You might think of gardening as a retiree’s domain, but the practice surprisingly appeals to people of all ages. Because of the many physical, mental and emotional benefits that come with tending a garden, people young and old are picking up their shovels and watering cans. These are just a few of the great things your garden has to offer your mind, body, and soul.
Creating a relaxing atmosphere
On the most basic level, simply being amongst a collection of plants can help you feel more relaxed, and the effect only multiplies during the time you spend planting. Gardening is a perfect way to escape from the pressures of daily life for a few hours at a time, all while creating a more tranquil environment in your own backyard. Keep your to-do list separate from your garden and you’ll enjoy your backyard all the more.
Encouraging the consumption of home-grown food
The link between what you eat and how you feel is well established and documented, which means you have nothing to lose by eating a healthier diet. Growing fresh produce at home is a great way to increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables, and it’s probably more straight-forward than you think. Start with fertile, high-quality soil, a collection of your chosen plants, and a strategic plan for planting. You can minimize the need for fertilizers through companion planting, which involves strategically positioning plants with protective properties in order to allow nearby plants to flourish, or by choosing plants which attract pest predators.
Reducing symptoms of mental illness
Conditions like depression and anxiety have become increasingly common over the past few decades as life becomes busier and more stressful. If you suffer from a similar condition, one of the best things you can do to help your recovery is to spend time in nature. Being surrounded by plant life can give your serotonin levels a much-needed lift. With the added bonus of encouraging physical activity, gardening is a well-known method of boosting mental health and overall mood. If you’re still not convinced, try getting closer to the soil—research has found that certain bacteria in the soil helps to increase serotonin production in your brain.
Incorporating exercise outdoors
Moving your body is one of the fastest ways to lift your mood, and even if you’re unable to do much physical exercise on a day-to-day basis, gardening could be hugely beneficial for your physical health. At the very least, it will get you outside, moving around, and breathing in the fresh air, while more intense work like digging holes and lifting bags of soil or large plants will start to raise the heart rate. In fact, you can exchange an hour at the gym for three to four hours in the garden and burn roughly the same amount of calories.
Establishing a sense of responsibility and control
Feelings of helplessness are particularly common among sufferers of conditions like depression or anxiety, but it doesn’t have to take over your life. Something as simple as tending to a garden could give you a sense of autonomy and control in your life. When you water or fertilize your plants, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you’re helping other living things to grow and flourish. On the other hand, if you’re not looking to take on too much responsibility, think carefully about the types of plants you want to include. Those who are concerned about fitting garden maintenance into a busy routine should opt for hardy plant varieties which only require infrequent watering or fertilization, like succulents or climbers.
Drawing on the nurturing instinct
It’s human nature to seek out opportunities to nurture, often in the form of a child or a pet. For those who aren’t in a position to care for an animal or another human being, plants provide a great alternative. You can experience all of the joy that comes from watching something grow and tending to its needs without so much responsibility or expense. As a starting point, the most important thing is that you plan out your garden mindfully, according to the amount of sunlight or shade each plant will get during the day. Remember that different plant varieties have different needs, so you’ll want to study the care instructions for your chosen plants in order to keep each new addition to your garden as happy as possible.
Providing an emotional outlet
Like any physically demanding task, gardening can provide an opportunity to offload any stress, disappointment or aggression you might build up during the day. Whether you’re digging holes, ripping out weeds or shearing unruly hedges into submission, your garden is a good place to work out any difficult emotions before you sit down at the family dinner table. Just be wary of overdoing it—excessive hacking might leave your plants looking worse for wear.
The garden is a great place to be for anyone who needs a mental health boost, or even just a place to escape from the stresses of everyday life. As long as you enjoy the process of growing and tending to your garden, each benefit to your health is a bonus.
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