Gardening is Mind-Body Medicine | Psychology Today Canada
It’s a beautiful autumn day in the northeast, and although I could (finally) have brunch or some other “go out” with friends, I’m working in the garden this morning. It is difficult to adequately grasp why gardening is so therapeutic, and yet I am not the only one to find that gardening is a simple but powerful tool for promoting wellbeing.
For me, weeding provides the meditative time and space my own mental health requires; clearing the earth of debris clears and balances my inner landscape at the same time.
When I cut roses, the connection to earth grounds me. Together with dead flowers, the stress of the week is eliminated; I am now anchored in the present moment and can imagine the plants – and myself – thriving.
Gardening feeds my need to be caring and creative, lonely and thoughtful. Paradoxically, participating in this solitary activity provides the balance that allows me to find more enjoyment in community, including but not limited to gardening with others.
The Research: Gardening for Better Health
Even before the pandemic, before we longed for the vastness of nature through segregation and imprisonment, research has shown that gardening has real benefits in terms of mental and physical health.
For example, a 2020 literature search examined the results of 77 studies from around the world. The researchers found that gardening resulted in measurable improvements in a variety of dimensions of health and well-being.
Specific physical health benefits of gardening include:
- Better food intake through more fruits and vegetables
- Increased levels of activity
- Decreased body mass index
- Improved blood sugar levels
- Reduced frequency of falls
Some of the special mental health benefits include:
Other research has shown that the benefits of gardening for people extend throughout their lifespan, from children to the elderly. These benefits have been demonstrated in both healthy individuals and those with a variety of health problems, including dementia.
Other benefits of gardening
Gardening certainly has practical advantages: what we plant can benefit us and those around us by providing food, shade, aroma and beauty. It can also help us have a greater purpose; What we grow can help keep the air clean, reduce soil erosion, and provide food for bees and other pollinators. Ultimately, gardening is an opportunity for us to do our part in saving the planet. That’s pretty powerful.
Integrate gardening into your self-care routine
- If you have a yard or other outdoor space to garden in, consider planting fruits, vegetables, herbs, or ornamental plants that will do well in your area. A visit to a local garden center can help you decide what to plant.
- If your outdoor space is limited, consider herbs or other container plants that you can grow indoors (avoid indoor plants that can be toxic to children or pets).
- If none of the above is an option, or to reap the social benefits of gardening, network with others through community gardens, gardening clubs, and online gardening communities.