Photo by Unsplash @Benjamin Combs

The world is gradually warming up for summer and you may be wondering how to while away the hottest months of the year in comfort. Even those who garden regularly may not realize why gardening is good for their mental health. But deep down, they probably know it’s true.

Here’s a brief guide on why gardening is good for your mental health. The facts presented below have been backed by science, but also by experience and human history. Since the middle ages, we’ve known that taking care of plants takes care of the human too.

Why Do People Feel Happier in Nature?

Consider this study by AgriLife, an extension of Texas A&M. It showed that just being around plants improves mental health by reducing stress levels and boosting esteem. But you don’t have to take the word of one university.

Photo by Unsplash @Gabriel Jimenez

For thousands of years, people have used gardens to cope with stress. Florence Nightingale, the famous British nurse and social reformer, swore by gardens as a form of therapy and incorporated them into hospital environments. St. Thomas’ Hospital in London opened in 1100 AD – they had a garden then, and they have one now. Clearly, something’s going on with plants.

There are several reasons why gardening gives such a boost to mental health, even in the 21st century.

  •       Sunlight increases Vitamin D absorption and has been proven to lower blood pressure, reducing stress.
  •       Physical labor, in moderation, burns calories and tells the body to release endorphins.
  •       A social component exists in many gardening projects, which has been proven to be therapeutic for people suffering from  depression and esteem issues.

These are the most basic reasons why gardening is good for your mental health. But they’re also somewhat obvious and can be achieved in other ways. Getting sunlight, physical activity, and social interaction can be a result of playing sports, for instance.

The question is: why does gardening, specifically, have a greater positive effect on people suffering from stress than other activities?

The Hidden Social Benefits of Gardening

When we garden, we are building our environment. We’re also interacting with living things (the plants) even if we’re alone in our gardens at home.

This activates evolutionary human instincts – to build our world, take care of it, and interact with nature. We actually get social benefits being exposed to plants similar to the ones we get being exposed to other people, according to Dr. Charlie Hall, one of the horticulture specialists in that AgriLife study.

These benefits include lower blood pressure, lower risk for depression and dementia, and all the benefits of physical activity.

Photo by Unsplash @Markus Spiske

The Takeaway

Gardening can prove to be indispensable to mental health, not only by encouraging physical activity but through the hidden social benefit of taking care of plants. Mentally, we are wired to take pride in building our environment and taking care of the world. Doing so daily can not only reduce stress but also build self-esteem. Gardening doesn’t just make the world better – it makes our brains more willing to accept how much better it really is.

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