How To Garden For Greater Mental Well-Being
Did you know that gardening is good for our health and well-being? That's right! Gardening includes just the right mix of sun, fresh air, soil on our skin, and fresh food to be great for well-being.
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My absolute favorite way to reduce stress is to get in the garden. There is something about getting in the sun, with fresh air, digging my hands in the dirt and creating something (fresh food) that feels really calming and grounding. So why is it that gardening seems to feel good for our mental health and well-being? And how do we use this strategy to boost our well-being?
Does Gardening Boost Well-Being?
Recent research shows that getting in nature each day is quite beneficial for our health and well-being. It even can reduce depression and anxiety symptoms. More research is beginning to look at the benefits of forest bathing—or basically walking through a forest— and spending time in nature walking as a means to improve well-being. daily contact with nature has a long-lasting and deep impact on health, including on depression and anxiety symptoms.
You hear less about gardening, but if you put all the research together, you can see why it has benefits. Some previous studies have shown that gardening can increase people's life satisfaction, psychological wellbeing, sense of community, and cognitive function. Gardening can also reduce stress, anger, and fatigue. It's not clear why this. It could be because the sun and fresh air, it could also be that soil microbes on the skin are actually good for us, or it could just be because gardening, like most activities, distracts our minds from whatever it is that we might be thinking or stressing about.
So, how do we use gardening to boost our mental well-being?
1. Use gardening to create calm
Getting out in the garden can feel calming, almost like a meditation, and may help boost mindfulness. The repetitive motions of digging, weeding, or harvesting may help frazzled thoughts mellow.
2. Garden in the shade
Getting in nature and under mature trees can lower stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and even boost parasympathetic activity, which is the bodies calming mechanism and aids in rest and digestion. So spend some time under some big trees.
3. Bring plants indoors
Indoor plants can help reduce nervousness, anxiety, and tension. Here's a bunch more tips on how to start an indoor garden. But even a few indoor plants can help boost your well-being.
4. Gent involved with a community garden
Community gardens not only provide fresh food, free of pesticides and other chemicals—they have been shown to help reduce feelings of depression. Whether it's through the actual gardening, the social support provided by being part of a community, or just getting outside in the sun, community gardens are a great strategy to boost well-being.
If you're looking for another strategy you can add to your health and happiness toolkit, give gardening a try.
- Ohly, H., Gentry, S., Wigglesworth, R., Bethel, A., Lovell, R., & Garside, R. (2016). A systematic review of the health and well-being impacts of school gardening: synthesis of quantitative and qualitative evidence. BMC Public Health, 16(1), 286.
- Scott, T. L., Masser, B. M., & Pachana, N. A. (2015). Exploring the health and wellbeing benefits of gardening for older adults. Ageing & Society, 35(10), 2176-2200.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.