Ok, it’s after the full moon in June, the garden centres are booming and blooming, and now there’s proof that gardening is good for you! Not only is it good physical exercise, but gardening is also good for your mental health too, as it improves mood and cognitive functioning As a green thumb zen gardener, this is welcome news! In terms of my work, it’s also great because it gives me one more tool in my toolbox of suggestions for clients on ways to feel better.
Anyone who has ever taken up gardening knows you just feel better while interacting with nature. And while I’m on the topic of nature, between increased societal fears (i.e. letting children play outside) and technology, we now have an unofficial condition called “nature deficit disorder.” The term was coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, where he describes a set of symptoms similar to ADHD and depression, primarily attributed to a lack of physical activity and exposure to the outdoors.
But back to gardening; The benefits of gardening are so definitive they created a therapy for it – “horticulture therapy.” Horticulture therapy is being used in hospitals to expedite the healing process of patients as wells as in jail to calm the inmates (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-193859/Proof-gardening-healthy.html).
In addition to being good exercise, research has proven the following benefits of gardening:
- decreases likelihood of osteoporosis
- reduces blood pressure
- reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
- reduces stress
- enables a sense of control
- flowers specifically – improve relationships and intimacy (and not just on Valentine’s Day! http://www.aboutflowers.com/health-benefits-a-research/emotional-impact-of-flowers-study.html)
- allows us to enter “altered states” i.e. transcendence, or as I like to say “ZEN”
Even the dirt is good for us!! Seriously, Mycobacterium vaccae is a harmless bacteria found in soil and has been shown to have similar anti-depressant affects as medication in mice (http://gardeninggonewild.com/?p=27941).
You don’t have to have a big garden to reap the benefits of this do-it-yourself therapy…just a couple of potted plants can make a difference. Try house plants, or a couple of potted summer flowering plants, or maybe herbs that are easy to grow like basil and oregano. I have a container garden (see photos) and just today I made hummus and added chives and lemon balm from my garden. Tomorrow, I’m making pesto with my garden-fresh basil, and soon will be munching on lettuce I grew myself. Dead-heading flowers is the real zen for me though 🙂
So get outside, get your hands dirty, and improve your health, your heart, and your mood. As an added bonus, do your gardening mindfully – really focus on your senses, really seeing the plants, feeling the dirt, smelling the aromas.
Happy gardening! For more information on horticulture therapy, see these links:
To find pout more about my health and wellness philosophy, my counselling or workshops, please visit my web site at http://www.dbcounsellingpei.ca/workshops.php