Today marks National Garden Meditation Day. This got me thinking about all the positive aspects of gardening. Of course it is great for your health as a form of physical activity. It’s always a good idea to get outside and in the fresh air. Vegetable gardens also provide the additional advantage of providing healthy food. This garden meditation day, however, had me wondering about its effect on mental health, so I did some research. Here are five mental health benefits of gardening I discovered.
The mental health benefits of gardening have been so well supported and proven that there is a formal practice called horticultural therapy. Some hospitals are even creating “healing gardens” for patients to spend time in and some jails utilize this form of therapy for prisoner rehabilitation.
1. Mental Space
Getting lost in the motions of planting or weeding can open up an expansive of mental space. It is a time when thoughts come and go freely in the same way as they do during meditation. The peace and relaxation found in gardening can help us let go of troubling thoughts or feelings.
2. Time Spent Outdoors
3. Positive Distraction
Gardening can be a positive distraction from difficult thoughts, anxiety, and even physical pain. It can also be a productive away to get out frustration and anger while chopping, pruning, pulling, or digging.
4. Bacteria-Serotonin Connection
In studies, a friendly bacteria commonly found in soil, mycobacterium vaccae, increased the release of serotonin in mice. Also, in clinical trials with cancer patients and the bacterium, the patients had better moods, improved outlook, and less pain.
5. Responsibility and Hope
Gardening requires us to become nurturers. We become connected to another living thing. Because of this, it can provide some sense of responsibility and control for this little part of life. Spending time caring for a plant and watching it grow also inspires hope for the future within us.
Brad and I have gone from living in a basement suite, to a duplex, and are currently in an apartment, so having a garden of our own hasn’t always been an option. We’ve tried small garden beds and container gardens, but mostly we’ve been so lucky to have generous friends who are willing to share their gardens with us.
If you don’t have a garden of your own, today you could spend some time at a friend’s garden, a community garden, or a public garden or park.
The best part about gardening is that it is easy. If you don’t have any experience, tend to a hanging basket or potted plant. Plant some wildflowers in your yard. You can start small and still receive the mental health benefits of gardening. As you enjoy yourself and gain confidence, explore further from there.
PS – May 7th is World Naked Gardening Day, just imagine the benefits of that!
Do you garden? What benefits do you receive from it?