to maintain the use of our hands without the need for specialty exercises.
3. Increases vitamin D levels: When gardening outside, exposure to sunlight increases vitamin D levels and boosts your immune system to fight off colds and flu. It also helps to strengthen bones and muscles.
4. Strengthens immune system: Friendly bacteria in the soil help to strengthen your immune system too when you get dirt under your fingernails when gardening. These bacteria have been found to alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms.
Easy Ways to GardenOne of the most advantageous aspects of gardening is that it allows for many different variations. There isn’t a need for a large garden plot in your backyard or an extensive collection of container plants to reap the benefits.
There are plenty of simple ways to experience the same perks.
- Indoor herb gardens can be housed on a windowsill or floating shelf close to a natural light source. While many people think of growing herbs outdoors, the truth is most herbs thrive when grown indoors in containers. It is an affordable way to keep fresh herbs on hand at all times while adding some greenery to your home. Parsley, basil, cilantro, oregano, rosemary, and mint are popular with beginners because of their easy growing nature.
- Air plants don’t require any soil or potted containers in order to live, making them quite easy to care for. Small scales on their leaves absorb water and nutrients from the air; their roots are used solely to hold onto something for support. Mist them with a spray bottle a couple of times a week and maintain good air circulation and they’ll be good to go!
- Terrariums are gaining popularity again, in a much more modern fashion. A terrarium is a glass vessel that contains plants and soil, creating a miniature ecosystem. They can be completely enclosed to house tropical, high-humidity loving plants or have an open top to grow succulents. The way terrariums are set up makes them a low-maintenance way to garden indoors.
- Container gardening can be done inside your home on a windowsill or bookshelf, or outside on your balcony, deck, or patio. They can even be easily housed on a planter on your railing! Compared to traditional gardening, container gardening is a much easier endeavor, especially for beginners. You don’t need to work up large patches of the yard or spend time getting the soil ready to plant. Outside containers can even be set on rolling plant caddies to help move them around easier.
- Raised bed gardening allows people to garden without bending down, putting less stress on the body. In essence, raised bed gardening is when a large planting box is used to grow plants instead of sewing them directly into the ground.
Not only does gardening provide aesthetically pleasing benefits for your home and yard - and sometimes a bountiful harvest of fresh produce - but it also garners many mental and physical benefits. Regardless of your age, skill level, or space available, there are creative ways to reap the benefits gardening has to offer.