How Gardening Can Improve Your Mental Health

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Gardening is more than just a hobby or a way to enhance your surroundings. It can also be a powerful tool to improve mental health. While gardening as a therapeutic practice has existed for a while, it’s only recently gained popularity, with studies demonstrating its effectiveness in dealing with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and stress.

In this post, we will explore the science behind garden therapy and how gardening can improve your mental health.

Nature and mental health

gardening therapy

You probably know this from your experiences; spending time in nature improves your well-being. In fact, numerous studies have demonstrated that spending quality time in nature has a positive effect on your mental health.

According to a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, even just a short time in nature can significantly improve your mental health and well-being.

The study showed that participants who spent as little as 20 minutes in a park reported lower levels of stress and an improvement in mood compared to those who stayed in an urban setting.

Another study by the University of Michigan found that group nature walks can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress while also improving cognitive function. In the study, participants who took a 90-minute nature walk reported decreased negative thoughts and increased attention and memory performance.

Spending time in green spaces, especially in urban areas, has been linked to reduced symptoms of hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children.

These studies highlight the importance of incorporating nature into our daily lives, even in small ways. Whether walking in the park, sitting in a garden, or simply looking out the window at a green space, exposure to nature can change our mental state.

How gardening therapy works

Garden therapy uses plants, gardening, and other nature-related activities to improve mental health. Gardening has long been known for its therapeutic benefits. The act of planting, nurturing, and harvesting plants provides a sense of accomplishment and control, which can help reduce feelings of helplessness and boost self-esteem.

Additionally, gardening can be a form of mindfulness, allowing individuals to focus on the present moment and reduce rumination. This can help individuals cope with difficult emotions and thoughts.

Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of gardening can significantly reduce cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. It has also been found to improve cognitive function in individuals with mental health disorders, such as memory and attention deficiency.

One of the key benefits of gardening is its impact on neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Studies have found it can increase serotonin levels, which regulate mood, sleep, and appetite. This helps reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

In addition to serotonin, gardening can increase dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. It creates a sense of satisfaction and motivation, improving mood and overall well-being.

How to Get Started with Garden Therapy

gardening to connect with nature

The good news – it’s dirt cheap starting a garden. You don’t need a big or complicated project; even a small indoor garden can benefit your mental health. One way to get started is to choose plants or herbs you enjoy and start growing them in small pots, containers, or even indoor grow tent kits.

Watching your plants grow and thrive gives you a sense of accomplishment and control, which can help reduce anxiety and depression.

Another option is to join a community garden or take a gardening class. This can provide a space to connect with others and learn more about gardening techniques and the benefits of garden therapy.

If none of these options are feasible, consider spending more time in green spaces with other people. Time in nature with friends can improve social connections and provide a deeper sense of belonging and purpose.

Not a substitute for professional help

Garden therapy is an effective addition to traditional mental health treatments such as therapy and medication. However, you should not use it as a replacement. While it provides numerous benefits to mental health, discuss it with your healthcare provider to determine whether it’s a suitable form of treatment for your condition.

You can still participate in garden therapy despite physical limitations or a lack of outdoor space. Through container gardening and indoor plants, people with smaller spaces can enjoy gardening benefits without investing in elaborate gardens.

Approach garden therapy with an open mind and realistic expectations. While gardening is excellent for mental health, it’s not a quick substitute for professional mental health care. However,  With patience and commitment, garden therapy can be a valuable tool for improving mental and emotional well-being.

Conclusion

Garden therapy is a simple yet powerful practice that can significantly impact mental health. With benefits ranging from reducing anxiety and depression to boosting mood and cognitive function, there is no reason not to try it.

We invite you to check out our gardening guides and spend more time in nature to experience the healing power of gardening for yourself. Start small, be patient, and enjoy the process. Your mental health will thank you.

  • Luke Rooks

    Luke is a passionate environmental advocate based in upstate New York. When he's not sharing tips on sustainability and wellness, you can find him hiking with his dog, Max.

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