Why Gardening is Great for Your Mental Health and Well-Being
Dr. Philip Rodger
Owner and Clinic Director
According to its 2019 State of Mental Health in America report: Over 44 million American adults (18.07%), have a mental health condition. Traditional treatments of medication can have many side effects, so alternative care options should be considered. Talk therapy, exercise, and meditation have been found to provide a lot of benefits. Another fantastic option is gardening. Not only is it beneficial for mental health and well being, but it can also beautify your home. Studies have found that the mental health benefits of gardening are extensive. So what is it about pulling up weeds, pruning unruly shrubs and tending to seedlings that makes us feel so good?
Growing plants gives us responsibility
Having a living thing to care for gives us a sense of responsibility – if we don’t prune, water or otherwise care for the plant, it may die. This responsibility is beneficial for people suffering with mental health issues, as it gives them purpose and a sense of worth. Harvest time is a bonus, you get to taste the reward of your hard work.
Gardening connects us with nature
In our increasingly urbanized and technologically driven world, reconnecting with nature can have a huge impact on mental health. Studies have found that spending time in green spaces helps people to de-stress and relax. It also helps people to feel more at one with the world, and overcome feelings of self-absorption that can worsen mental health issues.
Plants don’t judge
For those suffering with conditions such as anxiety or paranoia, going out into a social setting can be frightening. But spending time in the garden doesn’t have the same connotations. Plants can be nurtured and cared for by anyone without passing judgement, and keeping plants healthy can improve self-esteem and confidence.
Gardening is great exercise
Research has found that a three to four hour session of gardening can burn as many calories as an hour at the gym. Exercise releases endorphins – the ‘happy hormone’ which makes people feel satisfied and relaxed. Regular exercise has proven to be beneficial for a wide range of mental health issues, and can contribute to improving other aspects of our lives, such as helping us sleep better or promoting weight loss, which can boost self-esteem.
Gardening is therapeutic
Instead of worrying about bills, work, or the everyday stresses of life, our minds are focused on the task at hand – whether that’s repotting, chopping, weeding or hoeing. Concentrating hard on a physical task is good because it gives our minds a break from those things that might be getting us down.
It encourages us to live in the moment
Anxiety worsens when a person focuses heavily on the past, or spends too much time worrying about the future. Being in and around the ever-changing cycle of nature helps us to appreciate the everyday and focus on the ‘now’. Gardening helps us to feel more in tune with the seasonal changes, as the garden develops with each passing week.
Different plant species flower at different times, and birds, bees and butterflies come and go. You may have a looming deadline at work, but the startling beauty of a freshly blooming peony will only be there to appreciate for a short time, so make the most of it.
It’s a good way to vent anger and frustration
Bad day at work? Grab a shovel and get digging. Or better yet, pick up the garden shears and take it out on those brambles hiding in the hedge. Certain aspects of gardening – cutting, chopping, hacking and digging – are great ways to vent some fury, and you’ll have something to show for it afterwards. Destructiveness in the garden is actually a good thing, as it prevents plants from overgrowing and keeps encroaching weeds at bay.
Gardening puts you in control
If you feel like things are getting on top of you, gardening puts you back in control. While you may never be able to fully have your life in order, you can decide how to arrange your vegetable patch, and where the vine should creep next. The satisfaction of an orderly garden can be very therapeutic when other aspects of your life aren’t quite going to plan.