What’s an activity that can benefit your mental health, improve your grip strength (one of the most important indicators of life expectancy believe it or not!), help to keep you from gaining weight, all while connecting you to nature …and having no downside?
Gardening can be therapy, art, and sport. It can reduce depression and anxiety, improve mood and cognitive function.
Gardening can be life-sustaining and spirit sustaining, and planet-sustaining. It is associated with JOY, CHEERFULNESS, and ENTHUSIASM.
When I studied healthy aging, these who gardened were more likely to live longer, healthier and happier lives, and if they gardened with their partner, they were more likely to stay together and to be truly happy. Wow, eh?!
Being outside, being in the dirt, making things grow…it’s all miraculous. Nature is miraculous. It’s just easy to forget if you don’t interact with nature.
Here are some health benefits of gardening:
Gardening has been shown to improve well-being and coping ability, the ability to deal with change, and caring for oneself.
Gardening can raise our self-esteem, and that in turn is something that might keep a person healthy, whether that means letting loose and taking chances, or flossing, resting, getting a check-up or using a condom or seatbelt.
Gardening reduces feelings of isolation. I think people being outside of their homes is one step towards that – being where you can say hi to a neighbour and see your other neighbour’s cat.
Gardening provides a sense of agency – that you can affect the outcome and direction of things, while simultaneously showing us how we must respect the limits of our agency over nature.
Gardening has great potential to be a generative activity – to produce something and hand it down to others, leaving it better than you found it.
Gardening uses our muscles – getting us bending, lifting, pushing, pulling and stomping. We burn some energy, develop stronger arm and leg muscles, stronger torsos, fingers and shoulders. It can improve our hand strength, dexterity, even our balance and cardiovascular health.
Gardening exposes us to all kind of good microbes, like the ones I mentioned in my blog post on poo. They are in the dirt and benefit us in myriad ways.
Gardening can be creative and mentally stimulating. The sense of play is beneficial, and the activity increases blood flow to the brain, leading to better cognitive function.
Gardening can be brain-protective. A 2006 study found that gardening has the potential to reduce the incidence of dementia by a whopping 36%.
Gardening can expose us to vitamin D, a very important hormone-like vitamin that almost everyone is deficient in, and that is correlated with many diseases, especially autoimmune disease.
Gardening gets us breathing fresh air. Indoor air is often much more polluted than air outside.
Gardening exposes our eyes to the sun. This gets us in tune with the cycles of the earth and weather, our circadian rhythms, even protects our eyesight.
Gardening can also help to rectify the issue of Food Deserts by creating self-sustaining communities. It can change a neighbourhood from one that eats very few vegetables to one that eats very many.
City children who garden feel enthusiastic and engaged with the process and tend to eat more and different kinds of vegetables and care more about where their food comes from too. They tend to seek more positive pass-times than non-gardening kids.
Let’s plant some seeds and get them planting some seeds!
I hope you will garden, if you feel so inclined. It is a good healthy habit to adopt!
Interested in some of this information?
Link through to the articles and studies.
You may also like these books:
- Aging Well by George Vaillant
- The Good Food Revolution by Will Allen
- Stuffed and Starved by Raj Patel