How Gardening Promotes Physical and Mental Health by Maria Cannon

 A little while ago I had an email from Maria Cannon asking whether she could write an article for the website on the subject of how gardening promotes general well being and mental health. “Gardening has been a blessing for me, helping me work through the depression, anxiety and pain I experience as a result of fibromyalgia. I’d love to spread the word about how gardening benefits the mind, body, and soul.”

The consensus of the Cothi Gardeners committee was that it could be a useful and interesting thing to do. The following is the finished article. Many thanks to Maria for sending it in.

How Gardening Promotes Physical and Mental Health by Maria Cannon

 

Gardening promotes physical and mental health through a variety of ways. It promotes relaxation and overall life satisfaction, better nutrition, and physical activity. Gardening can be a catalyst to improve your life in multiple areas, giving you a better and longer life to enjoy.

A Diet Booster

Backyard gardening is great from a nutritional standpoint. After starting a garden, you may take an interest in the origins of other foods you consume, and thus make better choices about what you eat. Maybe you enjoy it more because it’s fresher, or maybe you savour it more because of the effort it took to get to the table, but food you grow yourself just seems to taste better, which makes consuming plenty of vegetables and fruits a lot easier.

Since you’re the head gardener, you get to decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides you allow and don’t allow to touch your food. You also have more control over when to harvest. Waiting to pick vegetables and fruits until they’re truly ripened ensures they have their maximum amount nutrients locked in, which isn’t the case for some store-bought produce that must be picked early.

A Form of Exercise

Have you ever worked in your yard all day and woke up the next day feeling quite sore? Believe it or not, gardening can provide the same exercise as walking or riding a bike. Of course, it really depends on which activity you’re doing and how long you do it. While weeding, digging, and planting are on the lighter side of the spectrum, cutting down bushes, digging up stumps, and mowing your lawn rank on the higher end. The disabled, elderly, and those suffering from chronic pain can benefit immensely from the lighter gardening activities. If you need more vigorous activity, you can take on the harder jobs.

Gardening works your legs, buttocks, arms, shoulders, neck, back, and abdomen. It builds muscles and burns calories. Just 30 minutes of gardening several times a week can help to increase flexibility, strengthen joints, decrease blood pressure and cholesterol levels, lower your risk for diabetes, and slow osteoporosis. You can even break the 30 minutes up into smaller, eight-minute intervals if you need to, and you’ll still reap the benefits.

A Method for Improving Mental Health

People who garden are less likely to have signs associated with unhappiness or depression. Gardeners score higher than the average person on depression screening measures. They’re more likely to report that their life is worthwhile and report an overall satisfaction with their lives. In fact, 80 percent of gardeners feel satisfied with their lives, while 67 percent of non-gardeners feel the same. And what’s even more telling is that an astonishing 93 percent of gardeners believe gardening improves their mood.

Gardening is a great tool to add to an individual’s treatment plan for depression. Depression affects our bodies in a negative way. It can affect appetite and cause digestive issues, result in lack of sleep or constant sleepiness, and even make an individual more prone to diabetes, heart disease, and drug and alcohol addiction. Those who suffer from mental illness are four times more likely to abuse alcohol and 4.6 times more likely to engage in recreational drugs. Keeping your mental health in order helps to keep the rest of your health in check.

Getting Started

Growing your own food is fairly simple. It mostly requires patience. Many vegetables, fruits, and flowers are great for a novice gardener, so don’t worry if you have zero experience. When just starting out, plant things you’ll likely eat or flowers you really enjoy looking at, and don’t go overboard with the size of the garden. Be sure to research spacing, sunlight, and watering preferences for the plants you choose.

Farmers and other backyard gardeners in your area are great resources. They can give you advice on what to plant for your region and answer any questions you may have. If you lack the space for a garden, many plants can thrive in a container. You can also search for a community garden near you if you don’t have the space for a garden.

Gardening is fun, and it’s good for you. It feeds the body, mind, and spirit in a variety of ways. Preparing fresh and healthy foods at home is easier when you have the food at your fingertips. You’ll also get in exercise and improve your mood. This year, be sure to take advantage of the many benefits of creating your own garden.

Maria Cannon

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