5 Ways Gardening Can Improve Your Mental Health

by Journals to Freedom May 20, 2021 5 min read

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Many people say that gardening makes them feel more relaxed and less stressed. But did you know that gardening and being in nature are scientifically proven to be good for your mental health?

Gardening has been linked to stress reduction, increased self-esteem, the development of a new sense of purpose in life, not to mention a whole host of other physiological effects. One study even found that it can reduce the risk of suffering from dementia.

In this blog post we will discuss five ways gardening can improve your mental health. You may just find that gardening is the perfect new hobby for you!

1) Physical exercise

Gardening is a great way to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. The physical activity of gardening has been shown to have many benefits for mental health and overall well-being, including lowering stress and anxiety. 

Physical activity is one thing that everyone needs in their life. It helps keep your body strong and it boosts your mood as well.

Some gardening activities can be classed as moderate aerobic exercise, such as cutting the lawn or weeding.

More energetic gardening jobs, such as raking up leaves, turning over soil, or digging, provide a more vigorous form of exercise.

Even low-level activity, such as pottering around the garden deadheading spent flowers and removing dead stems and leaves, can help you to relax and will give your mind a break from other things.

Gardening is great for improving your mental health because it involves physical activity, which as we know can help combat anxiety and stress. It helps you stay active and healthy by getting out of the house and moving around.

2) Mindfulness

Gardening encourages mindfulness, a state of awareness where you are more focused on what's happening in the present.

It is a form of therapy that can be practiced anywhere, meaning it's completely accessible for everyone. Mindfulness has been proven to help with conditions such as depression, anxiety and more.

Being mindful means being able to turn your attention to the present moment without judgement or analysis. 

Gardening requires focus and engagement with the things directly around you, which helps keep your thoughts from being all over the place. 

To practice being more mindful in your garden, try these simple ideas:

  • Study something up close. It could be an insect, walking up a stem, or the shape of the petals on a flower. Focus on the veins in a leaf, or the variation in the texture of tree bark.
  • Walk barefoot if you have a lawn. Feel the texture of the grass under your feet. If you don't like the idea of walking, just sit barefoot, feeling the connection to the ground.

3) Sensory stimulation

Forest bathing is a growing trend around the world. It’s based on Japanese nature-therapy practice called shinrin-yoku, and involves spending time in an environment surrounded by trees and nature rather than water – giving you a ‘bath’ of sorts.

Forest bathing has been scientifically proven to reduce stress and improve your mental health! Forest bathing encourages you to tune into nature with all five senses: smell, touch (or feeling), taste, sound and sight. 

You can apply the same concepts to being in your garden. It doesn't need to be a literal ‘forest’ at all: the gentle pleasure of the sounds, sights and smells of a garden make for a calming experience. It is an opportunity to relax with nature. 

Try including fragrant plants in your garden, for instance, to further help you relax when you're stressed out. Plants like bamboo that softly rustle in the breeze will awaken your hearing senses, and so on.

Include places in your garden to encourage you to use your senses, for instance, place a garden bench where you can sit and enjoy all the sensory aspects around you.

A small water feature can totally change how you engage with your garden, providing not only a very calming sound, but also a visual feast for the eyes.

Various studies on forest bathing found that the time spent outdoors in nature can:

  • lower the pulse rate
  • improve the immune system
  • reduce blood pressure
  • result in improved memory and concentration 
  • increase liveliness

4) Caring for something else

When you garden, you are taking care of nature, often through the act of nurturing living things such as plants or flowers. 

It's therapeutic to take care of something that needs to be looked after, like a plant or garden - it gives you something positive in your life. We all need some form of mental health support at one point or another: gardening can help! 

Research has shown that looking after something other than ourselves can actually increase our self-esteem and worth. We feel more connected to the world around us.

Tending to plants, nurturing them, can lead to an increased sense of personal well being, including a higher opinion of our own abilities.

Gardening also inevitably requires us to learn something new. For instance, how to care for a particular plant, or prune a certain tree. The process of learning something new is good for our brain function.

You will also feel great about your new-found skill and knowledge.

Use these free printable garden grid planners to plan out exactly where your plants will go. This way you can have an easy and stress-free start to your garden!

5) Indoor gardens

Research shows that people suffering from stress will often benefit from finding some time outside in nature, but this isn't always possible for everyone - and stress levels can feel pretty heightened during the winter months! That's why it might be worth investing in an indoor garden.

Studies have shown that even just looking at pictures of nature reduces heart rate and blood pressure, so imagine how much more benefit you will get from having real plants in your home. A few house plants will bring some green into your home while still providing all the health benefits of gardening.

Alternatively, a window box, perhaps with some pretty flowers or herbs, is another great way to bring nature closer.

Even if you do have a garden outside, it's worth having some houseplants too, given the positive effects they have on your health!

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Studies have shown that time spent in nature and gardens is good for our health because of the physical activity involved, as well as the added benefits like fresh air and vitamin D exposure. If you struggle with depression or anxiety, consider starting up your flower beds again this spring! We hope these tips will help get you started on planning out your garden project and enjoying all its therapeutic benefits.

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