Gardening has long been considered therapeutic for people experiencing stress or mental health issues. In the late eighteenth century, Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was considered to be the first psychiatrist, reported beneficial effects of horticulture for people with mental health difficulties. There has been a recent revival of nature-based health solutions as our world becomes more urbanized.
Improving Physical Health
Gardening helps you meet physical activity recommendations that make you healthier and happier!
According to a 2017 study published by the Sustainability academic journal, gardening tasks that use both the upper and lower body meet the physical activity recommendations from the CDC and American College of Sport Medicine for moderate-intensity physical activity for older adults. Furthermore, results from the Short-Form 36 health survey showed that gardening can promote hand strength, pinch force, and overall physical health.
Reducing Stress and Providing Therapy
Did you know that fascination for your garden can actually be a restorative practice?
According to Kaplan (1989), directed attention is a limited resource that can be overloaded (causing stress) and that people need to use the alternative system, fascination, to restore it. Fascination is thought to be dominant in natural environments, such as gardens, where there are captivating stimuli to hold attention.
Nature is intrinsically healing. Simply looking out your window at nature can boost your sense of well-being! So get out there are plant those beautiful flowers so you can view beautiful butterflies fluttering outside your window as well.
According to research by Kaplan (2001), viewing plants and a garden through your window contributes to a feeling of well-being and satisfaction. Another study demonstrated that being able to observe nature – through view of trees from their hospital bed – had physiological and psychological healing benefits for patients recovering from surgery when compared to patients who had a view of a brick building wall (Ulrich, 1984)
Improving Memory and Cognition
Stress can actually decrease one's ability to remember things and problem solve.
According to a recent study, the restorative quality of gardens can improve cognition, memory and problem solving abilities! (Adhemar).
Eating vegetables straight from your garden are known to increase your immune system as your body receives all those nutrients!
Brightly-colored vegetables have been noted to increase interleukin-2, a substance responsible for promoting white cell function in the immune system (Gibson, 2012).
Promoting Mental Health and Reducing Stress
There are numerous scientific studies that have concluded that gardening can have a myriad of psychological benefits such as: reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.
An article by Ulrich (1991) concludes that exposure to natural environments is one of the most important factors to stress recovery. Close contact with nature yields numerous psychological and physiological benefits, ranging from increased pain tolerance, recovery from stress and anxiety through to relaxation and enhanced wellbeing (Clatworthy, 2012). Domestic gardens provide regular access to sunshine and fresh air, which regulate circadian rhythms that control sleeping and eating patterns.
Adhemar, A. (2008). Nature as clinical psychological intervention: Evidence, applications and implications. MSc Thesis. University of Arhus, Denmark.
Clatworthy, J. Gardening and wellbeing. Diss. Canterbury Christ Church University, 2012.
Dewi, Nugrahaning Sani, et al. "Community gardens as health promoters: Effects on mental and physical stress levels in adults with and without mental disabilities." Sustainability 9.1 (2017): 63.
Gibson, A., Edgar, J. D., Neville, C. E., Gilchrist, S. E., McKinley, M. C., Patterson, C. C., … Woodside, J. V. (2012). Effect of fruit and vegetable consumption on immune function in older people: a randomized controlled trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96(6), 1429–1436. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.112.039057
Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 4647, 420.
Ulrich, R. S. (1991), Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A. and Zelson, M. Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 11, 3, 201-30.