It doesn’t matter if you remember making mud pies and drip castles, searching for stones and splashing in puddles — your body does. Tending a garden, whether it be in-ground, on a patio or even on a windowsill, connects you with your earliest experiences and brings you back to your roots.
The hoped-for result of nutritious vegetables or stunning flowers is what you’re shooting for. But did you know the process of starting soil to grow in, sowing seeds, tending plants and bringing them to fruition has many additional benefits? Read on for a list of the top five.
It Keeps You Active
Planting, pruning, weeding and watering may not be your idea of hardcore sweat-inducing exercise, but it does get your pulse going and encourages an extensive range-of-motion as well as flexibility — even if you’re container gardening on a small scale. Staying active and fit helps prevent certain lifestyle diseases including heart attack, stroke, diabetes and obesity.
Because gardening includes multi-sensory pleasure, it’s easier to stick with consistently as part of a healthy exercise regime.
It Reduces Anxiety and Stress
The nature of routine gardening tasks focuses on repetition. Engaging in such activity over time slows the chatter of your brain and allows the mind to wander. For a peaceful escape from hectic life, you’ll find instant gratification among your green babies.
Tending a garden encourages you to stay fully in the moment and alerts all of your senses — even the Health and Behavioral Team at NASA studies the positive effects of gardening. Astronauts who garden in space report feeling less isolated, anxious and stressed. If gardening works for long-mission personnel in a spacecraft, it can work for you on a windowsill.
It Keeps Your Mind Sharp
Just because your mind is wandering doesn’t mean it’s on vacation. The planning and organisation skill set necessary to start and maintain a healthy, productive garden keeps both you — and your brain cells — functioning on all cylinders.
Gardening is an equal opportunity activity with no age limit for participation. Alzheimers and dementia patients who meaningfully interact with nature gain significant symptomatic relief. Seniors report the sense of responsibility inherent in the daily care of plants reduces depressive thoughts and self-absorption.
It Puts You in Your Happy Place
Growing plants need sunlight, and when you tend to them, the sun shines on you too. Spending time in the sun helps the body absorb vitamin D — a nutrient vital for healthy teeth and bones. Since gardening and planting occurs from spring, summer and winter, gardening provides a great way to get outside and increase vitamin D levels. Studies also identify vitamin D as a boost to the immune system and mood lifter.
As if that weren’t enough, how about a research-backed vindication just for playing in the dirt? A harmless bacteria commonly found in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, can increase the release of serotonin — a feel-good neurotransmitter — into parts of the brain that control mood.
It Helps You Sleep
The ability to clock in good, quality sleep depends on many factors, including stress reduction and exercise. Regular workouts strengthen circadian rhythms which control the number and duration of slow-wave sleep periods — the deepest and most restorative phase — within any given night.
Combine that with the many ways gardening helps alleviate anxiety and strain, and it’s no wonder tending plants helps you get your sleep on!
Time for Play Therapy
Perhaps it’s time to get back in touch with that inner child who loves digging and making things grow. Your body, mind and overall state of health are gunning for some serious play therapy.
Emily is a freelance writer, covering conservation and sustainability. You can read her blog, Conservation Folks, for more of her work. Read her previous article here -> Tips for Greening Your Cleaning Routine for a Healthy Home