Gardening for Your Mental Health

You already know that gardening provides several benefits, right? Have you ever thought about all of them? If you think that the only reason to garden is for food, you’re missing out!

It’s a way to grow and harvest your own food. I suspect that many of my readers have started with vegetable gardens. For the longest time I mistakenly thought that anything else was impractical and a waste of time. I was wrong, of course!

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Gardening can create a nice landscape for your yard. And if that’s something that interests you, or if a pretty garden is required by your Home Owner’s Association, you want my friend Angela’s book Ninja Gardening. (Yes, it’s an awesome title, but it’s also a great book about “hiding” a garden in your nice landscaping!) Unfortunately I’m not the one to ask about pretty landscaping.
It’s also a pleasant and low stress way to spend some time outside. Unfortunately, many of us spend far too little time outside.

You might be surprised to know that gardening can also improve your emotional health, too. And for many of us, that’s one of the most important – and most overlooked – reasons to garden.

Gardening Requires Focus

Gardening is a task, like many creative tasks, that requires focus. Digging, planting, and caring for the flowers, fruits and vegetables in your garden help you turn off an overactive mind. You’re able to instead focus on one thing – gardening. It helps you tune out the rest of the world for a while.
Gardening can actually help you find a meditative state. When you’re in this state your body and mind both relax. You’re able to find calm and awareness. It quiets the mind so those thoughts that have been plaguing you are sent away for a while.
It’s so effective at calming the mind and body that gardening programs are often used as therapy. People who are in mental health facilities and even prisons have been shown to receive tremendous benefit from gardening.

Gardening Stimulates the Mind

Gardening also provides you with a creative outlet. It stimulates your mind and requires you to solve problems too. It’s not as simple as just tossing some seeds into the ground! Oh, no, gardening takes planning and organizing.
You want to make sure your garden has all the nutrients it needs. Pest control, insect control, disease management and nutrition are all required for healthy plants. And all of these are going to rely on your particular location. I might be great at keeping the free-range chickens out of my lettuce, but my advice won’t help you keep the deer out of your green beans.
Additionally, you probably want to grow an aesthetically pleasing garden. That means spending time planning not only the location of various plants but how plants work together and fit to create a visually appealing garden.
Gardening also appeals to your senses – which stimulates your mind. Your hands are digging in the dirt. You’re surrounded by life and you’re playing an active role in creating it. You can smell the flowers, touch the soft leaves of your plant and see the vibrant colors.
When your mind is stimulated creatively and is involved in problem solving, it can help you learn to manage other things. If you’re dealing with fears, depression, anxiety and stress, gardening can help you learn to manage those emotions.

Gardening provides a purpose

There are many reasons to have a garden.
The most basic is for beauty. A Zen garden for example can provide a tranquil escape.

A wildflower garden can provide unfettered beauty.

A vegetable garden can provide sustenance. And yes, you might have noticed that I’m listing that last. A vegetable (or fruit) garden is useful and important, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that flower gardens, herb gardens and even relaxation gardens are unimportant.

When you have a purpose and can follow through on that purpose, it helps build self esteem and confidence. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning. You can watch your efforts pay off by creating the garden you desire.

Good for the Body is Good for the Mind

Finally, of course, gardening is good for you physically.

You’re moving your muscles and spending time outside. Time in the sun produces vitamin D which has been shown to be essential for mental health.

Fresh air and sunshine is always good to help you relax and alleviate stress. And when your body is moving and active it produces endorphins. They are the feel good hormones produced by exercise and they help provide emotional well being. Gardening can be a very strenuous work out or, if you plan it and have help, gardening can be the gentle exercise needed for those who are less physically able. With my last child, I was in the garden, digging in the dirt and enjoying the sunshine, the day before she was born.
Gardening provides an abundance of benefits for emotional well being. If you need to relax, ease depression or find a little joy consider gardening.
Take great care of yourself, both body and mind.

Marie

Please feel free to share anything on this site, in full or in part, with the following requirements: 1) all links MUST be left intact except by written permission 2) the excerpt or reprint MUST link back to the referring page, 3) the following author bio MUST be included: Marie has homesteaded in the city, in an off-grid cabin in the deep woods, and now in a 130-year old house in a village near her hometown. She is the author of A Cabin Full of Food, available on Amazon and loves to interact with her community on Facebook.

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