Gardening has been present in human life for thousands of years. Once mostly observed as a source of food, today its benefits are considered wider and more significant. This leads to gardening therapy, as a means that can improve physical and mental health.
Right now, gardening therapy is more important than ever. The cities are getting bigger and life is being busier by the day. People sacrifice their health to long hours at work and looking for ways to control the stress to a bearable minimum. Since engaging with nature can bring a lot of benefits, gardening is a perfect way that even the busiest person can find time to do.
Besides in the backyard, a wonderful thing about gardening is that you can do it in your kitchen, terrace, porch, and even façade. If you are ready to go down this path to wellbeing, here are all the highlights of taking up gardening therapy.
Good for managing stress
Planting is already used in some hospitals as a means to help people recover from surgeries, injuries, stroke, and other weakening conditions. Besides helping patients with improving their motor skills, gardening gives them a sense of purpose and order crucial to keep their positive thinking. It is a manner of gaining control when everything seems out of hand and helpless.
With such properties, gardening therapy is ideal for managing stress and preventing it to impair a person’s life. It brings out confidence and fate in themselves by showing them they can create and nurture something. Spending time far away from your phone and other digital devices, surrounded by nature even as potplants, can be a much-needed break to recharge the batteries and relax.
Gardening burns calories
Since gardening is perceived as moderate physical activity, you can burn as much as 330 calories while working an hour in your garden. This is more than you would lose by walking for the same period. Of course, you will need a large garden to have so much work every day so if this is an attractive idea to you, the thing about growing vegetables and fruits besides flowers.
Another plus side of gardening is the potential to lower the body mass index or BMI in both men and women. This is supported by the research from the University of Utah which proved that community gardening can decrease BMIs of participants. To the very least, you will change your diet for the better and pay more attention to the ingredients you use to prepare your meals.
Helps your bones
Spending time outside is an excellent way to give your bones a healthy boost with vitamin D. When exposed to the sun, the skin produces vitamin D, an important part of healthy bone development among other things. Food like fish, orange juice, and egg yolks can give you some amounts of vitamin D, but it is more likely to get your recommended daily dose by gardening in your yard.
While you can take supplements and ingest it through food, spending as much as 20 minutes in the sun can create deposits of this vitamin in your body. However, before you go outside, always apply a sunscreen with at least 30 SPF to prevent harmful effects of the UV rays.
Making your diet healthier
If you are ready to start gardening, consider going a step further and grow your food. The best way to start is by tending to a vegetable garden. This can give you fresh produce all year and be a valuable source of important vitamins and minerals. Lettuce, carrots, cucumbers, and kale are only some of the plants you can easily grow by your house.
When it comes to fruits, you have quite a choice especially if you are a beginner. Blueberries, apples, figs, and strawberries are among the easiest fruits to grow in the garden. Since some trees can take several years to produce fruits, you can opt for their dwarf version available at nursery gardens.
A perfect family time
If you have elderly parents or children, gardening is a wonderful way to spend more time with them. You can all support each other to get the most out of staying physically active this way. For the elderly, this is a good way to feel included in your lives and revive the family values. On the other hand, kids will have an opportunity to learn more about the world and have fun with their parents.
Additionally, the benefits of gardening surpass the family and you can do it to bond with other people in your life, as well. It’s a nice activity for team building, neighborhood relations, and spending more quality time with your friends. Since sharing the joys of gardening with others can promote the production of feel-good hormones, like serotonin, everyone’s mood will improve and be more cheerful.
You will sleep better
Sleep is a vital part of having a healthy and productive life. With eight hours of sleep every night, you can help your body to fight off infections, heal, and preserve your memory. Physical activity can improve your sleep pattern and give you the means to fight off insomnia. Since gardening is considered an important physical activity for better sleep as yoga and running, you will feel a lot of benefits when caring for your plants.
Having a good night’s sleep will also help you deal with stress and lower your cortisol levels. This will make you more rested and ready to deal with everyday tasks more efficiently. Because of the regenerative properties, sleep has a role in slowing down aging. It won’t remove fine lines and wrinkles, but it can stop them from developing too fast.
Gardening can lower dementia risk
Dementia and Alzheimer’s are debilitating diseases that can highly damage the quality of life. While there is no cure yet, researchers encourage people to do things that will reduce the risks and mitigate the symptoms, if present. Gardening therapy is one of the ways to fight these conditions, with as much as a 47% reduction rate.
This is because gardening is a physical activity and uses repetitive motions, allowing a person to create a daily routine. It keeps the mind busy and can have calming effects so the person is more relaxed and clear-headed to concentrate on the task. In a way, this is how to keep the mind occupied and running without putting too much strain on it and tiring yourself down.
Increasing your hand strength
If you spend a lot of time typing on your computer or just need to strengthen your hands, gardening therapy is an ideal activity for that. Gardening can keep your hands active enough to make your muscles agile and bring back dexterity to your hands. This is especially important for people who had a stroke or suffering from any health condition limiting their use of hands.
Using formed potplants and growing in containers will make sure that you are gentle on your joints and muscles, even with limited movability. Once your hands are used to this type of work, you can cultivate your plants from seeds, since they require more care and maintenance. Pushing yourself too hard can cause injuries, so take it slow and one step at a time.
It can chase away loneliness
There are many reasons why people feel lonely. Some are too busy so they sacrifice their social life, while others don’t have so many opportunities to spend time with other people. The most vulnerable population are retirees, who usually depend on the community to build relationships. No matter the reason, loneliness can heighten anxiety and lead to depression, causing a drop in quality of life.
Gardening may seem like a one-person job, but it is one of the best ways to build a community and work on collaborative projects. Many neighborhoods, even in the big cities, have community gardens where people work together on growing plants. It is a great way to create a sense of belonging and add a new meaning in your life, as well as to participate in the beautifying of the neighborhood.
Gardening will care for your heart
If you listen to the medical community, it’s constantly stressing the importance of having at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week. A quarter of the global population is not acting sufficiently to stay healthy. This contributes to increased cardiovascular risks, with a heart attack and stroke being one of the leading causes of death.
Gardening therapy is a perfect activity for those who are too undisciplined to go to the gym or exercise at home. If you spend time gardening regularly, you can lower the stroke risk by 30%. Moreover, you will improve circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the organs. With only half an hour of gardening every day, you will stretch the muscles, infuse your body with vitamin D, and give your heart mild cardio.
Enhancing your immune system
There is an interesting fact about the soil — it contains Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria with beneficial health properties. When you work on the soil and tend to your plants, you inhale this bacteria into your body. Sometimes you can ingest it with vegetables, fruits, and herbs. It is actually a good thing since M. vaccae can help with allergies, psoriasis, and asthma, among other things.
This bacteria can give your immune system a boost, just enough to improve your health, especially with conditions depending on strong immunity. Since the immune system is also connected to mental health, like depression, this organism can help you feel better psychologically. Giving your body a boost to fight infection is the key to leading a healthy and fulfilled life.
In the end
Gardening therapy is a fun and easy way to take care of your wellbeing and health. It will help you build self-esteem, eat right, burn calories, and boost your health. If you are afraid of not having a green thumb, take it slow and start with plants that guarantee success. Once you get the hang of things, you will be able to grow more and various types of plants, edible and decorative.
About the author: Sarah Jessica Smith is a young blogger from Sydney. She is in love with life and all the things that can make her daily routine easier. She loves to write about home improvement, lifestyle, and all the small things that make life such a great adventure.