9 Healthy Gardening Tips to Improve Your Well Being
Gardening Health Benefits
I love gardening, even though it can be a lot of work sometimes. Not only does my garden help beautify my property, but it lets me grow my own fresh fruits and veggies.
I've also noticed that I feel energized after a day in the garden. And I'm not alone! More than 20 years of research has shown that gardening can be great for our mental, physical, and emotional health! Healthy gardening can help improve your quality of life and give you a renewed sense of purpose. Here's how.
Improves Your Mood
When you're feeling down, go garden! The mental health benefits of gardening include relief for depression, anxiety, and overall mood. In fact, horticultural therapy is often prescribed to help with a wide range of mental health problems. You may have even noticed therapeutic gardens in hospitals and other healthcare facilities designed expressly for this purpose.
Gardening for health and well being helps us relax and grounds us in the present moment, keeping us occupied with the task at hand. It has been linked to increased levels of dopamine and serotonin; two hormones that help us feel good. So, gardening can be good for depression.
Some researchers believe that healthy gardening triggers a primal sense of happiness within us that harkens back to the joy our prehistoric ancestors felt when they found a fresh fruit or vegetable on a foraging trip.
If it's winter and you can't garden outside, plant something inside. Winter is a depressing time of year for many people. Cheer up by starting an indoor garden.
May Reduce Dementia
Gardening can also help protect you or a parent/grandparent from demenita. A study published in 2006 followed 2,805 men and women over 16 years to identify factors that might increase or decrease their chance of developing the disorder. It found that daily gardening predicted a 36% lower risk of getting dementia.
Many retirement communities are acting on this research by building “dementia gardens” for their residents so they can reap the health benefits of gardening. Even if the residents don’t work in the gardens, just exercising or even sitting in them can help preserve mental fitness.
Increases Vitamin D
It can be rough when you haven't seen the sun for a few days. I tend to feel gloomy and lethargic when I'm stuck inside for too long. Turns out there could be more to this than just a feeling.
Roughly 50% of the world population doesn’t get enough Vitamin D, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It’s one of the hardest vitamins to find in foods but is responsible for calcium absorption, bone strength, cell growth, and immune system health. Researchers are also finding that it could play a role in energy levels and mental health.
A natural way to get Vitamin D is from sunlight, and what better way to get some sun then to take up healthy gardening outside? All you really need is 10-30 minutes of sunshine daily—it’s one of the easiest gardening health benefits. Just remember to put on some sunscreen if you’re going to be outside for longer periods of time to avoid skin damage.
Promotes Weight Loss
If "going to the gym" just isn't a thing in your life, you're not alone.
Only 21% of American adults get enough aerobic and strength exercise, and one third do not even get 10 minutes of light exercise per day. According to the CDC, a whopping 71.6% of Americans over the age of 20 are either obese or overweight.
Physical activity in your garden—from digging, to mulching, to planting—keeps you active and could help lower your BMI. One study conducted in Utah found that community gardeners had a lower body mass index (BMI) than their neighbors who didn’t garden. If you end up loving gardening, it’ll be even better because you’ll be getting a workout without it feeling like a workout!
Maintains Heart Health
The more you learn about health, the more you realize how it all connects. The increased physical activity you get from healthy gardening can not only help you lose weight, but also improve your heart health.
A study conducted by the British Medical Journal found that physical activities such as gardening cut the risk of heart attack or stroke by 27% in participants. The mental health benefits of gardening also play a role here as stress has been tied to an increased risk of heart issues. Cut out the stress with healthy gardening, and you’ll be making your heart happier too.
May Boost Immunity
Doesn't it seem as if every other person has a peanut or gluten allergy these days? It's definitely a problem. Studies have found an increased level of autoimmune diseases and allergies in the developed world relative to the developing world.
Some researchers have attributed this to a lack of germ or dirt exposure in early life and overuse of antibiotics. One hypothesis states that certain microorganisms evolved with human beings and are necessary for our immune system health.
If this is true, then exposure to dirt and germs during gardening can actually be good for you. This is especially true for small children who are still developing, as early exposure to good bacteria may help them stay healthier later in life. So, encourage your kids or grandkids to garden with you and play with the dirt. It’ll be fun and healthy for everyone!
Strengthens Hands & Dexterity
It's a sad reality that hand strength and dexterity naturally weakens as we age. People who have strokes and other medical conditions may also experience problems in this area. Fortunately, a major gardening health benefit is the improvement of hand strength in older adults, according to researchers at Kansas State University.
It makes sense when you think about it. If you’ve ever gardened, you may have experience soreness in your arms and hands the next day. That’s a good thing because it means you’re getting a great workout..
Helps with Loneliness
Despite being connected 24/7, our society is lonelier than ever before. A recent survey reports that 61% of Americans are lonely, and that number is increasing.
Turns out, healthy gardening can help with loneliness too. Many community gardens have cropped up across the country in recent years, offering a great way for gardeners to meet other people and grow fresh food together.
Even if you don’t have a community garden nearby, you can still experience the social health benefits of gardening by planting in your front yard. The front yard is your link to the neighborhood where you can say hi to people walking by and hear the laughter of children playing.
Encourages Healthy Eating
This one is a no-brainer. If you grow healthy food, you’ll have healthy food to eat, and it’ll probably be less expensive than buying it at the store. Tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce, and green beans are all nutritious and should cost you less to grow than to buy.
No matter which fruit or vegetables you plant, you’ll have great, home-grown alternatives to chips and cookies for snack time. Eating healthy is a foundation for all the other health benefits discussed above and may just be the most important gardening health benefit.
Hopefully you've found these healthy gardening tips inspiring. Healthy gardening can positively impact your life in so many ways, so grab a tiller and get to work! Don’t just garden. Garden for health!