Why Gardening Is Good for Your Health

Looks like it's time to whip out your gardening gloves, because not only are digging and weeding good exercise, but a great stint of gardening might also boost your mental health.
In an April 2016 study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found that people living in an area rich in vegetation had improved physical and mental health. They also found that 30 percent of the overall mortality benefit that came from living near vegetation was the result of lower levels of depression.

Now, let's delve a little deeper into how gardening is being implemented to improve people's health. Tim Lang, PhD, a profess of food policy at City University London, says it's widely recognized that regular contact with plants, animals, and the natural environment can improve our physical health and mental well-being.

"For the large number of people in our society — children and adults — who live with challenging physical or mental health problems, gardening and community food growing can be especially beneficial," Dr. Lang explains. "Such activities can relieve the symptoms of serious illnesses, prevent the development of some conditions, and introduce people to a way of life that can help them to improve their well-being in the longer term. And even if you are feeling fine, gardening is, well, just a very nice thing to do."

What Is Gardening Therapy?

Doctors in London have already started to prescribe gardening time, with the help of Lambeth GP 

Food Co-operative, which aims to harness the physical and mental benefits of gardening while growing more local produce. The program launched in 2013 in South London, and it's now present at several doctor's offices where unused outdoor space is turned into gardens for patients to grow fruit and vegetables.

"We began this with a specific focus on patients with long-term health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and asthma," co-op director Ed Rosen says. "Our patients tend to be older, as they have developed long-term health conditions later in life. They also tend to be more socially isolated and lonely than younger people because often their partners have died or their families have moved away. So we wanted to create a health-generating activity that people will enjoy."

Why Is Gardening Therapy Good for You?


1. It incorporates mindfulness.

You might feel too busy for mindfulness, but a March 2014 meta-analysis it can have a huge impact on your stress levels, helping to stave off anxiety, slash depression risk, and ease insomnia.

Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist, says that gardening is an activity that seems to help a lot of people get into a "flow." This means that you don't notice the time passing and aren't simultaneously thinking over other things, making plans, or rehashing the past. As such, it helps people both to switch off the other stuff and turn into the present moment. In other words, it helps them to be more mindful

"What makes gardening unique and sets it apart from other activities such as baking or knitting is that it quite literally connects us to the earth," Burke says. "Working with soil, planting things, being patient, and nurturing our seedlings offers a valuable lesson for our personal lives. How often do we feel bogged down with stuff we'd rather not get our hands dirty with? Yet by being patient, loving and nurturing of ourselves we, like the gardens we tend, can blossom and grow!"

2. It boosts brain health.

Gardening exercises your mind as well as your body. It utilizes a number of our brain functions and includes learning, problem-solving, and sensory awareness, keeping our minds active.

Some studies have shown the benefits of therapeutic gardens for patients with dementia and Alzheimer's. For example, a May 2012 study published in the journal Psychiatry Investigation found that horticultural therapy benefitted dementia patients by reducing pain, improving attention, lessening stress, and reducing falls.

The charity Thrive uses gardening to help people with a range of mental health problems, including soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress. The charity's September 2011 study of early-onset dementia patients showed that, over the course of a year, participants' memory and concentration remained unchanged, but mood and sociability improved.

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Health Magazine: Why Gardening Is Good for Your Health
Why Gardening Is Good for Your Health
Now, let's delve a little deeper into how gardening is being implemented to improve people's health.
Health Magazine
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