Start a Garden Reduce Stress
The Big Q: Why Is Gardening Good for Us?
Most people start gardening because they have a desire to grow their own food and/or beautify or otherwise alter their landscape, and then continue gardening because the benefits are just too good ignore.
Among those many benefits are, as follows:
1. Stress Relief: A study published in the Journal of Health Psychology tested the stress-relieving effects of gardening among 30 people. 1st they performed a stressful task, then were assigned to either 30 mins of outdoor gardening or 30 mins of indoor reading.
Levels of the stress hormone cortisol were measured and the participants self-reported their mood.
While both gardening and reading led to decreases in cortisol, the decreases were more significant in the gardening group. Further, “positive mood was fully restored after gardening, but further deteriorated during reading.”
This suggests that gardening promotes relief from acute stress.
2. Reduce Symptoms of Attention Fatigue: It is suggested that people have a finite capacity for directed attention. That is the type required for sending emails, making phone calls, etc.. When this capacity gets used up, attention fatigue sets in and you may become irritable, easily distracted and stressed.
The symptoms of attention fatigue are similar to those felt by people with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), except that attention fatigue is considered a temporary condition that can be relieved by ample time for rest.
When we immerse ourselves in Nature, including gardening, we get to take a break from directed attention and instead engage in involuntary or effortless attention.
This helps to relieve attention fatigue and has been linked to superior attention. Researcher Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD. in the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign told says: “The breeze blows, things get dew on them, things flower; the sounds, the smells … All of these draw on that form of attention.”
3. Improve Mental Health and Well-Being: According to a survey by Gardeners’ World magazine, 80% of gardeners reported being happy and satisfied with their lives compared to 67% of non-gardeners.
It is not a coincidence that Gardeners are happier.
Mycobacterium vaccae is a type of bacteria commonly found in soil. Remarkably, this microbe has been found to “mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide.” It helps to stimulate serotonin production, helping to make one feel happier and more relaxed.
No wonder so many people describe their garden as their “Happy Place.”
The researchers noted that natural exposure to microbes may be important for emotional health and behavior: “Recent studies show that contact with tolerogenic microbes is important for the proper functioning of immunoregulatory circuits affecting behavior, emotionality and health …
Collectively, our results suggest a beneficial effect of naturally delivered, live M. vaccae on anxiety-related behaviors … supporting a positive role for ambient microbes in the immunomodulation of animal behavior.”
4. Benefit Brain Health: A systematic review examined the impact of gardens and outdoor spaces on the mental and physical well-being of people with dementia.
The research suggested that garden use, whether it be watering plants, walking through a garden or sitting in one, leads to decreased levels of agitation or anxiety among the patients.
Spending time in a garden may also help to reduce the risk of developing dementia in the 1st place.
As reported by CNN: “Two separate studies that followed people in their 60’s and 70’s for up to 16 years found, respectively, that those who gardened regularly had a 36 and 47% lower risk of dementia than non-gardeners, even when a range of other health factors were taken into account.
These findings are not definitive, but they suggest that the combination of physical and mental activity involved in gardening may have a positive influence on the mind.”
5. Exercise: Gardening gets us up and moving about, which is beneficial on multiple levels. In fact, gardening can even be a moderate to high-intensity workout, depending on which tasks we do.
According to research published in HortTechnology, digging and raking give you a high-intensity workout while the following gardening tasks are akin to a moderate-intensity workout: Weeding, Mulching, Hoeing, Sowing seeds, Harvesting, Watering, Mixing growing medium, Planting transplants
Adding to gardening’s allure is the fact that it represents functional exercise. Movements such as pushing, pulling, lifting and digging work multiple muscle groups at a time and keep us adept at the types of movements we need to function on a daily basis.
And, gardening helps to improve balance, flexibility and sensory perception.
6. Increased Nutrition: The National Garden Association (NGA) estimates that while the average US family spends $70 per year to plant a vegetable garden, they grow about $600 worth of produce, that is a $530 ROI (return on your investment).
Further, the extra nutrients we gain from eating a harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables is immeasurable in terms of its benefit to our health. People who garden tend to eat more produce in general.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, 56% t of those who planted a community garden ate fruits and vegetables at least 5X a day compared to 25% of non-gardeners.
7. Existential Meaning: Research suggests that gardening goes far beyond the practical purpose of growing plants for food. A study in the Journal of Aging Research even suggested it could have a beneficial impact on the aging process by giving people an intimate connection with life itself.
The researchers explained: ” … we can propose that gardens and gardening represent multidimensional phenomena in the lives of many older adults and it is much more than a physical activity in a designated space where time and energy are exerted for cultivating fruits and vegetables.
Gardens and gardening can also represent an intimate connection with life itself through caring and being a steward for living organisms that also reciprocate with nourishment, aesthetics, and existential meaning in the context of senescence.
… the added dimension of environmental connection and awareness into the experience of the aging process could serve as a template for a new “elder culture” and a sustainable future.”
Many gardeners start out gardening because they want to sample some homegrown food but end up sticking with gardening because of how it feeds their mind and soul.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively
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