As spring has sprung, you might find yourself with the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. And that is great news for your mental health. According to the National Institute of Health, exposure to nature and time spent in nature can increase mental well-being. Studies have shown that contact with nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
But what if you don’t have the time or opportunity to go hiking or camping? Or maybe you don’t live near anywhere particularly scenic. What if I told you there is a way to bring the outdoors into your home, and it has all the same benefits of being in nature? That’s right, I’m talking about gardening.
Gardening is a fun and rewarding hobby that has many benefits for your mental health. Here are 10 of those benefits:
1. Gives You a Sense of Accomplishment
Gardening is a great way to give yourself a sense of accomplishment. When you see the fruits of your labor (literally), it can be very satisfying. You can take pride in what you have grown and the goals you have reached.
It is easy to set goals for yourself in the garden; whether that is adding drip irrigation to sprinkler system or pruning some overgrown trees, you will feel great as soon as the job is completed. Both of the jobs mentioned might be tough to do, but the emotional rewards are all the reason you need to push through.
This can help your mental health by boosting your self-esteem, especially if your confidence and enthusiasm have declined during the winter months. It is not unusual for people to feel down during winter due to the lack of sunlight and shorter days. Gardening in spring can help put that pep back in your step.
2. Reduces Stress
When you step outside and take a deep breath of fresh air, your body relaxes. It is a natural stress reliever. Gardening can have the same effect. The physical tasks you need to do allow you to release tension by channeling pent up negative energy into something positive. Gardening also requires you to focus on what you are doing, which can help to take your mind off of whatever is causing you stress.
3. Boosts Your Mood
Gardening can also help to boost your mood. Studies have shown that people who garden have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. You can also get a boost of serotonin, the “happy hormone,” when you are exposed to sunlight. A lighter mood decreases your risk of developing anxiety and depression. It can also help to improve your overall outlook on life.
4. Gives You a Sense of Purpose
Gardening can give you a sense of purpose. When you have a goal in mind, such as growing a certain type of plant or vegetable, it can help to motivate you.
It can also help to keep your mind active and engaged. This is especially important as we age and our cognitive abilities start to decline.
5. Increases Your Exposure to Sunlight
As mentioned before, gardening can help to increase your exposure to sunlight. Medical research has proven that sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is important for many reasons, including the fact that it helps to regulate mood. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to depression.
6. Improves Your Sleep
Gardening can also improve your sleep. The physical exertion required in the garden helps to tire your muscles so you can fall asleep faster and sleep longer. As gardening helps to reduce anxiety and stress, you are less likely to have negative thoughts that keep you up at night. Increased exposure to sunlight in the garden also promotes the production of melatonin, a key hormone that helps to regulate your sleep cycle.
When you regularly get a sufficient amount of restful sleep, you can drastically improve your mental health and cognitive function. Restful sleep is closely linked with increased creativity, better problem solving skills, and a lower risk of depression.
7. Increases Your Physical Activity
Gardening is a great way to get some exercise. Even if you are just doing some light gardening, such as weeding or planting, you are still able to access several physical and mental health benefits. A number of studies show that people who are regularly involved in physical activities like gardening have better mental health and emotional stability. They also have a lower risk of developing common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
As highlighted earlier. physical activity can also help to reduce stress and improve your sleep. Both of these factors can directly improve your mental health over time.
8. Connects You with Nature
Gardening can help to connect you with nature. This is especially important if you live in an urban area with few natural landscapes. When you are gardening, you are exposed to nature in a manner that is comfortable, controlled, and safe . This can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood.
Being in the garden can also give you a sense of peace and calm. A number of residential care facilities have incorporated gardening as a therapeutic activity to help residents to relax.
9. Connects You with Other People
Gardening can also help to connect you with other people. If you are planting veggies or flowers with someone else, it can be a great way to strengthen your bond with him or her.
Gardening is also a great strategy to meet new people. For example, f you are working in a community garden, you will likely meet other people in your area who are interested in gardening. This can help to reduce isolation and loneliness, which are both risk factors for mental health problems.
10. Helps You to Appreciate the Little Things in Life
Gardening can help you to appreciate the little things in life. When you are gardening, you are likely to slow down and become more aware of things that you wouldn’t normally notice. This may include the smell of the flowers, the sound of the bees, or the feel of the dirt on your hands. These moments of increased awareness can help you to appreciate the simple things in life and develop a more positive mindset.
Gardening is a great way to improve your mental health. It can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your mood. It can also help to give you a sense of purpose and accomplishment. So, if you are looking for a simple, cost-effective way to improve your mental health, consider starting a small home garden.